Coronavirus Update: N.H. Has Second COVID-19 Death; Lawmakers to Address Pandemic's Budget Impacts

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Governor Sununu's stay-at-home order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 27. Read Emergency Order No. 17. The governor also issued an exhibit on which businesses are essential, and therefore exempt.

Hopkinton school employee tests positive for COVID-19

  Update, Saturday, March 28, 12:01 p.m.

An employee at the Harold Martin School in Hopkinton has tested positive for COVID-19. 

The school district says the staff member's test does not coincide with any day students were at the school.

The individual was not involved in handing out school materials to families for remote learning.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that the school's faculty and staff self-monitor, by checking their temperatures and remaining alert for coughing or difficulty breathing.

- Daniela Allee

Additional guidance for N.H. retailers, realtors

  Update, Saturday, March 28, 9:30 a.m.

The state is offering additional guidance to retailers and real estate professionals amid New Hampshire's stay-at-home order, which is now in effect.

Retailers' facilities must be closed to the public, but retailers who are not otherwise deemed essential may choose to conduct business via curbside pick up or delivery for orders taken online, by phone, or by other remote means. On-site cash transactions are not permitted.

Under the updated order and directive from Gov. Chris Sununu, meetings for real estate transactions cannot occur at physical offices, but may take place with social distancing or remotely by phone, video, or other electronic means. Home showings may take place by appointment, and with social distancing. Real estate closings can continue, either by remote means or with the recommended social distancing.

Open houses are not permitted.

The list of essential businesses and employees is a living document, and it will continue to be updated, Sununu has noted.

- Dan Tuohy

N.H. reports second death related to COVID-19

Update, Friday, March 27, 6:30 p.m.

New Hampshire has seen its second COVID-19 related death.

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced the death Friday of a man from Hillsborough County. The state said the man, who was over 60, had multiple underlying health issues.

The state also reported 29 new positive test results, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire to 187.

The new cases are all adults, 19 women and 10 men. Sixteen of the cases have no identified risk factors, indicative of likely community-based transmission, according to Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist.

Four of the new cases are currently hospitalized.

Budget Writers To Grapple With COVID Impacts On State Revenues

The New Hampshire Legislature has suspended full operations until at least May 4th, but a key panel of lawmakers is planning to meet remotely in two weeks in an effort to start addressing anticipated declines in state revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the Legislature’s Fiscal Committee have told Gov. Chris Sununu they want to help state agencies address pressing financial needs. But even that is proving a challenge, given the changes in government operations since the rise of COVID-19 in the state. 

Read full story here.

-Josh Rogers

Health care providers apply for state loans

  Update, Friday, March 27, 5:08 p.m.

More than 80 health care providers across New Hampshire have applied for emergency loans from the state. 

Last week, Gov. Chris Sununu announced a new $50 million emergency fund to shore up the state's medical system. So far, more than 80 have submitted applications for loans or grants.

A spokesperson for the state would not release details on which health care providers have applied, citing 'confidential commercial and/or financial information."

- Jason Moon

State to launch childcare collaborative

  Update, Friday, March 27, 4:46 p.m.

The state expects to open applications for an emergency childcare collaborative no later than Monday and hopes to launch one week after that.

Associate Health and Human Services Commissioner Christine Tappan says the state is trying to ensure families in all parts of the state have access to childcare, especially if they're on call to provide essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.

Through the new program, Tappan says the state is trying to match available childcare providers with families or employers who need more support. 

"The best examples right now are hospitals," she says. "We are working with several hospitals and long-term care facilities, nursing homes to set up childcare centers."

Childcare centers are designated as an essential business under Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order, and are allowed to remain open. Families looking for available providers can go to NH.childcareaware.org.

Read more here.

- Casey McDermott 

Stay at home order: essential businesses

  Update, Friday, March 27, 1 p.m.

New Hampshire's stay-at-home order, which kicks in at midnight, will not apply to the state's manufacturing sector, which is considered an essential industry that can stay open.

Neighboring states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, did not carve out as wide an exemption, only permitting manufacturers considered critical in the fight against coronavirus as essential business.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, says this decision was deliberate. "We really consider our manufacturing industry to be the bread and butter of our economy in a lot of ways -- being able to continue those operations is important for the companies operationally. Some of these companies are not things that you turn off and turn back on again."

Caswell emphasized that while manufacturers will be allowed to continue to operate under the state-at-home order, they must comply with CDC guidelines around social distancing.

- Todd Bookman

Related: N.H.'s Stay At Home Order: What Does It Mean?

Massachusetts Governor Asks Travelers to Self Quarantine

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker wants all travelers arriving in the Bay State to self-quarantine for 14 days to try to blunt the spread of COVID-19. Baker described his directive as an advisory - it carries no enforcement mechanism.

Baker says travelers entering Massachusetts will be given information fliers instructing them about the quarantine. 

- NHPR Staff

 

Sununu issues 2 more executive orders

Update, Friday, March 27, 11:35 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu issued two additional executive orders Friday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor is suspending the fingerprinting requirements of many criminal background checks. The order allows the N.H. Department of Safety to conduct fingerprinting on a case-by-case basis at the request of state and local agencies, but by appointment only.

All licenses or certifications issued during the ongoing state of emergency shall be conditional.

The order also authorizes the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue six-month drivers licenses to anyone who applies for renewal during the duration of the current state of emergency. It also modifies certain in-person licensing requirements, including the vision test and drivers education.

Sununu also issued an order extending remote learning for public schools. It will last at least until May 4.  In an interview Friday with NHPR, the governor said if the state is required to extend it beyond May 4, the state would probably end up closing schools for the rest of the year.

- Todd Bookman, Dan Tuohy

UNH extends enrollment deadline

Update Friday, March 27, 11 a.m.  

The University of New Hampshire is giving prospective students an extra month to enroll in classes and housing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNH announced Friday morning it would extend the enrollment deadline from May 1 to June 1.

In a press release, UNH's enrollment office said the move was meant to allow prospective students more time to make their decisions, in light of the evolving situation with coronavirus.

The university has suspended in-person events for admitted students but is offering virtual resources instead.

UNH is also postponing commencement to a future date yet to be determined, UNH President Jim Dean announced this week.

- Todd Bookman

COVID-19 cases in NH increase to 158

Update: Thursday, March 26, 7:40 p.m.

State health officials announced 21 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday evening, bringing the statewide total to 158 cases. 

The new cases include five adult males, 15 adult females, and one male under age 18. The new cases reside in Rockingham County (11 cases), Merrimack County (2), Cheshire County (1), Grafton County (1), and Sullivan County (1) counties. Four of the cases were in  Manchester, and one case was in Hillsborough County outside of Manchester and Nashua. Three of the new cases are currently hospitalized. So far, 25 of the 158 positive cases in New Hampshire have required hospitalization.

According to health officials, one of those cases was in a person who was at Honey Dew Donuts on South Broadway in Salem on the following dates and times:

• Tuesday March 17, 5:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.

• Wednesday March 18, 5:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

• Thursday March 19, 5:00 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.

State health officials said that any people who visited the Honey Dew Donuts on those dates and times may have been exposed to the coronavirus and should monitor themselves for fever or respiratory illness. Anyone who develops those symptoms should stay away from other people and immediately contact their doctor.

Officials also said that one person with COVID-19 attended an event on the evening of Saturday, March 14 in the Garrish Gym at Coe-Brown Academy in Northwood. Anyone who attended that event and develops symptoms should stay away from others and immediately call their doctor.

Of the total 158 known COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire, 33 are healthcare workers. Gov. Sununu cited that number as one factor in his emergency order closing non-essential businesses and requiring people in New Hampshire to stay at home. That order was released with a list of essential services.

-NHPR staff

Sununu issues stay-at-home order effective through May 4th

Update: Thursday, March 26, 4:14 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu has issued an emergency stay-at-home order in effect from 11:59 p.m. tomorrow night (Friday, March 27) through May 4th in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Sununu announced the order at a press conference Thursday afternoon. The order also includes an extension of the closure of all state public schools until May 4th, nearly a month longer than planned.

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Sununu said his mandate is not a "shelter-in-place" order, and that the order won't prohibit necessary travel, such as to purchase food and supplies. Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, will remain open. He said this was not a decision he made lightly. 

Related: What does New Hampshire's stay-at-home order mean?

"We're only a couple weeks into this," Sununu said. "This could last a long time; it really could."

The governor also announced the closure of state beaches. Seacoast beaches and state parks have attracted large groups in recent days, prompting concerns about social distancing. Inland state parks will remain open at this time, though some areas, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, have closed in an effort to limit crowds.

During the stay-at-home order, Sununu says people should still feel free to go out and exercise, as long as they practice social distancing.

Read full story here.

- NHPR Staff

Note: We will continue to update this breaking story.

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N.H. Attorney General warns of COVID-19 scams

Update: Thursday, March 26, 11:25 a.m. 

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office says people should be on alert for scammers trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The AG's office says scammers may try and sell fake treatment or prevention products that they say will ward off the virus, or they may try and establish fake charities.

The state is advising residents to do their homework before donating to any charitable causes.

There are currently no prescription or over the counter treatments that can cure COVID-19. Residents who think they may have been contacted by a scammer should reach out to the AG's office.

- Annie Ropeik

Teachers ask Sununu for help postponing statewide tests

Update: Thursday, March 26, 11:15 a.m.

Groups representing public school administrators and teachers are calling for the state to postpone student assessments this spring, in light of emergency school closures.

U.S. Department of Education told states they could apply for a waiver to defer tests required by federal law until the end of the national emergency. The DOE is streamlining the application process for states applying for the waiver; nearly all have applied, with the exception of New Hampshire.

Click here to read more on this story

29 new positive test results for COVID-19

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 5:45 pm

The number of known COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire has reached 137. State officials announced 29 new positive test results today.

The jump in cases is in part a reflection of additional testing capacity, as private companies, including LabCorp and Quest, are now testing in the state.

Nineteen people have required hospitalization, including six of the new cases. To date, there has been a single death attributed to COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

- NHPR Staff

Concord Coach suspends all services

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 5:15 p.m.

Concord and Dartmouth Coach Lines will suspend all bus service beginning Saturday, the company announced Wednesday.

“We do carry essential travelers, so this decision was not made lightly,” Concord Coach Lines Vice President Benjamin Blunt said in a statement. “We feel like we can and should support guidance that people should stay home and are concerned with the continued exposure of our employees and riders. We look forward to the day when we can resume our operations and support the travels of all our riders, but now is a time to stay home.”  

This week, state health officials announced that a passenger who rode in a Concord Coach bus four times between March 11 and March 16 tested positive for the coronavirus. The company says it immediately pulled the bus drivers from those routes from service, and that they are at home in self-isolation.

The state’s other major bus carrier, C & J, suspended its service last weekend.

Amtrak's Downeaster, which makes three stops in New Hampshire, is running on a reduced schedule. 

 

-Todd Bookman

 

As Maine beaches close, New Hampshire's Seacoast remains open to visitors

  Update: Wednesday, March 25, 5:10 p.m.

Four towns in Maine are closing their beaches due to coronavirus concerns – but so far, New Hampshire's beaches remain open.

 

The southern Maine towns of Kittery, York, Ogunquit and Wells will shut their public beaches to keep people from congregating.

 

In New Hampshire, state beaches remain open – but only to groups of fewer than five people. Some parking lots are also closed to limit crowds.

 

Visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing and remain six feet apart from people they didn't arrive with to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

 

Still, New Hampshire's beaches have been crowded in nice weather on recent days.

 

Earlier this week, selectmen in Rye voted against a recommendation, from their emergency manager, to close their town beaches.

 

The emergency manager's letter also urged the state to close its oceanfront parks to prevent people from flouting public health advice. 

-Annie Ropeik 

 

First round of state unemployment checks head out

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 4:50 p.m.  

More than 41,000 residents registered to receive unemployment benefits in the past week, a staggering figure ten times the levels seen during the height of the Great Recession.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Sununu issued an executive order clearing the way for most workers, including the self-employed, who see a reduction in earnings due to the coronavirus to qualify for benefits.

The first round of payments went out yesterday, a day ahead of schedule.

“The importance right now is that all these people that have filed claims get the money that they are entitled to within the time frame that we are supposed to give it to them,” N.H. Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis told the Executive Council today.

Copadis told the council that during the peak of the financial crisis in January 2011, the state received approximately 4,000 applications for unemployment assistance each week. He declined to forecast what the state’s unemployment rate could reach as impacts of the coronavirus ripple their way through restaurants, retail and other sectors of the state economy.

Under last week’s executive order, the state is waiving a number of regulations, including the requirement that those collecting benefits actively look for work. 

The state caps benefits at $427 per week. 

The state’s unemployment trust fund stood at approximately $300 million before the virus emerged in New Hampshire, a level considered healthy compared to other states.

-Todd Bookman

  

State faces ventilator shortage

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2:25 p.m.  

As the spread of COVID-19 intensifies in New Hampshire and across the country, medical supplies like ventilators are in high demand.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told the Executive Council Wednesday morning that under normal circumstances, the state would rely on the Strategic National Stockpile for critical medical supplies. But since COVID is affecting so many states, that isn't an option right now.

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"Tapping into the Strategic National Stockpile for everything we need has been challenging and we have not been able to get ventilators from them, so we have ordered some on the commercial market," Shibinette said.

Shibinette said New Hampshire has about 1,000 ventilators or machines that could be converted to ventilators. State officials are also combing through warehouses for old equipment that could be refurbished and are working with private manufacturers to fill in the gaps.

- Casey McDermott

N.H. joins other states in anti-price gouging effort

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2:30 p.m.  

New Hampshire is joining 32 other states in asking online retailers - including Amazon and eBay - to crack down on price gouging.

The states are asking the companies to implement clear policies prohibiting a spike in prices by third-party sellers. Items like hand sanitizer have been offered at exorbitant prices by some vendors.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on coronavirus in N.H.

Unlike the majority of states, New Hampshire doesn’t have its own law against price gouging.

Many economists oppose those laws, arguing that price controls contribute to hoarding and a mismatch between supply and demand.

- Todd Bookman

Sununu explores state tax filing extension, liquor store curbside pickup

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2:00 p.m.

New Hampshire is exploring options for extending state tax filing deadlines to alleviate financial pressure on residents due to COVID-19.

Democratic Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli asked Governor Chris Sununu about the possibility of such an extension during Wednesday’s council meeting, pointing to a recent move by the IRS to extend the federal tax deadline from April to July.

The governor said he was already on it.

"I’ll be meeting with [Department of Revenue Administration] Commissioner Lindsey Stepp, some folks from the attorney general’s office and our office to see what flexibility we can and should provide," Sununu said. "It’s a great question. I think we’ll be able to do something on that front."

Sununu also said he is exploring options for curbside pickup for customers at New Hampshire's state-run liquor stores, which are a significant revenue generator for the state. More on that story here.

- Casey McDermott

Nashua suspends bus service

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 10:15 a.m.

The city of Nashua is suspending its regular bus service to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The city will continue to operate an on-call van service for people with essential jobs or those who need access to essential services – like grocery stores, pharmacies, or medical appointments.

People who are interested in using the service will need to call the city to make an appointment for pick-up. The fare for the service is one $1.25 each way.

N.H. non-profits already experiencing financial hardship

Update: Wednesday, March 25, 10:10 a.m.  

A survey conducted by the New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits found that 85 percent of the state’s non-profit organizations are already experiencing or expecting to experience financial hardships related to COVID-19.

Jennifer Pierson, Executive Director of the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire, has already had to cancel two fundraising events and may have to cancel a third.

“It’s difficult. We’re a non-profit. We live off of fundraising. And having to cancel all of these events makes a big difference on our bottom line,” Pierson said.

The New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits survey also found that half are seeing an increase in staff and volunteer absences as a result of COVID-19, which impacts their ability to provide services.

- Alex McOwen

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