Coronavirus Update: Sununu Amends Stay-At-Home Order; WMNF Reopens Trailheads

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NHPR is continuing to cover the developing story around coronavirus in New Hampshire. Bookmark this page for the latest updates. 

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Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order is in effect. Read Emergency Order No. 17It has an exhibit outlining businesses deemed essential, and therefore exempt from closing. N.H. schools are closed for the rest of the academic year.

WMNF to open some trailheads

Update: Saturday, May 1, 9:29 a.m.

The White Mountain National Forest has reopened several trailheads that were closed a week ago due to concerns about crowding and hikers not maintaining social distancing. WMNF officials said the decision was also made due to illegal parking while trailheads were closed.

The WMNF is implementing a phased-in approach to reopening trailheads and sites. A limited number of sites, including Tuckerman Ravine, will remain closed. Here is a list of what is open and closed at this time.

Trailheads reopening include Alpine Garden, Great Gulf Wildnerness, Lincoln Woods,, Osceola, and Welch-Dickey, according to the list updated Friday.

- NHPR Staff

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Dairy farmers feel economic squeeze

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 8:59 a.m.

Two-thirds of New Hampshire's dairy farmers are at risk of closure, says Shawn Jasper, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food.

Jasper mentioned the economic impact due to the coronavirus pandemic while on a conference call Friday.  Although there have been milk shortages in grocery stores, he says the closure of schools and restaurants forced many farms to dump their product.

"We expect some balancing to take place," he said. "However, prices are falling and farms are being asked to cut production by up to 15 percent."

Jasper is asking the state to allocate $5 million from the $1.25 billion in CARES Act money the state has received to support dairy farms.

-Alex McOwen

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Sununu amends stay-at-home order

Update: Friday, May 1, 6:08 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced an amended stay-at-home order today that will remain in effect until May 31. The previous order was due to expire May 4.   

Starting May 11, golf courses, hair salons, drive-in movies, and retail operations may reopen, but with certain restrictions. Golf courses will be limited to residents and club members. Barbers and hair salons will have to limit occupancy to no more than 10 people at the business. Campgrounds may continue to remain open, but access will be limited to residents and members, Sununu says in his presentation of what he's calling Stay At Home 2.0.

Retail stores will be limited to 50 percent occupancy, staff must wear cloth face coverings and maintain social distancing, and workers will be either screened or questioned about possible symptoms at the start of every shift. Below are links to read the full guidance documents Sununu discussed Friday:

Sununu says Seacoast beaches and parks will remain closed. Restaurants will continue under the state's ban on indoor dining. Sununu says take-out and delivery only service will continue until May 18, at which time the order will transition to allow for outdoor food service.

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The governor said steps to reopen parts of the economy are supported by data and state health officials. Sununu encouraged residents to continue with social distancing and wearing cloth face coverings when in public.

"We're not taking giant leaps forward. We're just not at that point yet," Sununu said.

Nine new deaths; 164 new cases

The announcement comes as state epidemiologist Ben Chan reported nine additional deaths from COVID-19, and 164 new positive test results on Friday.

There have now been 81 deaths and a total of 2,310 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Hampshire. Chan said the nine additional deaths were associated with long-term care centers or nursing homes.

Chan provided the update at a news conference in Concord with Sununu. See a high-resolution map of town-by-town coronavirus cases here.

Chan said the state's health care system remains stable, and the state is not near requiring the use of "surge" capacity centers that have been established to handle a potential major increase in patients.

DHHS reports 980 people have recovered from coronavirus. The current coronavirus cases, as of May 1, was 1,249. Current hospitalizations numbered 103. To date, 12 percent of the total confirmed cases have required hospital care at some point.

The state says more than 22,000 residents have tested negative for COVID-19.

- NHPR Staff

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Lonza making potential vaccine

Update: Friday, May 1, 1:56 p.m.

A Portsmouth company will help make a potential new vaccine for COVID-19 beginning this summer.

The Lonza Biologics manufacturing facility at Pease International Tradeport is teaming up with Massachusetts-based Moderna on the project.

Moderna is one of many companies worldwide working on vaccines and other treatments for the new coronavirus. The Moderna vaccine is currently undergoing government-led clinical trials.

Lonza has agreed to make up to a billion doses a year of the medication.

The Swiss company has around a thousand workers in Portsmouth, making it one of the city's top employers.

- Annie Ropeik

Food Bank mobile pantry coming to Berlin

  Update: Friday, May 1, 1:30 p.m.

The New Hampshire Food Bank is bringing its mobile food pantry to Berlin on Saturday, for only the second time since the coronavirus pandemic.

Christy Langlois, the pantry's food system coordinator, says demand for food was nearly double what they expected the last time they visited Berlin over a month ago.

"We kind of did a rough intake of how many we were short and we estimated approximately 250 households had showed up that we weren't able to service," she says.

This time, they are prepared to distribute dry goods, produce, meat, and dairy products to around a thousand families. The following weekend, the mobile food pantry plans to travel to the racetrack in Loudon.

- Alex McOwen

Mobile testing sites in Laconia, Sunapee and Keene

  Update: Friday, May 1, 12:02 p.m.

The state is launching three temporary mobile COVID-19 testing sites this weekend. 

The one-day locations will be in Laconia on Friday, Sunapee on Saturday, and Keene on Sunday. These sites are in addition to the five fixed drive-through locations announced earlier this week, as part of the state's community-based testing program for coronavirus.

The Department of Health and Human Services encourages anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to contact their health care provider to discuss testing. Residents without a doctor or provider can call the state's hotline at 2-1-1.

- NHPR Staff

Related story: Tracking COVID-19 Cases and Testing in New Hampshire

Task force forwarding ideas to Governor Sununu

Update: Friday, May 1, 11:31 a.m.

A task force on reopening New Hampshire's economy has made its first set of recommendations without waiting for the public to weigh in.

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force hosted a public input session Thursday, and it has another Friday morning. Meanwhile, it approved draft plans for restaurants, retail stores, hair salons, campgrounds and drive-in movies.

The plans will be reviewed by state health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu. The governor plans to announce steps to reopen parts of the economy during a news conference in Concord on Friday at 3 p.m.

Listen live to the conference on NHPR and streaming online at NHPR.org

"We do want to try ways to phase in and flex open parts of our economy," Sununu said earlier this week about his presentation about modifying his stay-at-home order, which is currently due to expire May 4.

- NHPR Staff

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Prescott Park cancels summer season

  Update: Friday, May 1, 8:50 a.m.

The Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth will not have its summer season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The safety of our audience is our primary concern, and unfortunately there is simply no safe way to gather a crowd of people in a summer setting without risk of infection," John Tabor, chair of the festival's board of directors, says in a statement. "So, we will be dark this summer but look forward to a rejuvenated 2021 season."

The festival is one of several traditional summer events in New Hampshire that have been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. Others include the Cheshire Fair, Lancaster Fair, Sandwich Fair, and the Stratham Fair.

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N.H. reports 6 more deaths from coronavirus

  Update: Thursday, April 30, 6:55 p.m.

The state has announced six additional deaths from COVID-19, which brings the total number of coronavirus deaths in New Hampshire to 72.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports 96 new positive test results. The total confirmed cases now stands at 2,146.

Three new hospitalized cases were identified. To date, 262, or 12 percent, of the known coronavirus cases have required hospital care at some point. See a high-resolution version of the New Hampshire case map.

DHHS says all six of the residents were 60 years old or older. Two women were from Hillsborough County, two men were from Rockingham County. The other two women were from Rockingham and Strafford counties. 

The state's COVID-19 update comes ahead of Gov. Chris Sununu announcing Friday what modifications may be in store for his stay-at-home order, which is currently set to expire May 4.

DHHS reports 980 people have recovered from the virus, leaving the total curent caseload at 1,094. The current hospitalizations are 112. 

- NHPR Staff

Some legislative work resumes with Zoom

  Update: Thursday, April 30, 2:31 p.m.

In a first for New Hampshire's citizen legislature, a House committee met via Zoom video conferencing to consider legislation.

The remote work session today is a small step toward lawmakers resuming work on bills.

The House Finance Committee had a short agenda of three bills, with none very significant, and mostly cleared hurdles of meeting electronically and casting votes.

"Representative Buco, you are on mute. Please unmute..."

Throughout the Zoom meeting, Finance Chair Mary Jane Wallner was quick to praise colleagues for adapting. She was also quick to add she didn't know when or how the full Legislature would be meeting to consider the committee recommendation for bills.

"I don't know when we will see them again, but they will be there waiting for us," she said.

Other committees in the House are expected to start meeting via Zoom. All lawmakers and staff are barred from returning to work in the State House and Legislature Office Building until at least May 4.

- Josh Rogers

Jobless claims mount in N.H.

 Update: Thursday, April 30, 1:08 p.m.

More than 14,000 Granite Staters filed new unemployment benefits claims last week, according to data released today from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In early April, the state saw nearly 40,000 residents apply for benefits during a seven-day span, a modern-day record for New Hampshire.

The number of new claims has fallen in each of the past three weeks since then.

Nationwide, 3.8 million people filed for unemployment last week.

- Todd Bookman

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PPE shipment due to land in Manchester

  Update: Thursday, April 30, 11:30 a.m.

A plane carrying more than 100,000 pounds of personal protective equipment is due to land at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Thursday afternoon.

The shipment of PPE from China was purchased with help from businessman and inventor Dean Kamen. It marks the third such shipment Kamen helped facilitate for the state of New Hampshire.

Gov. Chris Sununu and members of the congressional delegation plan to greet the cargo plane. The governor's office says the supplies will be distributed to areas of greatest need across the state.

Sununu also said 4.5 million face masks from the shipment will be sent to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for distribution across VA facilities nationwide.

- Jason Moon

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Racial disparities stark in new state coronavirus numbers

Update: Wednesday, April 29, 7:40 p.m.

The coronavirus pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color in New Hampshire, according to new data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Click here to sign up for NHPR's coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates.

Of the cases for which the race and ethnicity of patients is known, nearly 7 percent of all COVID-19 infections in the state and roughly 8 percent of all hospitalizations from the illness are among Latino residents, though Latinos are slightly less than 4 percent of the statewide population. Three Latino residents of the state have died of COVID-19.

Related: Visit NHPR's Coronavirus Cases & Testing Tracker here

African-Americans in New Hampshire all also disproportionately represented among COVID-19 infections in the state. According to data released by the state health department Wednesday night, African-Americans account for more than 5 percent of all known COVID-19 infections and nearly 4 percent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations, among those cases for which the race and ethnicity of the patient is known.

That’s despite the fact that African-Americans represent just 1.4 percent of the statewide population. No African-Americans are known to have died of COVID-19 in New Hampshire, according to state health officials.

Similar racial disparities in the coronavirus pandemic have been reported across the country, with non-white populations seeing disproportionate rates of infection and death.

The state data released Wednesday revealed several other new demographic points, including the fact that one-third of all coronavirus-related deaths in the state have come in Manchester residents, and slightly more than half in Hillsborough County as a whole.

Healthcare workers also continue to represent a large share of total state coronavirus infections, accounting for close to 30 percent of all known cases as of Wednesday. Two healthcare workers have died from COVID-19.

-NHPR staff

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DHHS reports six new deaths; 50 new cases

Update: Wednesday, April 29, 6:30 p.m.

State health officials today reported six additional deaths due to COVID-19, and another 50 new cases. The number of total cases in New Hampshire is now 2,054, and there have been 66 deaths.

Positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire, as of April 29, 2020
Credit N.H. DHHS

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Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, announced two new outbreaks of coronavirus at long-term care facilities: Hackett Hill Center in Manchester, and Mountain Ridge Center in Franklin.

Those testing positive, she said, are 22 residents and two staff members at Hackett Hill, and 13 residents and two staff members at Mountain Ridge.

Related: Visit NHPR's Coronavirus Cases & Testing Tracker here

Shibinette joined Gov. Chris Sununu for the state's update on coronavirus. Both spoke of efforts to ramp up testing, which Sununu said will go hand-in-hand with possibly lifting restrictions imposed by the state's stay-at-home order.

The governor says he will announce modifications to his stay-at-home order during a news conference on Friday, May 1. He said today that any changes would put public health first.  He has previously told NHPR that some parts of the stay-at-home order could stay in place after the current order expires May 4.

Sununu also announced the state is committing $3 million in CARES Act funding to assist homeless shelters in New Hampshire.

The funds will provide stipends for staff at shelters, additional funds will go to community agencies to support housing for individuals or families, and some money will go directly to shelters to help cover costs due to the pandemic.

Sununu and Shibinette said New Hampshire continues to ramp up its coronavirus testing. They say the best way for people to get a test is to first call their doctor or medical provider. (Visit the state's weekly summary report on COVID-19 here.)

- NHPR Staff

Sununu issues orders on hiring, school budget flexibility

Update: Wednesday, April 29, 10:11 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu has issued two more executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The first order puts a freeze on hiring for vacant state executive branch positions, or those that become vacant, during the state's emergency. It features various exemptions, including positions related to the state's COVID-19 response, child protective services, certain positions at the state-run liquor stores, and positions funded entirely by federal funds, with those openings being posted only for internal applicants.

The governor is also freezing out-of-state travel, without his prior authorization. 

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The second order permits school districts and school boards to make "reasonable" expenditures, in light of their previous year's spending and prior to their annual meeting, for the duration of the state of emergency.

It grants a school board greater flexibility and authority to spend in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with approval from the state Department of Education and review of the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration. All schools are closed for the rest of the academic year. Public schools transitioned to remote learning, effective March 23.

The order notes some annual school meetings have not transpired due to the state's ban on gatherings of 10 or more. Districts are also permitted under the order to administer the oath of office for newly elected school officials by electronic means.

- NHPR Staff

State announces 82 new coronavirus cases

Update: Tuesday, April 28, 5:55 p.m.

Town-level coronavirus cases in New Hampshire
Credit N.H. DHHS

The Department of Health and Human services announced 82 new positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire on Tuesday (April 28), bringing the state's total cases to 2,010. Several cases are still investigation, according to a DHHS statement.

Click here to sign up for NHPR's coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates.

Of the cases with complete information, one of the new patients is under 18 years old, and the rest are adults. Three more people were hospitalized, bringing total hospitalizations related to COVID-19 to 249, or 12 percent of the total cases.

The regional breakdown of the new cases is: 23 in Rockingham County; 13 in Merrimack County; 40 in Hillsborough County (including 31 in Manchester and three in Nashua); two in Cheshire County; and one in Strafford County. The county of residence isn't yet known for three of the new cases.

Click here for the latest data on coronavirus cases and testing in New Hampshire. including a geographic breakdown. 

- NHPR Staff

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N.H. now releasing town-by-town case numbers

Update: Tuesday, April 28, 12:37 p.m.

For the first time, state health officials are releasing town-by-town numbers of positive COVID 19 cases.

Previously, the state only released case counts by county.

Manchester currently has the highest number of recorded cases with 405, followed by Nashua with 178 cases and Salem with 144. A map of case counts by town can be found here.

NHPR has requested more specific community-level data from the state on several occasions, but was previously denied out of concern for individual privacy.

As of Monday evening, the department of health and human services reported 1,938 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.

- Alex Mcowen

Governor says plan is for gradual economic reopening

Update: Tuesday, April 28, 10:31 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu says the state is working on a plan to reopen the economy in phases. The governor's stay-at-home order is due to expire May 4, but he says that may be partly extended.

The governor told NHPR this morning that he cannot guarantee everything will be back to normal by summertime. (Click here for audio and a transcript of the interview.)

"I can tell you this: If it's 100 degrees on July 4 and we haven't opened the beaches in some way, that's going to be problematic for a lot of folks," he said. "Now again, we may have to just kind of be holding back the tide as best we can, but we just know that there are certain societal pressures that are going to come and we have to have the strength to say, no, we have to put public health first."

The governor says he is coordinating with surrounding states on when to reopen popular tourist areas.

-Mary McIntyre

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Bike week postponed until August

  Update: Tuesday, April 28, 9:49 a.m.

The 97th Laconia Motorcycle Week is being postponed until August in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The week-long event was originally scheduled to start June 13, and it traditionally served as an economic booster for many Lakes Region areas ahead of the summer season.

Organizers say they will reassess if the coronavirus pandemic does not improve by the beginning of August.

- NHPR Staff

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State announces 75 new coronavirus cases; outbreaks at three long-term care facilities, more access to testing

Update: Monday, April 27, 7:10 p.m.

Positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire
Credit N.H. DHHS

An additional 75 people in New Hampshire have tested positive for COVID-19, state officials announced at a press briefing Monday afternoon, bringing the total cases so far to 1,938.

Of the new cases with complete information, four are under the age of 18, and the rest are adults.

Click here to sign up for NHPR's coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates.

The regional breakdown of the new cases is: 25 in Rockingham County; 35 in Hillsborough County (including 13 in Manchester and 12 in Nashua); four in Belknap County; two in Merrimack County; two in Cheshire County; and one in Carroll County. The county of residence is still being determined for six of the new cases, the state says.

No additional deaths have been linked to COVID-19 for at least three days, officials confirmed at the same press briefing. However, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said six of the last seven deaths - announced over the weekend - were residents of long-term care facilities.

Click here to get the latest numbers around cases and testing in New Hampshire.

Shibinette also announced three new COVID-19 outbreaks at such facilities:

  • Seven residents and four employees at Birch Hill Retirement Community in Manchester
  • Fourteen residents and four employees at Crestwood Center, a Genesis-owned facility in Milford
  • Nine residents and two staff at Salemhaven Long Term Care and Rehabilitation Center in Salem

The newly announced cases add to a growing list of COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities tasked with caring for some of New Hampshire’s most medically vulnerable residents. County-run nursing homes, private nursing facilities, retirement communities and institutions for children with disabilities have all been affected.

Testing criteria changed

Shibinette and other state officials also announced a major change to the state’s testing criteria. Moving forward, Shibinette said any resident with any symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild, should be evaluated for testing. She said additional guidance on the new criteria will be released by the state epidemiologist later this week.

Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that the state plans to further expand testing capacity across the state: opening five new testing sites outside of healthcare facilities (in Claremont, Lancaster, Plymouth, Tamworth and Rochester) and partnering with the Visiting Nurses Association to conduct in-home testing of people who aren’t able to visit a testing location.

Sununu said the state will also expand a recent effort to offer COVID-19 testing at all long-term care facilities in Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties, now bringing that testing statewide.

Once these new steps are implemented later this week, Sununu said the goal is to conduct an additional 1,500 tests a day.

New Hampshire currently lags behind most other New England states, a fact Sununu acknowledged at Monday’s press conference.

- NHPR Staff

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Sununu says school summer programs may go remote

Update: Monday, April 27, 6:25 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu says programs traditionally offered in school buildings over the summer may have to go online.

Schools typically offer intervention programs to ensure students stay on track over the summer. Many districts expect more kids will need those programs, given the challenges of remote learning. But schools are awaiting guidance on whether these summer programs will also have to go online.

In a press conference on Monday (April 27), Gov. Sununu said that's pretty likely, based on public health projections and on the concerns of parents.

"You also have to consider whether parents would feel comfortable bringing their kids into those types of atmospheres and so that's another variable," Sununu said.

Schools expect a final decision by mid-May.

- Sarah Gibson

Recreation sites may reopen by early summer

Update: Monday, April 27, 4:05 p.m.

Some state campgrounds and other public outdoor recreation sites may reopen by early summer under new public health protocols. At a state task force meeting Monday, Parks Director Phil Bryce laid out his agency’s goals for a phased return to normal operations.

He says they're hoping to reopen some state campgrounds to limited usage as soon as early May.

"Our plan is to basically cut our campsites we allow in half, and try it. A lot of trying things out, see if it works," Bryce said.

The state also wants to reopen its beaches, but Bryce says they’re unsure whether to allow some stationary groups of visitors or to limit beach use to people like swimmers, walkers and joggers.

Read more on this story.

- Annie Ropeik

Courts closed until end of May

Update: Monday, April 27, 12:50 p.m.

The New Hampshire court system has extended its closures until the end of May in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly all in-person proceedings in the Circuit, Superior and Supreme Courts are suspended until May 25th, or until the last day of a declared state of emergency. Court officials are encouraged to conduct business by phone, video conference or other remote means during this time.

Some exceptions to the in-person ban are allowed. Those include hearings for emergency relief, and proceedings about constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

- Sarah Gibson

Earlier updates