COVID-19 State of Emergency; Nursing Home Visits Halt Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

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Paula Tracy photo

Gov. Chris Sununu declares a State of Emergency from COVID-19 at a news conference Friday at the State House. Behind Sununu are Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette and State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan.


– While he stressed the risk to New Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents remains low from the novel Coronavirus, Gov. Chris Sununu declared a State of Emergency from COVID-19 Friday evening.

Sununu’s executive order allows him the flexibility to cut a lot of red tape to make decisions for the health and safety of the state.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Sununu said at a news conference at the State House. “This is really a time for calm.”

The order lasts for 21 days. More than 30 other states have already taken similar emergency measures.

Sununu said he is not calling for the cancellation of schools, town meetings, events or legislative deliberations but he is prohibiting people from visiting nursing homes to protect the most vulnerable to this virus, the elderly. 

The nursing home order goes into effect Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

Also included:

– All school-sponsored trips out of state are now suspended.
– All non-essential state and municipal travel is banned.
– Necessary state licensing of individuals is now waived for those who come into the state and help.
– Allows Sununu to “re-purpose” state employees for tasks necessary to address the impacts of COVID-19.

“We understand people’s concerns,” Sununu said noting the reports of shoppers hoarding toilet paper. “The supply chains will be there.”

The six people who have tested positive among the 150 tests given in the past 11 days in New Hampshire are men who either traveled to Italy or were likely infected by those individuals who did travel to Italy. Three are in Grafton County and three in Rockingham County.

 More than 200 people who may have been exposed to the six or others are self-quarantining at home and no one is in a hospital.

“It is still a very low-risk situation, not much different than a week ago,” Sununu said.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, said the state has adequate testing supplies and there will be 500 more additional tests expected to arrive next week.

He said there will likely be more people testing positive, but cautioned that not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19.

“We don’t want a large number of people going to doctors’ offices and emergency departments potentially exposing people,” he said.

Chan said, “… I want to stress that there are everyday common measures that people can perform,” to reduce risk, such as washing hands, distancing themselves from others and avoiding large events.

Senate President Donna Soucy and House Speaker Steve Shurtleff are assessing what they want to do next in terms of continuing sessions for the New Hampshire Senate and House, Sununu said.

Public colleges and universities are also looking at their individual situations and making their own calls on whether to continue with classes as usual. Sununu said for public schools it will be up to school boards and administrators to make their own calls on keeping the schools open.

Town moderators have the authority to choose whether town meetings go forward this weekend, and several have announced plans to delay town meetings.

In addition to being able to call 2-1-1 to get information in-state, the state has a new website

It lists everything from how many people are still waiting on testing results to school closures. Sununu said the state needs a “community response” to the virus and people need to work together with more resources and advice from the state level.

Chan said the criteria for testing are changing with more likely to be tested even if they have not traveled or had known direct contact with individuals who have tested positive.

“Not everybody necessarily needs a COVID-19 test,” he stressed. “We are trying to help providers by giving guidance on who might be more likely at risk and highlighting groups.”

Gov. Chris Sununu issued Executive Order 2020-04, an order declaring a state of emergency due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). A copy of the Executive Order can be found here.
NOTE: The Governor’s press conference can be viewed here.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan speaks about the availability of COVID-19 test kits at Friday’s press conference. Paula Tracy video

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