By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu shifted gears Monday and said the state is now prohibiting scheduled public gatherings of more than 50 people as public health officials announced four more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 17 in New Hampshire.
Sununu ordered transitioning restaurants and bars to mandatory offsite eating effective at close of business Monday night.
All restaurants and bars in the State of New Hampshire will be required to serve patrons by takeout, delivery, and drive-through methods only.
The new confirmed cases are in three adult males and one female under the age of 18 years, who are from the counties of Grafton (2), Rockingham (1), and Carroll (1), according to state officials.
In total, sixteen cases of COVID-19 have either been travel-related (to domestic or international locations) or identified close contacts of a person with COVID-19; one person’s risk factors are still under investigation. All patients are isolating at home and household contacts have self-quarantined.
In announcing the closing of public schools for three weeks on Sunday, Sununu had left it up to businesses to determine what was right for them. Many announced cancelling events and closing businesses temporarily.
“Knowing neighboring states have closed restaurants and bars has caused New Hampshire to evaluate those states actions and their impact on New Hampshire’s population risk profile,” Sununu said. “This action will help slow the spread of this virus in New Hampshire.”
All restaurants and bars in New
Hampshire will be required to serve patrons by takeout, delivery, and
drive-through methods only, Sununu said in a 4:10 p.m. Monday news release.
He said he doesn’t take the decision lightly.
“This will be hard, but we are all in this together. Service industry employees affected by this temporary change will be able to qualify for unemployment benefits effective immediately tomorrow, where we will announce steps and set up a hotline and website for any worker adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sununu said.
This order affecting restaurants and public gatherings will remain in effect until Monday, April 7. An emergency order will be released tonight, he said.
Sununu declared a State of Emergency on March 13 putting a halt to nursing home visits. That order lasts for 21 days.
State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said on Monday that it is time to focus on the children of the state who are transitioning to remote-learning after Sununu on Sunday ordered public schools closed for three weeks.
D’Allesandro said he was talking with local officials, school administrators and police departments on Monday to take care of his constituents.
There will be no votes taken at the State House in Concord this week as all legislative activities have been suspended for one week amid the COVID-19 pandemic, D’Allesandro said, and the State House is closed to lawmakers, legislative staff and visitors until further notice.
Reached by phone Monday, D’Allesandro said there will likely be no votes the following week as well and deadlines may need to be changed as a result.
“I’m just trying to create lines of communication where you are getting good information and not information that’s contradictory,” D’Allesandro said.
House and Senate leaders have made no public comment since Friday when announcing the week-long delay and State House closure.
“I’m assuming that all pertinent legislation will be moved ahead,” D’Allesandro said. “We’ll have to move the deadlines. We’re not allowed to go in. Everything will have to be done on a virtual basis.”
A vote was taken last Thursday to allow extending deadlines, he said.
“This is a very dangerous situation,” D’Allesandro said.
He hoped people will help by looking after their neighbors and if the neighbors need help, to support them.
“To me, this is the most critical issue. We need people to do that,” D’Allesandro said.
He went shopping at Hannaford’s in Bedford on Sunday and was surprised at what he found.
“The shelves are empty. People are stealing toilet paper from bathrooms. Can you believe that?” D’Allesandro said.
“It’s comical. We couldn’t get eggs and milk.”