UPDATE: Fours hours before the first meeting of the task force, Gov. Sununu sent a new call-in number for the public: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22
First Meeting of the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force
By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu announced the formation of the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force saying it will develop a plan and oversee the state and private-sector actions needed to reopen New Hampshire’s economy while minimizing the adverse impact on public health.
The task force’s first remote meeting will be Wednesday, April 22 at 4 p.m.
“Here in New Hampshire, we have been formulating a plan to look at how we can reopen our state in a smart, phased approach that is rooted in science and data for quite some time,” Sununu said.
“Today’s announcement does not mean we are flipping a switch and opening things tomorrow but is rather a proactive approach enabling us to plan for the re-opening of our economy from a public health standpoint.”
Sununu said the task force will work with public health experts and stakeholders across all industries to examine how to start to re-open the economy in phases. (see task force list below)
“This is not an open and close situation nor should it be. We’ve always said public health has to be preeminent,” Sununu said.
The task force will look at the micro-level of how organizations and businesses can move forward in a “sound and responsible” manner with the input of public health, Sununu said.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state’s epidemiologist, said since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in New Hampshire six weeks ago, the state has tested more than 15,000 people. The total positive cases has reached 1,491. About 206 people have required hospitalization at some point in their illness, he said.
Chan said he was pleased to announce no new deaths overnight but acknowledged the number who have died.
“Unfortunately, there are total of 42 individuals who have died either directly from COVID-19 or from complications of COVID-19 and this is obviously the situation we want to try and avoid,” Chan said.
That’s why the state has taken the steps at the community level to try to saves lives and slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep from overwhelming the healthcare system, he said.
While the number of positive cases has remained relatively stable, Chan said it is important to remain vigilant.
“We have not yet seen a decline in the overall spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Chan said.
So, it is critically important, he said, for people to continue their social distancing efforts, to stay home when able and only go out for essential items like groceries or medical needs and to wear cloth face coverings in social settings where social distancing isn’t possible.
Frequent hand washing is still necessary, he said.
“We hope in the near future to see a decline in the numbers in community transmission,” Chan said, adding he is following the numbers and the data, which will be necessary to eventually move from mitigation to containment.
Sununu also touched on various charitable efforts, including the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation having already released nearly $4 million to 400 nonprofits to help at the local level.
The federal $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money, but it looks like a deal could be in the works for more federal funding, Sununu said.
In the meantime, 11,500 businesses received $2 billion across the state.
Sununu said he has had a lot of questions about keeping campgrounds open. He understands that many of the rural communities with campgrounds don’t want people coming from out of state where there are many more cases of COVID-19.
He hopes to provide guidance that can keep them open, but if need be, Sununu said he will close them.
He acknowledged all that people in New Hampshire are doing to limit the spread of the virus.
“It’s a huge sacrifice for everybody and we’re going to get through it together,” Sununu said.
The Task Force
A copy of the Task Force’s road map can be found here.
The Task Force is comprised of a group of bipartisan legislators, private-sector leaders, and state officials, including:
Taylor Caswell, Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs
DJ Bettencourt, Policy Director, Governor’s Office
State Senators Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester; Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst; Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry; Bob Giuda, R-Warren; and State Representatives Ed Butler, D-Hart’s Location; Mel Myler, D-Contoocook; Bill Marsh, R-Wolfeboro; Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton.
John Nyhan, Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce
Mike Somers, CEO/President, New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurants
Steve Ahnen, President, New Hampshire Hospital Association
Timothy Mone, President, New Hampshire Police Association
Nancy Kyle, President/CEO, NH Retailers Association
Chris Emond, CEO, Central New Hampshire Boys & Girls Club
Lori Harnois, Director, State of New Hampshire Travel & Tourism
Phil Bryce, State of New Hampshire Parks & Recreation Director
Bruce Berke, New Hampshire Travel Council and New Hampshire Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business