By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – A new poll shows a significant number of New Hampshire residents are not comfortable going to a concert, bar, gym, indoor wedding over 50 people or playing golf. And that is going to impact economic recovery, said Andrew Smith of the University of New Hampshire.
Smith provided results of a Granite State poll to the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force on Thursday. Smith said the data breaks down significantly along political lines with Democrats less likely to feel confident going outside their homes than Republicans and that many young people are less confident about things improving in the next year.
“That’s going to impact economic recovery,” from the pandemic caused by COVID-19, Smith said.
Smith said he is going to be conducting a similar survey and will provide an update later. The survey talked with about 2,000 residents of the Granite State this summer.
A copy of his PowerPoint presentation is here https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/30fdd1ae-db2f-4acb-b48d-f781256202ef/NH-consumer-Confidence-UNHSC-9172020.pdf
Smith said the good news from the survey is that people expect to be better off by next year. But he said young people are the least optimistic, which is contrary to normal times. He said those are the people who have been most impacted by job loss due to the pandemic.
He said in general, the survey showed people are more comfortable participating in outdoor activities that they normally engage in.
The state’s daily COVID-19 case numbers are ticking up in the state, D.J. Bettencourt said, but 20 cases per day are now averaging to 30 cases per day. “Our rates of hospitalization and deaths remain very, very low and well within the state’s health-care infrastructure,” he said.
As the weather gets cooler it increases the time people spend indoors which increases the risk of community transmission, said Bettencourt, chairman of the task force. The state has also expanded testing and there are more asymptomatic cases, he said.
UNH’s current positively rate is less than .10 percent of 15,000. While clusters capture the public’s attention it is best to look at the overall situation, Bettencourt said.
Bettencourt, who is also Gov. Chris Sununu’s policy director, noted that the most recent jobs report that came out on Tuesday shows New Hampshire’s unemployment has dropped from 8 to 6.5 percent from July to August. That means that the state has added just over 15,000 jobs in a single month.
Bettencourt said the team at New Hampshire Department of Employment Security expect they will show another drop in the unemployment rate in September, driven largely by schools reopening and that allowing parents to go back into the workforce.
“We have done a very good job of balancing priorities during this pandemic,” Bettencourt said. “No one has a 100 percent approval rating…but the numbers we are seeing don’t lie and tell us we have done a very good job.”
As the weather becomes cooler, and outdoor dining becomes less appealing, restaurants are asking the governor to relax some of the guidance related to their businesses.
Last month, Sununu allowed all counties to go to 100 percent occupancy in restaurants provided they could maintain six feet of distance between tables. Bettencourt said the issue of providing barriers between tables is being explored.
He said by the end of the day Thursday, a draft proposal is expected for the governor to consider. Another issue has been at bowling alleys. Bettencourt said a draft proposal is being floated to relax some lane restrictions which are now in place. The guidance calls for every other lane to be closed.
This is having an adverse impact on league play which is a big part of fall business, Bettencourt said.
That proposal is now before health officials and Sununu and they are only looking for a “tweak” in the existing guidance to help them out.
Houses of worship have asked to allow for a full house with six feet of social distancing but health officials have responded with caution, citing the state is in a comparable situation with other states in the region.
The state’s ski industry is working on a plan for the 2020-2021 ski season which is “a very big deal,” Bettencourt said, and it is still being worked on, with anticipation that the task force will work on the proposal.
He said the task force may have a special meeting to review that quickly when it is done to get it over to public health and the governor for consideration.
State Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, offered a proposal to open bar games like pool or darts, by limiting it to 10 individuals. All others waiting to play must remain in their seat in the bar, he said.
A ban on indoor bar entertainment could be relaxed to allow for small groups, and the entertainer, a solo act or disc jockey would be allowed to function 12 feet from any guests.
The task force approved the proposal and it will now go to the governor and state health officials. The task force meets remotely weekly on Thursdays at 11 a.m. and the public is offered a public input session.
Those who would like to listen in can call 1-800-356-8278 and press PIN # 194499.
For more information visit https://www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce