New Hampshire governor pushes for adherence to social distancing, stops short of ordering home isolation

By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square

Gov. Chris Sununu urged New Hampshire residents to follow social distancing guidelines but did not order a shelter in place directive as the state recorded its first death from the novel coronavirus.

A Hillsborough County man in his 60s with other existing conditions died over the weekend, according to New Hampshire’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Benjamin Chan. The number of residents who tested positive for the virus increased to 101, up 23 from Sunday. The state is expected to triple its testing capacity within the next 24 hours, Sununu said.

Sununu said at a news conference Monday that he was taking a regional approach.

“The days of playing pickup soccer at the park and having a neighborhood barbecue is temporarily suspended for the time being, and I know that,” Sununu said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu

Sununu praised Frank Edelblut, the state’s commissioner of education, for his work in creating a work-from-home system for teachers and students. He said he didn’t know when students would be allowed to return to class.

“This is not going away in a couple of weeks,” Sununu said. “The likelihood of continuing that is more likely than not.”

New Hampshire residents are feeling the economic pinch of the emergency. Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner for the New Hampshire Employment Security office, said 34,000 people filed unemployment claims in a week.

Sununu sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for their help in securing a stimulus package to help small businesses who will not be covered by insurance for losses due to the virus. Loans, grant funds and direct cash assistance are needed, Sununu said in his letter.

“In the long term, we can hope that Congress will work with both state regulators and the insurance industry to develop a more permanent solution to this coverage problem,” Sununu wrote in the letter.

The governor also issued five new emergency orders Monday. One would allow government entities to modify how they hold meetings as long as the public has a way to access the meeting. This will allow the entities to hold remote meetings.

The four other orders address remote work and medical services:

  • Allowing out-of-state pharmacies to serve New Hampshire residents through the mail.
  • Allowing out-of-state medical providers to provide services through telehealth.
  • Allowing secure remote online notarization.
  • Allowing New Hampshire pharmacies to make and sell their own hand sanitizer. Pharmacy technicians will also be allowed to perform non-dispensing tasks remotely.

One of Sununu’s potential Democratic rivals in the governor’s race criticized him for not ordering a shelter-in-place directive.

“The governor’s announcement banning gatherings of 10 people or more put him a full week behind Trump’s federal guidelines,” Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky said. “According to the governor’s statement, we are only developing a focused child care plan. We need to get ahead of this problem and stop being consistently behind the curve.”

Images courtesy of Wikipedia/Famartin and U.S. Department of Agriculture

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