Gov. Chris Sununu declares New Hampshire state of emergency for COVID-19

  • The inside of the New Hampshire Emergency Operations Center at the Incident Planning and Operations Center in Concord effective to assist in the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 3/13/2020 7:28:00 PM
Modified: 3/13/2020 7:27:44 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire to fight the novel coronavirus Friday, calling the move necessary to allow state officials to respond comprehensively should the virus worsen.

“At this time there remains a very low public risk to New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

“...While the current risk remains low, we’re taking the preventative steps today, to ensure that all of the state resources are actually ready and available to respond and deploy at a moment’s notice.”

In a six-page executive order announced at a press conference in Concord on Friday evening, Sununu freed up the ability for state agencies to enter into contracts to help fight the virus, waived licensing requirements for out-of-state personnel, and suspended all non-essential travel by state and municipal employees.

The order changed licensing requirements for hospitals and providers to let them handle patients in isolation. It revised day care licensing regulations – allowing employers to create makeshift day care facilities in their offices for their employees.

And Sununu ordered that schools suspend sponsored out-of-state travel – but did not include a directive that schools close. Instead, he advocated that schools develop remote learning plans with the Department of Education.

The governor also required that all state agencies take direction from the governor’s office, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Division of Public Health.

Throughout the press conference, Sununu stressed that the risk to New Hampshire remains low, according to state officials. And he added that the state is still not recommending that large gatherings or events be canceled, given that risk profile.

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory disease with similar initial symptoms to the flu that has proved deadly. So far, New Hampshire has seen six positive test cases but no deaths.

State officials say that while cases are expected to continue showing up, there is no present evidence of community transmission in New Hampshire – which could lead to an outbreak.

Due to limited national supply, New Hampshire officials have only had the capacity to test around 200 people at once throughout the history of the virus. But Sununu said the state would be receiving more tests next week and increasing that total number to 500.

Meanwhile, virus tests available through private labs can now be obtained through hospitals and providers with doctor’s orders, Sununu said.

Friday’s state executive order follows a declaration of national emergency from President Donald Trump, intended to free up $50 billion in federal resources. A Friday evening deal struck in Congress is expected to allow for virus testing for the uninsured as well as cover two weeks of paid sick days.

Sununu and New Hampshire lawmakers are also pursuing using state unemployment insurance to give assistance to those needing to take time off work. A legislative package to do that is set to receive a hearing in the Senate Health committee on Tuesday.

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