New Hampshire’s “stay at home” order: What you need to know

  • The new New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet near the Market Basket at exit of I-89 in Warner, New Hampshire. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 3/27/2020 4:03:22 PM

New Hampshire has issued a “stay at home” order until May 4 – the last state in the northeast to do so.

Starting at midnight Friday night, large portions of the state’s businesses will be officially barred from operating, after an executive order released by Gov. Chris Sununu Thursday night.

But what does the order actually mean for you? Here’s a guide.

Can I leave my house?

Yes. The order directs that all residents stay at home as much as possible and leave only when necessary.

But those reasons include a number of errands such as grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy or bank, getting gas, going to the laundromat, and picking up takeout or drive-thru food at restaurants.

Residents may leave to visit relatives – a spouse, parent or child – or to care for someone. Anyone not working from home may travel to work.

And you are free to go outside to exercise. In fact, state officials are recommending it. As long as people maintain a proper distance, state and local parks, hiking and running trails and natural attractions are all open and encouraged.

The order also does not affect churches or places of worship – which can stay open.

But everyone in the state – including churches – must continue to follow the earlier executive order banning gatherings of 10 people or more.

When does this take effect?

The order takes effect 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 27. If you’re reading this in Saturday’s paper, it is already in effect.

What’s still open?

A number of businesses and services are still open. The state has released an 11-page list of all workers and businesses that are deemed essential and are not required to close.

The list of allowed businesses, which is modeled off other states like Massachusetts as well as federal guidelines, is comprehensive.

It includes health care workers, fire and police departments, EMTs, HAZMAT responders, and other emergency personnel.

Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, community mental health centers, methadone clinics and a range of other outpatient facilities are all deemed essential.

The list includes grocery stores, restaurants, farm stands, food manufacturers and distributors, fishing operations, farms, restaurant employees, greenhouses and gardens, and food banks.

Electrical companies and all workers they employ are still available, as are those that supply gas stations and propane gas delivery.

Mail delivery is still happening. Anything bought on eBay or Amazon will still make it to your front door.

News organizations are not forced to close. Radio stations may continue to broadcast and newspapers can continue to deliver papers daily.

Auto dealerships, auto body shops and even bicycle repair shops are still able to be open. State inspections and car registrations have not been delayed; you can pay the fee online at your town office, but you must still bring your vehicle in for a physical inspection.

State parks will remain open – though state beaches are closed. Hiking and other activities in small groups and with distancing is allowed on parks and mountains, including the White Mountain National Forest.

Firearms and gun stores have been deemed essential too.

The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is still open for business, but state officials are asking residents to avoid unnecessary out-of-state travel.

The state is allowing hotels and bed and breakfasts to stay open.

Plumbers, electricians and other contractors are not affected by the order. Nor are construction workers; public works projects will continue, Sununu said Thursday.

Cell service and internet companies may keep their employees at work throughout the state. Cyber security and IT workers are also considered essential.

Payroll, legal and accounting services for companies will also continue.

Schools will still be available for free and reduced meal deliveries and pickup, as well as support for remote learning plans. And daycare facilities may also stay open, although many have already closed.

What must close?

The state has not released a comprehensive list of places that must close, but that tally encompasses any business not captured by the exemption list.

Any store that does not supply “essential sectors” must close. This includes clothes stores, music shops and book stores – essentially any “Main Street” business that doesn’t serve necessary goods.

Barbershops, hairdressers and tattoo parlors must close. So must movie theaters and recreational companies, even golf courses.

Many of those being ordered to close have already done so amid an overall push for social distancing.

Is there any leeway for business?

Yes. Any business not covered by the 11-page list of essential services may appeal to the state to get a special designation.

To do that, business owners and others may email essential@nheconomy.com and must provide contact information and justification.

Any business looking to get this special designation must make the case that “it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions,” according to state guidelines.

For example, real estate sales are not considered essential, but that may be appealed.

The governor and Commissioner of Business and Economic Affairs Taylor Caswell will have final approval over who gets the designation.

Who is enforcing this?

When unveiling the stay at home order to reporters Thursday, Sununu made clear that New Hampshire was not going to be cracking down on anyone leaving their house.

But the order does include a broad, vague enforcement directive.

“The Division of Public Health and state or local police shall have the authority to enforce this order,” the language states.

What do I do if I’m laid off?

If you are laid off as a result of this order or any other reason, you should as soon as possible apply for state unemployment benefits. To do that, go to www.nhes.nh.gov and review the timetable.

Due to an executive order by Sununu last week, people are eligible for unemployment benefits if they are in quarantine or isolation due to possible exposure. Benefits are extended to those who have stopped working to care for a family member or are watching over children.

Because of the unprecedented volume of unemployment insurance claims, the Department of Employment Security has instituted a time table for who can apply when – based on the first letter of your last name. Everybody has a chance to file on any day, but check to see which time window is yours.

The application takes 20 to 30 minutes and you will need to provide details about the job you had, the circumstances of the layoff, and the wages you earned.

The average payout per person is $339 per week, but the amount received is based on salary. It can range from $32 to $427 per week. Benefits are usually made available in eight days, according to the department.

Claimants must continue to apply each week to continue receiving the benefit.

What if I’m self-employed?

If you are self-employed and unable to work you are still eligible for unemployment. You will need to provide your full net profits and losses for 2018 and 2019 to the department.

How long is this likely to go on?

Sununu’s stay-at-home order has been extended through to May 4, but the actual duration is up in the air. Feasibly, it could be lifted sooner if the virus becomes contained, but that appears unlikely.

Speaking on WMUR Thursday, the governor pointed to projections around the spread of the virus as the driving factor behind the order.

“It seems like it’s a long time away, and it is,” Sununu said. “It’s five weeks. But under no model do we see us out of this situation (in under) five weeks.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at 369-3307, edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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