COVID update: Beaches stay closed until June 1, nine out of 10 deaths have been in people over age 70

  • NH DHHS—Courtesy

  • U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster uses a device to hand out masks provided by the Common Man restaurants and the New Hampshire Rotary Clubs in an effort called “Mask Up, New Hampshire!” on Friday morning at the Common Man in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 5/22/2020 7:41:56 AM

Gov. Chris Sununu announced the partial reopening of a swathe of economic sectors Friday, from beaches, to tanning salons to fitness classes.

But he also stressed that the number of new cases of COVID-19 is still high and that a full re-opening of the state will not be happening soon. 

Starting June 1, New Hampshire’s beaches will be partially reopened, Sununu said at a press conference Friday. Visitors will be allowed to participate in “active activities” such as walking, running, swimming and surfing. But they will not be allowed to sit or lounge on the sand, Sununu said.

“That’s not what we really want to be enticing,” the governor said. 

The state will take measures to make sure that crowds are kept under control, Sununu said. That includes a 50% occupancy limit on state beach parking lots. Private parking lots will not be subject to restrictions, and towns will retain the discretion over town-owned lots. 

In order to encourage social distancing and boost Seacoast restaurants, the state will also be shutting down a portion of Route 1A, which hugs the shoreline, Sununu said. That would allow it to be used as “a giant sidewalk, if you will,” he said. The stretch of road will be shut down through the summer – from June 1 to Labor Day, Sununu said.

New Hampshire will be allowing gyms and fitness centers to open their doors for fitness classes too – but not for widespread use. As of June 1, fitness centers will be allowed to hold workout programs, yoga, Zumba, karate and other classes, as long as participants stay 8 to 10 feet apart.

The state is not allowing people to freely use weights and machines, though. “We’re simply not there right now,” Sununu said. “Hopefully we can get there in the next few weeks. We believe it’s a good first step.”

A range of new personal care businesses will be allowed to reopen June 1 as well. That includes acupuncturists, massage therapists, nail salons, tattoo parlors and tanning salons.  

The state will be allowing yard sales starting this weekend as well. 

But even while announcing reopenings, Sununu said the state was not at the level of reopening entirely, pointing to the 81 cases announced Friday. The governor raised the specter of sparking a “super cluster” of cases at one event or location if the state reopened too quickly

“We're not at zero or one or 10, or even five or anything like that,” he said. “We got 81 cases today. We had 150 the other day. We still have a lot of issues in the state in terms of dealing with COVID but we have the tools to allow us to do it.”

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, New Hampshire officials are still encouraging groups or parties to stay at 10 people or less, but Sununu said that guidance would not be heavily enforced.

Child illness

New Hampshire has reported its first confirmed case of a childhood illness connected to COVID-19, just as overall fatalities from the disease top 200.

The illness, called Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, has been seen in children across Europe and in at least 18 states. Its connection to the novel coronavirus is still being determined, but it is rarely fatal.

“At last report, the patient is hospitalized but recovering,” state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said at a press conference Friday. The patient was identified only as being under the age of 20 and living in Hillsborough County.

The syndrome includes a persistent fever and an inflammatory response in multiple organs. Those affected have antibodies related to COVID-19 or active coronavirus, but their connection with the syndrome is still uncertain.

In general, COVID-19 has spared New Hampshire children. Chan said about 5% of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been in people under 20. Most of those are in teenagers, not younger children.

Further, only 3% of those cases have required hospitalization. Nobody under 20 in New Hampshire has died from COVID-19.

“We do believe that severe illness in children … requiring hospitalization, and MISC in children, is uncommon, but we’re still learning about this virus as it spreads around the globe,” Chan said.

On Friday, Chan announced five additional deaths from COVID-19, with four of them in long-term care facilities. This pushes the state’s death tally from the disease to 204. Two-thirds of those deaths – 143 of them – have been associated with long-term care facilities, almost always involving the older cohort of residents.

Inside the numbers

According to analysis released Thursday, 89% of all deaths in the state have been reported in people over the age of 70, while only eight have been in people younger than 60. This is true even though middle-aged people are getting sick at fairly high rates: More than a quarter of hospitalizations occur in people aged 40 to 59.

There is also a discrepancy in gender. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than men – 55% of cases are in females – but men are much more likely to be hospitalized (59%) and to die (53%).

 The state’s racial and ethnic analysis says blacks and Hispanics have gotten the disease in disproportionate numbers compared to their presence in New Hampshire’s population. However, they are no more likely to die from it than whites, probably a reflection of the fact that the state’s white population is, on average, much older than the population of other racial and ethnic groups.

Blacks make up 1.4% of New Hampshire but have had more than 5% of the cases and hospitalizations. No African American has died from COVID-19 in the state.

Hispanics make up 3.9% of the population but have been 9% of the hospitalizations as well as 3.9% of the deaths.

No Asians have died and they have been diagnosed and hospitalized with the disease at almost exactly their population rate in New Hampshire – 3.0%.

Geographically, Merrimack County has seen 7.6% of deaths from the disease. It has about 11% of the state’s population.

Court restrictions extended

New Hampshire’s circuit, superior and supreme courts will continue to limit in-person proceedings through June 15, aligning its policies with the state’s emergency declaration due to COVID-19.

The new orders issued Thursday encourage judges and clerks to conduct court business by telephone, email, video and teleconferencing, including remote bench trials. However, all jury trials and grand jury proceedings are suspended until further notice. The 90-day deadline to indict criminal defendants has also been extended.

Exceptions to the in-person restrictions include criminal bail hearings, plea and sentencing hearings, proceedings related to emergency petitions for temporary relief and any cases directly related to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The courts are open on a restricted basis but the clerks’ offices are not available to the general public. That means members of the public do not have in-person access to files and must request copies of court documents by calling the statewide information center at 855-212-1234. The court’s e-filing portal is also available to litigants and attorneys.

Who was that masked woman?

Rotary clubs around New Hampshire teamed up with the Common Man family of restaurants to hand out 67,000 free reusable cloth masks to anyone who wants them as part of an effort called “Mask Up, New Hampshire!”  

Common Man owner Alex Ray aquired the masks and distributes them with the help of Rotary volunteers who use the Common Man Trolley as a “MaskMobile.”

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster helped hand out the masks at the Concord Common Man giving two to each individual.

The “MaskMobile” is sticking around the area this weekend. On Saturday, masks will be handed out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Common Man in Concord and Winnisquam Regional High School in Tilton, and again at the high school during the same times on Sunday. Next week it heads up to Lincoln.

Is COVID killing

The number of complaints filed with the national Do Not Call registry has fallen sharply since coronavirus slowed the economy, with complaints falling in March and falling even more sharply in April, both in New Hampshire and around the country.

New Hampshire had the highest per-capita number of telemarketing complaints of any state last year, but filed just 696 complaints in April, down from 1,100 in March, 1,400 in February and 2,100 last November. National complaints also fell some 40% in April compared to the month before, according to data compiled by

It’s not clear whether this reflects fewer robocalls and telemarketing calls as part of the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus. Another possibility: People are so bored with stay-at-home life that they welcome telemarketing calls and don’t complain about them any more.

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