COVID update: Stay-at-home order may end next week; extra unemployment benefits could end, too

Monitor staff
Published: 6/9/2020 7:59:23 AM

Gov. Chris Sununu suggested Tuesday that the stay-at-home order will probably be allowed to expire next Monday, meaning that many coronavirus-related restrictions on everyday life, including limiting groups to more than 10 people, may be lifted.

If so, that could also put an end to the state’s extra unemployment payments that have been paid out since mid-March to lessen the impact of business closings and job losses.

“It is my intention that will go away,” Sununu said of the stay-at-home order during a regularly scheduled press conference Tuesday. Details are being worked out, he said, but Sununu mentioned three things likely to be loosened or removed: the $600 increase in weekly unemployment benefits; current limits on sizes of groups in public; and designation of which businesses are considered essential.

The state of emergency is likely to stay in effect, he said.

In other matters, Health and Human Services Director Lori Sibonnette said that New Hampshire would not using apps on mobile phones as part of its efforts to track the spread of COVID-19.

“We have looked at different apps … We just didn’t think that was the right fit for New Hampshire,” said Shibonnette. She said between 110 and 135 regularly work on the tracing teams, figuring out how people with COVID-19 got the diseases and whether they might have given it to other people.

The National Guard has been helping in that effort but will be pulling out. Shibonnette said the state would be hiring contractors to fill the gaps.

Some places are using mobile phone apps, which can keep a continuous record of people’s movements, even if the phone isn’t being used, to track the disease but this has raised concerns about privacy.

Responding to reporters’ questions, state epidemiology Dr. Benjamin Chan said the state has seen no increase in cases following the loosening of guidelines and opening up of some businesses.

“We haven’t seen the numbers go up …. As we begin to reopen different businesses and areas of society I think there’s a high risk that … they very likely could go up. We’re seeing this play out in other parts of the country,” Chan said. “It’s imperative to continue with social distancing to try and prevent the numbers from going up.”

Small farms hope for COVID relief funds

The small size of most of New Hampshire’s farms has kept them from collecting agricultural relief under the federal CARES Act relief package, and they’re hoping that the criteria will change.

A number of organizations have written to the governor and other officials on the issue, saying that while $10 million is being appropriated for farms – $4.5 million for dairy farms, $1.5 million for other types of farms and $4 million in reserve – the money can only go to farms that grossed more than $50,000. They hope that figure will be lowered.

“According to the 2017 agricultural census, only 426 of the state’s 4,123 farms have receipts of $50,000 or more. The remaining 3,697 farms still feed New Hampshire, still contribute to New Hampshire’s economy, still are stewards of New Hampshire’s rugged land, yet will not be able to receive financial assistance for losses incurred due to COVID-19,” said a statement from N.H. Farmers & Agricultural Organization, and 15 farms that signed the letter.

“If the pandemic is showing us anything, it is that local food has become more desirable than ever before. Fostering a resilient agricultural sector means that we cannot lose the small and mid-sized farms our neighbors and communities depend on,” the letter read.

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