CONCORD, NH – Child care centers and equestrian facilities can reopen immediately as well as outdoor attractions for 10 or fewer people for biking, canoeing, kayak rentals, outdoor driving ranges, small fishing charters, and guide services for hunting and fishing.
These were among the flex openings with guidance that Gov. Chris Sununu announced at a press briefing on Monday. It was also announced there were no new deaths since Sunday, but 57 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 3,652. There have been 172 COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire since March.
Monday was the first day that restaurants across the state were allowed to open for outdoor seating. Sununu said he admired the “creative approach” some have taken and the collaborative work between local and state officials to allow for some additional seating and he encouraged the public to patronize restaurants as they could.
Restaurants have been able to offer take out and delivery service throughout the pandemic.
While Massachusetts will be opening beaches on Memorial Day next Monday “that is their path and it is dictated by the fact they have so many more beaches,” Sununu said.
He said he has been given a June 1 recommendation to reopen Hampton Beach but he was not promising that. He said having Massachusetts open first “gives us a chance to learn,” how that goes.
For Memorial Day, Sununu suggested people enjoy time at home and try his #homehike challenge.
Sununu also said he provided to the Executive Council 250 pages of what he said was mostly available online to help it decide on a warrant that would allow the flow of millions of dollars of CARES Act money to hospitals, businesses, and non-profits in June.
The Executive Council voted two weeks ago to hold off on a vote 4-1 with members saying Sununu was not giving them enough information on what he was doing and where the money was going. For about $175 million Sununu did not identify a user. A vote is expected on Wednesday.
Between 200 and 250 childcare centers chose to stay open to provide for the care of children of essential workers and first responders but many others closed in March.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, was asked about the number of cases of COVID-19 involving people under the age of 18 and he noted that most are likely symptomatic as pediatricians have been told to only test those with symptoms.
No children have died of the virus in New Hampshire but in the past few weeks, there have been more children reported with COVID-19.
“We don’t see as much severe illness in children,” Chan said.
The new protocols for daycare centers on the state’s website at nh.gov call for children to have their temperatures tested daily, staggered drop-off and pick-up times, and enhanced sanitation of toys daily to try to reduce transmission of the virus.
Sununu said he would also flex open centers where you can rent outdoor equipment or hire a guide or go on a fishing trip, immediately with additional protections.
Not There Yet
He said he is “not there yet” on opening outdoor attractions like Lost River and the Flume Gorge, but it is “very challenging” given the number of people who would want to partake and the potential for a “supercluster” outbreak.
“I anticipate a second surge … It would be wonderful if it doesn’t happen but we have to plan for that,” Sununu said.
Last Friday, he announced the creation of a $400 million Main Street Relief Fund, using CARES Act funding and so far over 3,000 have applied.
Applications will be taken until May 29 at revenue.nh.gov and thereafter a plan for how to distribute the money to qualified businesses will go forward with an eye toward saving businesses that are most imperiled due to the closures caused by COVID-19.
Testing for COVID-19 is increasing in the state and on Sunday, there were 2,400 tests administered. The results found COVID-19 in 2 percent of the cases which Sununu said is a good metric.
“It’s just a single data point,” he said, “but clearly a good sign. The trend is clearly downward in the past two to three weeks.”
Chan noted that we are still not out of the woods and we need to stay at home as much as possible and stay distant from each other while in public. Globally, he said there are now at 4.7 million cases and 1.5 million in the United States.
To date, more than 49,000 of the state’s 1.3 million residents have been tested for COVID-19. The testing has shown that there are likely a large number of people in New Hampshire who have not been exposed to the virus.
“It is important to continue to take the appropriate social distancing,” Chan stressed, and wear cloth masks when out in public.
“We are in this for the long haul.”