CONCORD, NH – Gov. Chris Sununu is issuing a stay-at-home order and closing state beaches on the Seacoast effective Friday at midnight and extending public school closures until May 4 to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Sununu, a Republican who has been under pressure by Democrats to issue such a directive, made clear that a stay-at-home order is less restrictive than a shelter-in-place order.
“The state of New Hampshire will be issuing a stay-at-home order directing all non-essential businesses that have not already voluntarily closed to end in-person and public interacting operations by midnight Friday, March 27,” Sununu said at a 3 p.m. news conference Thursday in Concord.
“We cannot stress this enough. You should stay in your house unless absolutely necessary,” Sununu said.
Sununu also announced a public-private partnership with help from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to keep child-care centers open for essential workers.
Over the past 24 hours, Sununu said he has received numerous calls asking him to sign a mandatory shelter-in-place order.
“This is not a shelter-in-place,” Sununu said. “We are not closing down transportation, not closing our borders and no one will be prevented from leaving their home.”
In taking these actions, Sununu said the state is aligning with regional partners who have issued similar orders.
“I’d like to add some clarity that healthcare facilities, gas stations, grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, homeless shelters, food banks, animal health services, restaurants, breweries just to name a few are all considered essential,” Sununu said.
Restaurants and bars are open for take-out and delivery only and gatherings of more than 10 people have already been prohibited.
The two Democrats running for governor, state Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, have both been pressuring Sununu to issue the order.
“We’ve lost precious time in the last week, but I am hopeful this action comes soon enough to still save lives. Today’s stay-at-home order and provision to provide childcare for essential workers are the right things to do. Thank you, Governor,” Volinsky said.
Sununu said: “The order outlined today instructs Granite Staters to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary.”
This is not an enforcement effort and people will not be “harassed” if they are not at home, he said. People are free to go for a walk, to the grocery store, to work and essential functions, but should otherwise stay at home, Sununu said. That is especially true for people over 60 with underlying health issues.
InDepthNH.org covered the conference by phone.
These are tough decisions, he said.
“We are putting ourselves in a strong position with these proactive measures to slow the spread of the virus,” Sununu said.
New Hampshire reported one death and 137 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
By extending the distance learning for children who are at home until May 4 will provide parents, teachers and students the ability for longer term planning, he said.
“There are tough decisions. They really are,” he said. “The worst may be still ahead of us and I have the responsibility for doing what is right for the 1.3 million Granite Staters in our great state.”