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New Hampshire looks to reopening amid coronavirus pandemic

As New Hampshire is now going into the fifth week under Gov. Chris Sununu’s stay-at-home order, much of the conversation around COVID-19 has transitioned into establishing a plan for the reopening of the economy. 

This has led to Sununu establishing the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force in order to gauge the state’s response and to meet with different sectors of the economy to plan what re-opening will look like. The task force met Friday afternoon with businesses from retail and manufacturing sectors to discuss what reopening will look like for them and to plan a coordinated response at the state level. 

In a news conference on Apr. 21 Sununu elaborated on the current plan for reopening the economy, saying that “today’s announcement does not mean we are flipping a switch and opening things tomorrow, but is rather a proactive approach enabling us to plan for the reopening of our economy from a public health standpoint.”  On Apr. 24 Sununu extended the state’s stay-at-home order until at least May 15. He explained in another news conference that the virus has spread significantly throughout the state and it is very possible that the order will be extended again and stretch into the month of June.  

To stay in line with the reopening guidelines put forth by the White House last week, the state would need to see a consistent 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases either as an absolute number or a percentage of tests to begin its multi-stage reopening process. As of now, New Hampshire’s confirmed cases are still increasing at a constant rate day to day, largely due to limited testing, which means the state may not reach this benchmark for a few weeks. In a news conference on Apr. 24, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan explained that the increase in daily cases could be caused by the State’s increased in testing. This means that the increase could be attributed to more cases being revealed instead of new outbreaks throughout the state.  

Gov. Sununu’s current plan has been met with significant criticism among many people who believe it might still be too soon to consider reopening. There are still many people who believe that the stay-at-home order has been in place long enough. This is evidenced by a protest in Concord this past weekend where hundreds of protesters claimed their rights had been violated by the stay-at-home order, and that it was time for Sununu to “stop decimating the state.”  

Despite this, the Governor’s plan falls in line with IHME model, which has been used consistently by the White House among numerous other government institutions. 

With all that said, it is important to note there are many positives in the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. New Hampshire has received large amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) over the past week to be distributed to health care providers, and the second round of small business funding has been approved which should help many of New Hampshire’s small businesses during this time.  

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