While much information regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) is constantly changing, state and local leaders including the University of New Hampshire (UNH) are being proactive about these times and what they necessitate.
State of New Hampshire
As of Friday, March 27, the state of New Hampshire is under a stay-at-home order. The order, issued by Governor Chris Sununu, calls for all non-essential businesses to “end in-person and public-interacting operations,” per a tweet from Sununu on March 26. Sununu has clarified that this is neither a shelter-in-place nor a border-shutdown situation.
“We cannot stress this enough – you should stay at your house unless absolutely necessary. Of course, we will not prevent you from leaving your home to go on a walk, go to the store, or if you are going to work. It will take sacrifice, but NH is resilient & we will get through it,” Sununu said in a tweet on March 26.
Town of Durham
On March 21, Town Administrator Todd Selig explained the action he and several others had taken regarding COVID-19 in an email to Durham residents.
“Earlier today, Town Council Chair Kitty Marple, Chair Pro Tem Kenny Rotner, State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, and Mr. Selig sent a request to the NH Commissioner of Health and Human Services requesting that she recommend to the Governor the issuance of an immediate “shelter-in-place” order for the State of New Hampshire in order to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. Since then, Sununu has not issued a shelter-in-place order, but he has issued the stay-at-home order, effective through May 4.
In an email to The New Hampshire, Selig discussed how he thinks COVID-19 has affected Durham so far and how the new stay-at-home order could change things. He explained that while there is so much still unknown regarding COVID-19, ideally social distancing strategies in New Hampshire will be able to help “flatten the curve” before hospitals are overwhelmed and doctors do not have adequate supplies for all patients. Selig discussed another unknown factor of COVID-19 – whether its spread would slow in the summer similar to the spread of influenza. He said that whether or not this was the case, social distancing measures will continue to be taken through the summer and second half of 2020.
“Perhaps outdoor activities in small groups would be able to resume in summer. Maybe restaurants would reopen, at least partially with decreased numbers of tables and new occupancy limitations. But large gatherings would likely still be banned. No Major League Baseball, no crowded NH beaches, no overflow crowds at the Whittemore Center arena or the new UNH Football Stadium, etc. Sports leagues might resume in the summer but without crowds, and TV shows like American Idol might forgo studio audiences. Stores will probably have to continue to cap the number of shoppers allowed in at once. Large crowds will likely be a definite ban for some time,” Selig said.
“My understanding concerning the downside of a closer-to-normal summer is that a resurgence of the disease in six months or so might be a strong possibility (though not guaranteed) — in essence, a second wave of illness to some degree in the fall. If that came to pass, new social distancing measures would need to be implemented, similar to what we now have in place, or if people who have been infected do ultimately develop an immunity to COVID-19, perhaps social distancing requirements could be eased to some degree. By fall, hospitals would hopefully be in a much stronger position concerning things like having adequate protective measures, supplies, masks, and ventilators on hand to deal with a surge,” Selig said.
Selig closed with, “This is a hard time for UNH, for Durham’s Main Street, and for all of our residents and businesses locally. No one knows exactly what the future holds. What we do know is that until a vaccine is developed and distributed, which will take 12 – 18 months at the fastest, we have entered a new normal.”
The University of New Hampshire
Sununu is working in conjunction with UNH to assist where possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, per a tweet from UNH, part of the Hamel Recreation Center has been transformed into a space for “overflow for hospitals and as quarantine housing for health personnel” with the New Hampshire National Guard. This is at the request of both Sununu and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
“We’re offering resources in support of drive-thru testing & @UNHDining to provide meals for those on campus,” the tweet added.
Additionally, UNH shared a video on social media with the caption “Our faculty and staff joined together to welcome back @UNHStudents with open *digital* arms and positive encouragement.” The video was a collection of positive messages encouraging students and helping stay happy and healthy during this time.
On March 25, President James Dean spoke in a video message on Twitter and Instagram about commencement, which has been a topic of speculation since the shift to remote learning for the remainder of the semester was announced. He said that he has heard concerns from students and understands they do not want commencement to be cancelled or “virtual.” Dean said that while commencement will not happen as normal, various postponement options are being considered. Additionally, the message noted that students could send their commencement ceremony ideas over email.
“In the meantime, stay safe, please be healthy, and wash those Wildcat paws,” Dean said.
Both the state of New Hampshire and UNH have numerous web pages that are updated as new information becomes available regarding many aspects of COVID-19. These are resources students and residents can turn to for answers and advice.