Hotels, churches set to reopen, stay-at-home order extended
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Chris Sununu extended New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order for an additional two weeks, while announcing the limited reopening of hotels, summer camps and houses of worship.
The stay-at-home order had been due to expire on Sunday but instead was extended until June 15.
“Hopefully then we can take that next step into a different look and get our summer going as folks would like to see the summer going,” Sununu said. “There’s still going to be a lot of restrictions in place. We’re never going to really be at the point where we’re 100 percent open in just a couple of weeks. That’s likely not going to happen.”
Churches and other houses of worship, which had been limited by the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, can resume larger services immediately at 40% of their building capacity, with families spread six feet apart from each other. Susan Hawkins, a funeral director, said the reopening of churches is especially important to grieving families who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19.
“There are so many people who are waiting for funerals, and it’s been so difficult,” she told the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force earlier Friday. “We do need to move forward and take the lessons that have been learned and have everyone keep safe, but continue to live our lives again.”
Hotels, inns and other lodging properties have been closed since April 6 except for essential workers and vulnerable populations. Those with fewer than 20 rooms will be allowed to reopen June 5 at full capacity, as will motels, cabins and other properties where guests have separate entrances to their rooms. Larger properties with interior hallways will be limited to 50% capacity. In all cases, only guests from New Hampshire will be allowed, unless they have quarantined in their home states for 14 days before arriving.
The owner of one cabin rental business told the task force she’s heard from potential guests who’ve been coming to New Hampshire to hike, are visiting restaurants and gas stations and then sleeping in their cars.
“I know what the governor’s trying to do and not let an overflow of people come into the state of New Hampshire, but they’re already here,” she said. “We need to open up lodging not only to get the economy going so we don’t lose these small businesses, but also for the safety of the people that are going to come up here anyways.”
Summer day camps will be allowed to open June 22, with rules that call for staggered drop-off and pick-up times, limited interaction with parents, keeping campers outside as much as possible, and separating children into small groups that would remain together throughout the day. Sununu said overnight camps will be allowed to reopen June 28, but the specific rules won’t be released until next week.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
As of Friday, 4,492 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 107 from the previous day. Six new deaths were announced — all involving residents of long-term care facilities — bringing the total to 238.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
New Hampshire is making testing for the coronavirus available to anyone in the state without restrictions.
The state in the last few weeks has expanded both testing locations and eligibility, making tests available for example to those with only mild symptoms or to health care workers, people over 60 or those with underlying health conditions regardless of symptoms.
Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said Friday that anyone who wants to get tested now can do so at nine locations around the state.
Two Manchester hospitals are investigating clusters of patients and staff who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Two asymptomatic patients from the same unit at Catholic Medical Center were discovered to be positive after being tested for placement at long-term care facilities. A staff member on that unit also tested positive, hospital officials said. Catholic Medical Center tested all patients on that unit and more than 600 employees between May 20 and May 26. Seven patients and staff came back positive so far.
At Elliot Hospital, five patients on the geriatric psychiatric unit have tested positive. The hospital is currently testing the remaining patients and all staff on the unit.
Both hospitals are conducting contact tracing to determine the source and scope of exposure, which appears to have occurred via asymptomatic spread in both cases.
Associated Press Writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.