Gov. Chris Sununu’s stay-at-home order that closed wide swaths of the New Hampshire economy to fight the spread of the coronavirus will end on June 15, multiple sources tell New Hampshire Journal.
The governor will announce the end of the lockdown at Friday’s regularly scheduled COVID-19 presser.
“The word has gone out that Friday’s press conference is one we don’t want to miss,” one source in frequent contact with the governor’s office tells NHJournal.
Sununu telegraphed his decision when he most recently renewed his executive order on May 29. “It is our hope and intention to move beyond it on June 15,” Sununu said. “Two more weeks and hopefully we can take that next step into a different look and get our summer going.”
The stay-at-home order will be replaced by advisories on best practices as the coronavirus threat remains. However, restaurants and other businesses with particular challenges serving customers in this environment will operate under guidance from Sununu’s office, sources said.
The news will come as welcome relief to thousands of small business owners forced to close in the fight to stop the spread of coronavirus, as well as the tens of thousands of Granite Staters who’ve lost their jobs. More than 205,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in New Hampshire during the 11 weeks of the lockdown. There were 108,935 active unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 16.
Sununu’s reported decision comes in the wake of criticism of the governor’s support for mass protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. Business owners and families with outdoor events like weddings and high school graduations are asking why they’re held to the state’s 10-people-or-fewer mandate while others are allowed to gather en masse in city streets.
On Wednesday, Sununu revealed he will allow large gatherings for “one-off” events like political protests, despite concerns from public health professionals that they could spread the virus. Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, for example, has urged people who participated in protests in her state to get tested for the virus calling demonstrations “a recipe for spread” of the disease.
In addition, Sununu laid out the state’s latest numbers on COVID here in New Hampshire, data that make a strong case for rolling back restrictions.
The rate of new infections is around 5 percent, COVID-19 related hospitalizations remain below 10 percent of hospital capacity and more than 80 percent of all fatalities are among long-term care facility residents — which are under their own form of lockdown separate from any actions by the state.
“If we were to have a surge, if we did have a spike, we do have the capacity to manage with our healthcare facilities,” Sununu noted.
Sununu’s “flex opening” approach to the coronavirus lockdown means some businesses have been opened for weeks, with no accompanying increase in infections or hospitalizations.
“It’s time, and I think the governor knows it’s time,” one NHGOP source who’s been in regular contact with the governor’s office tells NHJournal.