New Hampshire’s state of emergency for COVID-19 will end Friday night at midnight, with the spread of the virus under control and supplies of vaccine well ahead of demand, Gov. Chris Sununu announced.
Most residents will not notice any change, though Sununu said Thursday this should help market New Hampshire as one of the most fully reopened states in the country.
“The state of emergency is no longer necessary to manage the remaining pieces of the pandemic,” Sununu said during his weekly COVID-19 briefing.
“For starters, I need to give a giant thank-you to the people of New Hampshire for helping us get through this.”
The state will now transition to defining the COVID-19 response as a “public health incident.” This will permit the Department of Health and Human Services to manage and monitor the disease and give legal liability protections to health care providers, Sununu said.
“We have tried to address any flexibilities that may be needed,” Sununu said.
The governor reminisced about the “dark days” of April 2020 and January 2021, when the state went through its two biggest spikes of COVID-19 cases, which ravaged nursing homes and shut down much of the economy.
“I would not wish anybody to go through this in the future,” Sununu said.
House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, was one of the first to publicly embrace the governor’s move to end the state of emergency.
“This is the right decision for the people of New Hampshire,” Packard said. “Our state is well positioned to move forward without the need for a state of emergency. New Hampshire has managed through this crisis better than most states. Governor Sununu’s announcement today is a critical step in transitioning to normalcy.”
Sununu made the first state of emergency declaration on March 13, 2020 and renewed it more than 20 times at three-week intervals.
On May 28, he signed the last declaration and signaled the emergency was near its end.
“We are more in a management mode,” Sununu said at one point.
Later during Thursday’s briefing, Sununu said, “The pandemic crisis and the emergency has passed, but there’s still a lot to deal with.”
Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state’s epidemiologist, said the average number of daily cases has dropped to about 50, and only 1.6% of those being tested are positive for the virus.
Daily hospitalizations statewide have dipped below 30 in the past week, and New Hampshire has had fewer than one death a day for the past 14 days.
“Community transmission in the majority of counties is now minimal or moderate,” Chan said.
Only two months ago, the entire state had “substantial” spread of the virus.
The state has now administered 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, with 817,000 having received a first dose.
About 700,000 have been fully vaccinated, which is about 70% of the eligible population of those 12 and up, according to state officials.
The state has been in line to receive 50,000 doses of the vaccine each week, but has administered only 4,000 each of the past two weeks.
For the first time, the state did not order any new vaccine this past week because it had enough on hand to provide scheduled shots, according to Dr. Beth Daly, director of the state’s infectious disease control bureau.
Sununu said he was disappointed the Biden administration would not permit New Hampshire or other states to donate some of its vaccine allotment to Canada.
“There is still very much of a worldwide pandemic around with COVID,” Sununu said. “Our hearts go out to them. We want everyone to help get through this.”
Sununu said another milestone will be set when he hosts his final weekly briefing on COVID-19 next Thursday.
A briefing is planned at or near the Fourth of July holiday weekend and then, they will be scheduled on an “as-needed basis,” Sununu said.