Lawmakers debate stay-at-home issue; Sununu holds firm

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., files to be listed on the New Hampshire primary ballot, last year, at the Statehouse in Concord. Watching at right is N.H. Executive Councillor Debora Pignatelli. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

CONCORD – New Hampshire Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli, from Nashua, asked Gov. Chris Sununu to issue an emergency order for residents to stay home as the state deals with the coronavirus, noting many of her constituents have called for that.

Pignatelli, a Democrat, said such an order “closes nonessential businesses, and prohibits their employees from leaving their homes to work,” yet is not a complete lockdown. “You shouldn’t go to the hair or nail salon, you shouldn’t do things like leave town,” she said.

Separately, 200 Democratic House lawmakers in the state sent Sununu a letter Wednesday imploring him to issue an order requiring citizens to stay home and nonessential businesses to close.

The letter reads:

“We, the undersigned Democrats in the New Hampshire House, implore you to immediately issue a “stay-at-home” order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in New Hampshire.As our hospitals and the mayors of our largest cities have noted, every day that passes without a stay-at-home directive brings exponential growth to the health risks faced by Granite Staters, and unsustainable pressure on New Hampshire’s healthcare services which will lead to unnecessary loss of life.As you have acknowledged, we likely remain far from the peak of COVID-19 infections in New Hampshire.”

“Many of us own or work at small businesses and understand that ordering non-essential businesses to close is a drastic step that will exacerbate the disruption COVID-19 has already brought to everyday life.However, as we have seen in other countries and other states, taking decisive action will slow the spread of the virus, save lives and allow our economy to rebound stronger and faster.The steps we have taken so far, which include telling people to keep their social gatherings to under 10 people, are simply not enough.”

“Monday’s announcement of the first death from COVID-19 in New Hampshire emphasizes the urgency in our communities to take decisive steps to combat this deadly virus. Closing non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay at home are bold steps critical to that effort.Please join the states across America, including our neighbors Massachusetts and Vermont, that have taken these critical steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

See the attached letter at:

Letter from Democrats to Sununu

Sununu, a Republican, said the majority of those types of businesses in the state have closed voluntarily and that other major steps taken — remote learning, a ban on gatherings of over 10 people, and restaurants only offering takeout — puts New Hampshire on the right path and in line with the region.

He noted that Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, ordered in-person operations of non-essential businesses to close and Vermonters to stay home to help prevent the spreads of the coronavirus.

“They have about half our population and the same number of identified cases, and we’ve tested a lot more than they have, so they have quite an issue,” Sununu said. He said the state could potentially take more steps, as necessary.

House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, responded in a statement of his own, which reads:

“The Governor has advised Granite Staters to stay at home for weeks – especially older adults and those with higher risk factors,” Hinch said. “It’s discouraging to see that New Hampshire Democrats have chosen to play politics rather than spend their time working collaboratively with Governor Sununu and public health officials at DHHS to protect New Hampshire families. Governor Sununu has demonstrated leadership every step of the way during this crisis, and I am not going to sit around second guessing him, nor should others. The fact of the matter is that not even Massachusetts has issued a mandatory stay at home order. There is nothing stopping Massachusetts residents from taking public transportation, going about their necessary business outside, or traveling to other states.”


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