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Sununu’s weekly coronavirus news conferences end with loosening of restrictions

  • Governor Chris Sununu announced that schools would not resume in person this year at a press conference on Thursday, April 16, 2020. Courtesy image

Concord Monitor
Published: 6/17/2021 11:24:19 PM
Modified: 6/17/2021 11:24:27 PM

Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m., Gov. Chris Sununu stood in front of a sea of silky blue curtains and addressed the public, just as he had nearly every week for more than a year.

This time was different. Thursday was the end of the regular news conferences the governor held during the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Sununu wasn’t willing to declare victory over a virus that has claimed the lives of nearly 1,400 Granite Staters.

“We know that we’re not out of this yet,” he said. “The pandemic crisis and emergency passed us, but there is still a lot to manage.”

Since March 2020, the same cast of characters has cycled across the television and computer screens on Thursday afternoons — State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan updating the state’s COVID-19 case numbers; DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette with the nursing home statistics; and, in the spring, and Beth Daly, the head of the Bureau of infections Diseases, with the latest vaccination information.

After 15 months of weekly news conferences, they became local celebrities.

“I didn’t realize how many people watch a full-hour press conference,” Shibinette said last summer in an interview with the Monitor. “The first week, I went to the grocery store in sweatpants and thought, ‘Wow, I can’t do this anymore.’ ”

As a parting message to the public, health officials announced the end of some COVID-19 restrictions.

Chan announced that state recommendations now say all New Hampshire residents without COVID-19 symptoms can choose to go without a mask. Previously, though the state did not require masks, health officials recommended that unvaccinated Granite Staters don masks in public.

“At the individual level, anybody who desires maximal protection for themselves from COVID-19 or desires protection for family members ... can certainly choose to continue to wear face masks,” he said.

Beth Daly announced that people who come in contact with someone with COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine and the Department of Health will no longer do regular contact tracing for community infections.

“The fact that we are not performing contact tracing for potential community exposures does not mean that the risk of COVID-19 has been eliminated,” she said. “It is a recognition of the fact that over half of New Hampshire’s population has been fully vaccinated at this point and our transmission is so low in our community.”

Sununu said he may hold a few news conferences after July 4 as needed.

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