Nine more cases of the new coronavirus were found in New Hampshire, state health officials announced Tuesday, as the governor issued several orders to help residents' finances amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The new cases, in people from Rockingham (4), Hillsborough (3) and Grafton (2), bring the state's total to 26, none of whom have required hospitalization, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said the new cases show the "outbreak is intensifying."
“The State has put into place measures to help prevent larger scale transmission at schools and larger gatherings; however, it is critical for everybody to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and practice social distancing," he said in a statement. "We know that this novel coronavirus can be spread very easily through close contact, and the virus can be spread even when people are only having very mild early symptoms of illness.”
Tuesday also brought the announcement from Gov. Chris Sununu that New Hampshire residents struggling to pay their rent or mortgage will be protected from eviction and foreclosure and utility companies will not be permitted to shut off services due to nonpayment.
Electric, gas, water, telephone, cable, VOIP, internet service and deliverable fuel services are included in the emergency order.
The governor is also expanding access to unemployment benefits for those whose work situation has been altered by measures set in place to slow the growth of COVID-19, as well as individuals who need to self-quarantine, receive treatment , care for children due to school closures or help a loved one who has become sick.
Sununu said that the moves were just the first steps in a long line of precautions put in place, while "a new norm" takes effect. The announcement comes just a day after announcing new guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"When we do things as a community, we do it really really well, and so far, we’re weathering this storm," Sununu said.
In an effort to increase social distancing, anyone with an expiring driver's license is allowed to apply for a six month extension either over the phone or online. Anyone with a temporary license plate can apply for an extension the same way.
With 17 cases of COVID-19 reported in New Hampshire, Sununu Monday announced new guidelines including restricting restaurant business to takeout and delivery only and banning of public gatherings of 50 people or more.
The order impacting restaurants and public gatherings is to remain in effect until April 7.
"Tough decisions have been made at the state level, but we will get through this together," Sununu said in a news release. "Seeing what the lack of an appropriate response has resulted in around the world requires that we make some difficult decisions here in New Hampshire."
Schools in New Hampshire are closed, courts are significantly scaling back and elective medical procedures are being delayed in an effort to contain the coronavirus.
Health officials have said they believe all of the state's cases were infected via international travel, domestic travel or close contact with another patient.
None of them have been hospitalized. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover, according to the World Health Organization.
The governor said he will issue directives to make sure parents who need to miss work to care for children would be able to access state unemployment benefits. He also said the state would expand access to childcare.