FILE - NH Benjamin Chan, Annie Kuster, Chris Pappas, Chris Sununu 3-2-2020

Dr. Benjamin Chan (left), New Hampshire's state epidemiologist, announces the state's first case of the new COVID-19 virus on March 2, 2020, in Concord, N.H. Looking on are U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (second from left), U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (second from right), and Gov. Chris Sununu.

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced a series of measures Thursday designed to quell the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Six people in the Granite State have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease that results from a coronavirus infection.

Sununu announced that the state was launching a 2-1-1 hotline that residents can call for up-to-date information on the virus, which was labeled a global pandemic this week by the World Health Organization.

“211NH will serve as a coordinated and streamlined process for any Granite Stater concerned about the coronavirus,” Sununu said in a news release. “Now that it is up and running, any New Hampshire residents can call with questions or concerns."

Sununu also sent a letter to state legislative leaders seeking to loosen rules surrounding unemployment insurance in the state under the premise that those out of work during an outbreak may find it impossible to find a new job.

The governor’s letter proposes a number of steps, including dispensing with the one-week waiting period for applying for unemployment and allowing small business owners to apply for unemployment.

The letter also aims to avoid any increase in costs for employers.

“I propose that … any benefits payable to individual workers because of COVID-19 be charged directly to the unemployment compensation trust fund without any impact on the tax rates of employers,” Sununu wrote. “It would be unfair to businesses and would further hamper employment growth if businesses were forced to bear the financial burden of paying additional benefits through resulting increased tax rates.”

Meanwhile, Sununu’s office also announced that the state Department of Education was seeking waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide meals to children at schools affected by the virus.

The waivers would allow schools to provide meals with limited contact in cases where a school closes down because of a quarantine. The meals would be free.

“Should a school decide to shift to long-term remote instruction, the buildings would be closed, but students would continue their education remotely,” the Department of Education said in a news release. “Should the waivers be granted, schools could use their building to provide meals with limited interaction.”

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.