(The Center Square) – Gov. Chris Sununu is ending New Hampshire's state of emergency on Friday, citing a decline of COVID-19 infections and rising numbers of vaccinated people.
The emergency order and any remaining COVID-19 restrictions, which have been in effect for more than a year, will expire at midnight as the state moves beyond the pandemic.
Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Sununu said after a long and difficult year of battling the virus the state is finally seeing "the light at the end of the tunnel."
"Every day our cases are dropping, every day we're vaccinating more and more people, and we have fewer people hospitalized," he said. "While we know Covid will be around for some time, the state of emergency is no longer necessary to manage the remaining pieces of the pandemic."
A standing public health order, allowing health providers and the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate efforts, will remain in effect, Sununu said.
Sununu reflected on the past year and acknowledged the challenges he faced leading the state through a global pandemic that has caused so much damage and claimed many lives.
"It was really hard for a year," he said. "There were a lot of sacrifices made. But the citizens of the state responded tremendously."
The state of emergency was issued on March 13, 2020, and Sununu has extended the order 21 times.
Under New Hampshire law, a state of emergency must be renewed every 21 days or it automatically expires. Sununu's latest extension was for 14 days.
To be sure, Sununu had already removed a majority of the COVID-19 related restrictions in recent weeks, including a statewide mask mandate and limits on capacity for businesses.
Some communities have kept a mask requirement and other restrictions in place and may continue to do so after the state of emergency expires.
As of Thursday, there were 345 active infections with 31 individuals hospitalized, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The state's positivity rate has declined in recent weeks and is currently around 1.6% of all COVID-19 tests, the agency reported.
New Hampshire has reported more than 99,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,360 deaths since the outbreak began last year.
While the restrictions will be going away, Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state's epidemiologist, noted that the threat of infection from COVID-19 and its variants that are emerging in other countries is far from over.
"The pandemic is still very much out there," he said at Thursday's briefing. "Our response to this as a pandemic crisis is decreasing, but COVID-19 is still going to be with us for weeks, months, years into the future."
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