CONCORD — On June 15, people can go to their favorite New Hampshire restaurant, sit down in the dining room and enjoy a steak, chicken, fish or whatever entree they want.
Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday announced that indoor dining, closed since March 16 to limit the spread of COVID-19, will be allowed to reopen. He also announced an easing of restrictions on outdoor attractions, beaches and weddings.
Restaurants in most counties, including Belknap, can open at 100 percent capacity as long as they maintain 6 feet of separation between tables. Restaurants in the southern New Hampshire counties of Hillsborough, Rockingham, Strafford and Merrimack will be limited to 50 percent.
Restaurant staff working with the public are to wear masks and customers are to be asked to wear masks when entering or leaving the facility or when getting up to use the restroom.
Most of the state’s COVID-19 cases have been in the south, closer to Massachusetts, which has had a more difficult time with the pandemic than most states.
“One of the fears was that those in the higher impacted areas would come across the border,” Sununu said at an afternoon news conference. “By maintaining limitations on southern tiers we are able to better manage and limit the spread.
“It is a much less likely chance that someone would drive from Massachusetts to the Lakes Region or the White Mountains just to have dinner.
“This is the next logical step and it provides a lot of opportunities for our businesses and our residents in a safe way.”
Also, post-wedding celebrations can resume. Indoor events are to operate at 50 percent capacity.
Outdoor recreational opportunities are being expanded to include nature-based experiential attractions and businesses, including agritourism, outdoor walking trails, tours and paths, batting cages, zip lines, chairlifts, ropes courses/aerial parks, disk golf, open off-road vehicle tours, natural science centers, garden tours, diving tours and lessons, caves, petting zoos, balloon rides, helicopter and plane rides (groups fewer than 5) and white water rafting.
Sununu also said beach restrictions have been eased so that traditional beach activities, including sunbathing, can resume.
Joining Sununu at the news conference, was Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette, who said there were 80 new COVID-19 cases to report, bringing the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 4,953.
There have been five new deaths, four in long-term care facilities.At this time, Mountain Ridge Center in Franklin has had 49 residents and 21 staff members test positive for COVID-19. Ten residents have died.
Sununu said he would get a COVID-19 test over the weekend, and encouraged the public to do so as well under a new push to gauge the extent of asymptomatic cases in the state. People can sign up for tests on NH.gov. Testing is also available through urgent care clinics.
Criteria for testing has been opened, so that anybody who wants a test can receive one at no charge.
He also encouraged businesses to sign up for emergency financial help through the Main Street Relief Fund. A total of $400 million will be distributed. Businesses may apply even if they have already received money through the federal Payroll Protection Program.