STRAFFORD COUNTY, N.H. — Mayors and city managers in the tri-city New Hampshire area of Dover, Rochester and Somersworth announce that their cities are working together to make proactive decisions, communicate with the public and collectively share resources and information across city lines.
Dover Mayor Robert Carrier, Rochester Mayor Caroline McCarley, and Somersworth Mayor Dana S. Hilliard, together with their city managers, emergency management officials and public safety chiefs met yesterday and agreed to form the informal Tri-City Partnership. As part of this partnership, the three cities have agreed to remain in constant communication and to share ideas, best practices and resources that will help residents and business owners in all three communities respond to and recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The cities also agreed to share information regarding each community’s public safety and government operations decisions that are being made in conformance with the recommendations from the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as the situation continues to evolve.
COVID-19, the illness associated with the novel coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic last week by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has moved Gov. Chris Sununu to declare a state of emergency for New Hampshire and President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency.
“As is the case with most crises, municipal government has the largest role to play in the daily lives of our residents and business community, and we are responsible to our people before, during and after this pandemic,” Mayor Hilliard said. “We want everyone to have a clear picture of how life is going to be different during this time. The best way to do that is by getting the tri-city leaders on the same page and communicating with our constituents in a clear, consistent manner. We’ll continue to put out information as the situation evolves.”
Added Mayor McCarley: “These are difficult times and livelihoods are being impacted by these drastic changes to our way of living. What’s important is that we rally together as a community to get through this. If we come together, we can respond to any crisis.”
Going forward all restaurants and bars in the State of New Hampshire, including the tri-city area, must close through April 7, except for take-out, delivery and drive-through services per Governor Sununu’s statewide announcement yesterday. With this restriction in place, the tri-city Mayors are encouraging residents to continue to support local business through this time period in whatever way they can while still adhering to the safe social distancing practices needed to overcome this crisis.
The three mayors as well as emergency management staff across the cities have been in ongoing communication since the health crisis started. The cities have each implemented the following measures:
- Per White House recommendations made yesterday, residents are encouraged not to gather in groups of 10 or more.
- Residents are reminded that the grocery supply chain remains stable and there is no food shortage, so residents should feel comfortable following their regular grocery shopping routines, while practicing social distancing.
- As of Wednesday morning, city offices will be closed to the public. Staff will still be required to report to work, and residents are asked to call city offices or use website/email resources for most matters.
- Public meeting schedules will be adjusted based upon necessity so residents should keep checking meeting calendars. Staff are working on interim technology solutions that would allow meetings to be conducted virtually.
- All requests for public use of meeting and recreation spaces are canceled.
- Libraries and recreation facilities in all three cities are closed, and all associated programming is cancelled or postponed until further notice.
Several organizations have canceled large events including these Rochester events: Free Comic Book Day, Beer in the Barn, the Chamber Annual Meeting, and the Rochester Main Street Annual Meeting.
The cities also advise residents and business owners of the following measures put in place by the State Government on Tuesday:
- No utility services may be disconnected until the State of Emergency has been lifted.
- No evictions or foreclosures may take place until the State of Emergency is lifted
- Unemployment benefit eligibility has been expanded to cover employees of businesses that have closed temporarily, people who are in quarantine, caretakers caring for someone in quarantine, parents who are unable to work due to childcare situations, and self-employed freelancers/business owners whose work has been disrupted. Those eligible will have to reapply each week.
- The State is working on a small business loan program to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19
- Department of Motor Vehicles 20-day plates are now valid until at least April 30.
- Drivers licenses that recently expired or will expire in March or April are now valid for an additional six months from the expiration date
“Our businesses are integral to the vibrancy and success of our community,” said Mayor Carrier, of Dover. “Throughout my career in public service, I have seen first-hand every day how much our local businesses contribute to the overall well-being of a community. These are trying times for many of our businesses, and we will do whatever we can to support them.”
As part of the resource-sharing initiative, information will be posted to all three city websites and through their social media avenues as appropriate, so that residents, business owners, visitors and property owners can receive the latest up-to-date information on their phones or computers. The three city managers encourage residents to follow their respective city websites:
- Dover: Dover.nh.gov/services/covid19.html
- Rochester: Rochester News and Events Portal — Rochesterportal.com
- Rochester: Rochesternh.net
- Somersworth: Somersworth.com
All schools in the tri-city area are closed to students through at least April 3 as per a decree by Gov. Sununu. All school employees are required to report to work during the week of March 16 for professional development and organizational preparation for remote learning. Staff schedules during this week may vary between school districts.
Prevention and What to do if you Feel Sick
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that seniors and those with chronic health conditions are the most at-risk for serious illness caused by the coronavirus; they urge that those in this vulnerable population take appropriate precautions to mitigate their risk of becoming sick.
- Practice social distancing (at least six feet away from others) and avoid large crowds and large-scale events.
- Families should not hold “play dates” and those in need of childcare should limit the number of families involved as much as possible.
- Seniors and those with underlying health conditions are urged not to babysit or attend gatherings with children.
Emergency Management Directors also wish to remind residents in all three communities who believe they may have the novel coronavirus and/or are experiencing symptoms to stay home and call their primary care physician before traveling to their office, an emergency room or an acute care clinic. Those without a primary care physician are encouraged to call the state’s COVID-19 specific call center at 2-1-1.
Residents are also reminded to always call 911 in an emergency, and police, firefighters and EMS will respond as they normally would.
Reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and respiratory illness, including pneumonia in severe cases.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus appear within 2-14 days of exposure.
If you feel sick, the CDC recommends:
- Call your primary care physician before visiting them in person
- Stay home and limit your contact with others
- Wear a facemask if you are sick. Masks are not recommended for widespread use by healthy people.
The CDC recommends that residents continue with good hygiene practices including:
- Practice good hand hygiene! Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds including under your fingernails. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol content) can be used when soap and water are not available.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing with a tissue and discard it immediately. Cough into the sleeve over your elbow instead of your hand. Wash your hands often when coughing and sneezing.