Sunbathing, sandcastle building and other activities are now allowed on New Hampshire beaches while many restrictions are being relaxed in other sectors of the economy including indoor dining, Gov. Chris Sununu said Friday.
The announcement came just four days after beaches had reopened to walking, swimming and other motion-based activity. Opponents of those restrictions had planned to hold a protest to “draw a line in the sand” on Saturday.
Sununu said the decision to remove the restrictions was based on public health data regarding the spread of the coronavirus. Parking remains limited, and groups must stay 6 feet apart from each other.
"We have always said we will be nimble and make decisions when public health data supports decision making," Sununu said in a statement. "We worked with public health and came up with a solution supported by data."
When Gina Rice of Worcester, Massachusetts, learned that you could hang out again on Hampton Beach she hit the road.
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"That was it, we drove right up," Rice said Friday. "Everyone is excited."
The Polisher family was also out building sandcastles at Hampton by Friday afternoon.
"I would say this is the most normal thing that we have done since the beginning of March," said Amber Polisher who was at the beach with her husband and two kids.
Peter Lodi, who owns a small shop on Ocean Boulevard, said the announcement to bring beachgoers back to Hampton likely saved his 33-year-old store that has been hit hard by coronavirus closures.
"To me, it's hope that there is a future," he said. "It's very encouraging, I mean, for me it will mean the difference between there being a 34th season next year."
In addition to extended beach activities, effective immediately, golf guidance is being adjusted, Sununu announced at his news conference later in the day. The new guidance will shorten the break in between tee-times and allow two people from separate households in the same golf cart. Golf courses will also be open to out-of-state residents.
Also effective immediately, Sununu said the guidance for some outdoor recreational attractions has been expanded. Those attractions include batting cages, ropes courses, disc golf, caves and petting zoos. Attractions that involve enclosed spaces with large groups, such as amusement parks, water parks and race tracks will be considered for reopening in a later phase.
Beginning June 15, restaurants in the following Belknap, Coos, Carrol, Cheshire, Grafton and Sullivan counties will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity indoors, providing tables are more than six feet apart, Sununu said. Restaurants in other counties may open at 50% indoor capacity.
After hearing from couples who want guidance on upcoming nuptials, Sununu said additional guidance has been issued for wedding receptions June 15 and beyond. Under that guidance, outdoor events are recommended over indoor events to reduce the risk of exposure and all attendees are encouraged to follow physical distancing guidelines.
Indoor events at wedding venues may operate at 50% of their normal capacity and there should be a limit of 6 individuals at a single table, under the guidance. Dancing within 6 feet of another person is also discouraged, with the exception of someone in your household.
The governor also released new guidance for overnight camps which will be allowed to reopen June 28. Among the guidelines, camps must perform temperature and symptom screenings on all staff, adults and children; they must clean and disinfect frequently; and develop COVID-19 training protocols.
In addition, all out of state staff and volunteers must arrive at the camp at least 14 days before the official start day to quarantine. Day camps will be allowed to reopen June 22.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported 5 new deaths from COVID-19 on Friday. The death toll now stands at 278.
There were 80 new cases reported on Friday for a total of 4,953.
On Friday, Sununu announced ASAP, the Asymptomatic Spread Assessment Program, to help New Hampshire residents get tested for COVID-19. The program is "to help identify asymptomatic spread and protect vulnerable populations across the state."
"We want you to get a test. It's really an elevated extension to what we're already doing," Sununu said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.