(Reuters) - New Hampshire Governor Christopher Sununu on Saturday urged shoppers in the state to leave their reusable bags at home, saying he would soon order stores to use only new plastic and paper bags to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Concerns have grown for grocery store employees who face crowded shops and the risk of infection from a highly contagious virus that can linger on surfaces.
Environmentalists have long targeted plastic bags as a scourge that take years to biodegrade and contaminate soil and water. In recent years many U.S. jurisdictions, including New Hampshire, have considered restricting their use.
Sununu said in a Twitter post on Saturday that “with identified community transmission (of the coronavirus), it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home given the potential risk to baggers, grocers and customers.”
“I will be issuing an emergency order shortly directing all grocers and retail stores in the state to temporarily transition to only use new paper or plastic grocery bags provided by stores as soon as feasibly possible,” Sununu said in the tweet.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine found the coronavirus can remain viable in droplets in the air for hours and on surfaces for days.
Sununu is a Republican in a state that has in recent federal elections backed Democrats. He is also the son of former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, who served as Republican President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff.
He had already banned large gatherings, restricted restaurants and bars to delivery, drive-through and takeout service, and asked all public schools to transition to e-learning, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
New Hampshire has 55 confirmed cases, as of Saturday.
Reporting by Caroline Spiezio in New York; Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis