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COVID-19 news on Saturday: Vt., NH both report highest single-day rise in cases yet; Walmart limits number of shoppers

  • Joel Holt, second from left, tracks the numbers of customers entering and exiting Walmart in West Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, April 4, 2020. On Friday the company began restricing the number of customers in its stores nationwide to five per 1,000 square feet. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2020 9:42:47 PM
Modified: 4/5/2020 10:32:22 AM

Vermont and New Hampshire each marked their highest single-day increase in cases so far in the coronavirus pandemic.

Vermont reported an additional 71 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number identified to 461. The new cases included one in Windsor County, bringing the total there to 21. Four cases have been reported in Orange County.

There were three additional deaths in Vermont, bringing the total in the state to 20.

New Hampshire officials reported 621 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 81 on Saturday alone. Total cases identified in the Upper Valley area include 41 in Grafton County and five in Sullivan County.

The number of deaths in the Granite State is now nine after two people were added Saturday.

Social distancing extended in New Hampshire

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, in an executive order issued Saturday, extended the restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people and restaurant closures through May 4. He also allowed licensed businesses to continue to sell takeout beer and wine with food purchases through that date.

Sununu also is encouraging Granite Staters to find trails and walking paths close to home rather than creating crowds at the state parks, which remain open.

As part of a “Home Hike Challenge,” he urged residents to post photos of themselves practicing social distancing and exploring outdoor spaces near them to social media using the hashtag: #homehikechallenge.

Walmart limits entry to stores

On Saturday, Walmart stores in the Upper Valley and across the country began restricting the number of people allowed in at one time to encourage social distancing, according to a statement issued by Dacona Smith, the company’s chief operating officer in the U.S.

Stores now allow no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet, roughly 20% of a store’s capacity. Customers are now being directed to form a line in front of the door and are being admitted one-by-one as workers count them. After stores reach capacity, customers are admitted on a one-out-one-in basis.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had already expanded its paid leave policies, closed its stores overnight for cleanings and restocking, installed sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores, began temperature checks, and made gloves and masks available to some workers.

Twin states receive federal disaster declarations

Vermont and New Hampshire will both receive federal assistance for costs related to COVID-19 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to orders issued on Friday.

The funds will be available to support state efforts, as well as those of local governments and some private nonprofit groups.

Advance Transit driver to return to work

A driver for Advance Transit, who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 16 has gotten clearance from the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services and from his doctor to return to work, the Hartford-based nonprofit said in a Friday Facebook post.

“He is in great health again and will be returning to work and driving again starting on April 6th,” the post said.

Schools alter plans for graduation

New London-based Colby-Sawyer College has rescheduled its in-person commencement for Saturday, Aug. 8, according to the school’s Facebook page.

The event will feature the same speakers and awards that would have taken place in May, as well as the ceremonial issuing of diplomas. Because some students and families may be unable to return to campus in August, the school also aims to livestream the event through its website.

The University of Vermont also announced it would not hold its May 17 ceremony in person as planned and is exploring other ways it might celebrate students’ accomplishments, according to Suresh Garimella, UVM’s president.

ClearChoiceMD begins testing for COVID-19

Beginning in late March, the New London-based ClearChoiceMD began offering testing for COVID-19 for high-risk patients at select locations, including Alton and Tilton, N.H., and Brattleboro and South Burlington, Vt. The company’s website said that it would soon offer testing at its Lebanon location on Miracle Mile.

Patients with symptoms associated with COVID-19 will first be evaluated for seasonal flu. Once that is ruled out, clinicians may recommend that patients at a high risk of serious symptoms receive a COVID-19 test at a ClearChoice site or another local testing site.

Due to a shortage of testing supplies, low-risk patients who have mild symptoms and test negative for the flu will be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the website said.

Co-op Food Stores launch curbside pickup pilot

The Co-op Food Stores have begun offering curbside grocery pickup for members at the Hanover location at 45 S. Park St. By next Thursday, the store aims to have curbside pickup available Thursday through Saturday in Hanover, and then to expand the shopping option to its other stores as is feasible.

To participate on a first-come, first-served basis, members must fill out an online form to be added to a waiting list. For questions, call 603-640-6303 or email

The stores also are changing their hours beginning Thursday. The four stores in Hanover, Lebanon and White River Junction will open at 8 a.m., offering shopping for high-risk shoppers from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Three of the four stores will close at 6 p.m., while the Lebanon location in Centerra will stay open until 9 p.m., with the final hour reserved for health care workers.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

Valley News

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