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COVID-19 news for Sunday: Crowds at beaches, trails prompt police warnings; Vt. National Guard sets up patient test site

Concord Monitor
Published: 3/29/2020 12:52:53 PM
Modified: 3/29/2020 7:40:04 PM

People eager to get outside as the weather gets warmer are triggering warnings from police who have been tasked with enforcing new stay-at-home orders.

Crowds of people showed up at beaches and hiking trails Saturday, leading to potentially unsafe conditions, police said.

Police in Mont Vernon, N.H., posted a photo on Facebook showing cars lining both sides of the road near the trailhead to Purgatory Falls.

“This is not social distancing and this is why COVID-19 continues to spread through NH,” the police department said. “Please utilize common sense. Get outside and exercise but this is not the way to do it.”

While hiking trails are still open in New Hampshire, beaches have been closed to the public.

Police in Rye, N.H., reported that people were jogging, walking and riding bicycles on both sides of Ocean Boulevard on Saturday.

“The area was extremely congested with pedestrian, bicycles and vehicles traveling along the northbound and southbound sides of Ocean Boulevard,” Police Chief Kevin Walsh wrote in an open “letter to citizens.” He said people openly ignored the signs announcing the beaches were closed.

“With the numbers of people at the State Parks and beaches, it was as if it was a hot summer day in Rye, New Hampshire,” Walsh wrote. “The State of New Hampshire is in a state of emergency and we can’t stress enough that people should be staying at home, if not at the direction of us, but of your own health professionals.”

In Hampton, N.H., officials warned that all parking lots and parking along Ocean Boulevard are closed along with the state beaches and cars that are in state parking lots and parked on Ocean Boulevard will be towed.

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald issued a memo saying police can charge individuals who ignore the emergency stay-at-home order with a crime, including disorderly conduct, but urged discretion.

“The primary enforcement objectives should be to inform the public of the order, its importance to public health, and to seek voluntary compliance,” MacDonald wrote.

In Vermont, state police on Saturday visited nearly 300 hotels and motels to verify they were closed, except in narrow circumstance like housing health care workers or the homeless, per Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order.

“The purpose of the visits was to evaluate compliance,” Vermont State Police said. “The information will be used in consideration of any additional steps needed to help meet the goals of the governor’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order.”

Out of staters

Amid the weekend hustle and bustle, Gov. Chris Sununu asked visitors to the Granite State who plan remain for extended stays to voluntarily self-quarantine to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In Maine, on the island of Vinalhaven, sheriff deputies were investigating a report of residents with guns who cut down a tree to block a road and force three people from out of state to quarantine.

Number of cases

New Hampshire announced the third death in the state due to the coronavirus as well as another 44 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the state’s confirmed illnesses to 258. The number does not reflect the actual total of people in the state who are infected with the virus because of the delay in getting testing results and a shortage of actual tests and equipment to take medical samples.

The most recent death was a woman from Rockingham County who was over 60 years old who had other underlying health issues. Rockingham County, on the eastern part of the state, has the most cases of all 10 counties, accounting for 100 of the state’s total cases.

Public health officials warned that about half of the state’s new cases were due to community-based transmission, which continues to increase in the state and has been identified in all counties with cases.

In Vermont, which has about half the population of New Hampshire, health officials have confirmed another 24 cases, bringing the state total to 235 cases.

The death toll in Vermont still remains far higher, with 12 deaths related to the virus, compared to three in New Hampshire.

Consume news

Gov. Phil Scott urged residents to support local news organizations during the pandemic to stay informed and support another sector of the economy that has experienced layoffs and other reductions due to the virus.

“Like many in business, trusted news organizations are being hit hard by this pandemic,” Scott said on Twitter. “If you can, please consider subscribing to your local paper or contributing to a VT news organization. You deserve transparency and the truth, and they work hard to keep you informed.”

Reduced hours

Dartmouth-Hitchcock officials announced reduced hours at the hospital’s Lebanon pharmacy. Effective immediately, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock pharmacy at Centerra will reduce its retail store hours by two hours. The new hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which means it is closing two hours earlier than usual. The pharmacy’s drive-through, which is open 24 hours a day, is not affected.

New testing site

The Vermont National Guard has set up an additional COVID-19 patient test site at Landmark College in Putney, the state Health Department announced. The site was expected to start testing referred patients Sunday. The site is in addition to a number of temporary pop-up, drive-through and other facilities that have been set up around Vermont for testing, the Health Department said.

Access to New Hampshire court buildings
limited through May 4

CONCORD — Access to state court buildings will be limited through May 4 under amended emergency orders issued Saturday by the Justices of the state Supreme Court and Senior Associate Justice Gary Hicks.

Access will be permitted only for those seeking to file documents with the court in person or those seeking emergency relief.

Admission to a scheduled hearing is limited to parties, witnesses, lawyers and legal staff, guardians ad litem, CASAs, interpreters, domestic violence advocates, and qualified mental-health professionals.

Media members covering a hearing are permitted to enter in accordance with the Judicial Branch Media Policy in effect during this pandemic.

All individuals admitted to a courthouse should observe social distancing while in the courthouse, staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Municipal changes

Tracy Hall in Norwich closed to the public beginning Thursday. All meetings and activities there have been canceled through at least April 30.

Valley News correspondent Patrick O’Grady and material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.




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