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COVID-19 news for Monday: NH institutes lodging ban; Dartmouth-Hitchcock requiring masks be worn

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/6/2020 5:08:04 PM
Modified: 4/6/2020 5:07:58 PM

Here is the COVID-19 news of the day for the Upper Valley.

NH imposes lodging ban

Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday ordered hotels, motels, inns and other lodging, including Airbnb sites, to close to most guests, mirroring moves made earlier by governors in neighboring states such as Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts.

Sununu made clear it was an effort to limit the number of out-of-state visitors who might carry the new coronavirus into the state and also seek medical care at New Hampshire hospitals, overwhelming the system.

“No governor can close down the border – we cannot do that under the Constitution – but we can take steps to discourage out-of-staters from overrunning our systems,” Sununu said in a news conference Monday afternoon.

The lodging sites must suspend all operations for “nonessential reasons,” including vacations, until May 4.

“People are healthier in your own home and in your own state. We look forward to welcoming you back to New Hampshire when this public health crisis has abated,” Sununu said.

The order allows hotels to remain open to essential workers, such as health-care providers; vulnerable populations including those who are homeless or victims of domestic violence; and those already in rooms until their reservation runs out.

Sununu said the order does not apply to campgrounds, which he said were “open air” and “not overrun by out-of-staters.”

New Hampshire health officials said another 46 people were diagnosed Monday with COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 715. Nine people have died, and 103, or 14%, have required hospitalization.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said 192 of the positive tests – 26.8% – are health-care workers, a reflection both of their higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus and the priority they are given for testing.

She and Sununu said they were concerned that many health-care workers would be unable to work, but that they are calling in volunteers and also would redeploy workers around the state to meet critical needs.

“I would say it’s fair to say in the 192 health care workers you have everyone from dentists to people who work in acute-care hospitals, home health aides,” Shibinette. said. “It’s all across the board.”

Vt. death toll likely to rise

Vermont Department of Health officials cataloged another 31 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total positive test results as of Monday to 543.

And Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the death toll in Vermont from the novel coronavirus outbreak – which now stands at 23 – will certainly increase, though perhaps as not as precipitously as initially feared.

“If you look at some of the worst part of modeling, it could go as high as closer to 100,” Levine said in a news conference Monday morning. The “better part” modeling forecasts about double the current number of deaths, he said.

Levine said about 10% to 12% of people being tested in Vermont test positive for COVID-19, well below the infection rates in states with major outbreaks. Though Vermont’s “peak” for people with the potentially deadline disease isn’t expected for another week or two, he said orders to stay home and practice social distancing are having a positive effect.

“This is a sign that all of the hard work that everyone in Vermont is doing is actually paying off,” he said.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Vermonters should not get complacent or overconfident.

“We need to be prepared for things to get worse before they get better,” Scott said.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said calls to police “generally” are down 20% to 30% during the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, and officials “haven’t seen an uptick in domestic violence yet.”

But he said he had just learned that “we have seen an uptick in suicides, unfortunately,” though he had no numbers to offer immediately.

“This is a difficult time for everyone, and certainly the pressure continues to mount as time goes on, so please reach out for help if you need it,” Schirling said.

Vermont Health Department officials also tweeted out that people going through a mental health crisis can text a free crisis text line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

New mask policy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and other hospitals and clinics in the D-H system have a mandatory mask policy in place.

As of Monday, all Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health employees are now required to wear a mask upon entering a D-HH patient care facility, or when engaged in the delivery work of home health, according to D-H spokeswoman Audra Burns. The policy also applies to visitors and patients at D-H facilities.

Transfer Station restrictions

Hartford tightened its guidelines at its transfer station as of Saturday. The facility is now only accepting regular, bagged, household trash, “blue bin” recyclables and food scraps. There is also a three-bag limit (30-gallon bags) per visit in place.

And Greater Upper Valley District users (non-Hartford residents) must purchase $50 punch cards, though existing single coupons or punch cards are also being honored. Call 802-295-3622 with questions. 

At the Norwich Transfer Station, no bulky items, such as mattresses or furniture, will be accepted, though “true construction material” is still permissible.

Additionally, the book center is closed until further notice.

NH schools get waiver for meals during spring vacation

The New Hampshire Department of Education said on Monday it has won a federal waiver to allow schools to provide meals to students through April vacation.

“Whether to keep April vacation or work though it is a decision for local school officials,” Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said in a news release. “But we did not want availability of school nutrition programs to be a factor in those decisions. I want to thank USDA for recognizing the need to give schools flexibility as we provide remote instruction to New Hampshire students.”

News staff writer John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.




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