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COVID-19 news on Tuesday: Sununu offers stipend to long-term care workers

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/14/2020 8:55:28 PM
Modified: 4/15/2020 5:13:55 PM

Here is the COVID-19 news on Tuesday:

Sununu offers $300 weekly stipend to LTC workers

Gov. Chris Sununu on Tuesday said he wants to begin offering $300 weekly stipends to more than 20,000 “frontline” workers at long-term care facilities and some social service agencies, saying the payments are needed to keep them in the workforce during the COVID-19 epidemic.

The payments could amount to $30 million a month, and New Hampshire hopes to receive a Medicaid-related federal waiver to be reimbursed for providing the stipends, Sununu said. They are intended to maintain “uninterrupted care” for vulnerable seniors and others in long-term care and to keep the workers on the job, as opposed to stepping back because of fears of contracting the virus or seeking unemployment benefits, which now include an extra $600 weekly payment from the federal bailout package known as the CARES Act.

“The additional stipend recognizes the crucial role these workers play,” Sununu said. “What we’re really trying to do is stem the outflow … we need those workers there.”

Sununu said he believes he has the authority to offer the stipends during an emergency but acknowledged a legal appeal by Democrats in the Statehouse demanding legislative oversight of coronavirus spending in New Hampshire could halt the effort, at least temporarily, if a judge grants them an injunction.

The announcement of the program came as New Hampshire reported four more deaths from COVID-19, all in longterm care facilities in southern New Hampshire, bringing the statewide death toll to 27.

In addition, the state tallied another 73 cases, bringing the total to 1,091.

Sununu said it was too early to ease back on orders that have closed many businesses and encouraged residents to stay in their homes as much as possible, indicating restrictions could extend through the spring

“We are still in this for the long haul,” he said. “We are not coming out of this in the next couple of weeks.”

And, under questioning, he said his responsibilities to protect the public from a “massive viral spread” that could kill hundreds of people takes precedence over the state’s “Live Free or Die” ethos which he normally takes to heart.

“I believe that public health trumps everying,” Sununu said.

.New Hampshire health officials also announced plans to partner with the private urgent-care firm ConvenientMD to test about 6,600 long-term care workers in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, where the most COVID-19 cases have been centered, over the next 20 days.

Health officials said that testing will also help mitigate spread of the virus, and State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said the daily number of cases in New Hampshire “has started to plateau,” echoing what Vermont said the previous day.

About 70 people are hospitalized in New Hampshire,  a number that has stayed relatively stable over the past week, Chan said.

“This is an indication that our health-care facilities are not seeing a massive surge or exponential increase of people needing hospitalization,” he said. “This is good news.”

But he said social distancing, hand washing and other health and safety practices need to continue. “We still have many weeks of dealing with this virus,” Chan said.

NH demographics

An analysis of the COVID-19 cases released this week by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services indicates that 30% of the diagnosed cases involve health-care workers, although they are more likely than other groups to be tested.

Of the 1,020 cases COVID-19 that were analyzed, 22% involved people between the ages of 50 and 59, and 32% were people 60 and over.

About 28% of cases were contracted through travel, while 19% were “cluster-associated,” such as at a nursing home. Grafton and Sullivan Counties accounted for about 5% of the total cases in the state.

Lebanon Airport could land funding

Lebanon Municipal Airport is among several New Hampshire aviation hubs expected to divide $15.2 million in federal aid intended to support operations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lebanon could receive up to $1.06 million under the CARES Act, the Granite State’s congressional delegation announced Tuesday.

Deputy City Manager Paula Maville said the money isn’t guaranteed and there’s likely to be an application process to receive the funds. “Right now, the only thing that we know for certain is that the funds have to be used on legal airport purposes,” she said in a phone interview.

Lebanon’s city-owned airport has seen a dip in use as air travel dries up nationally. Dartmouth College alumni and parents, who usually account for a large share of airport traffic around graduation season, aren’t expected this year.

The airport reported 1,673 enplanements through March, a drop of 365 from the first three months of 2019.

Claremont Municipal Airport would get $30,000, while the lion’s share would go to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport ($12.1 million) and Portsmouth International Airport at Pease ($1.6 million).

Vt extends insurance deadline

Vermont reported four new cases, bringing the statewide total to 752. Thirty-one people are hospitalized, and 29 people in Vermont have died.

State officials extended a special enrollment period for Vermonters who do not currently have health insurance so they can get coverage during the outbreak. The special enrollment period was to expire on Friday but has now been extended until May 15. Vermonters without health insurance can enroll in a qualified health plan and, if eligible, obtain assistance with premiums and cost-sharing.

 For more information, go to https://portal.healthconnect.vermont.gov or call 855-899-9600. 

Helpful seminars

The New Hampshire Business and Industry Association is offering an hourlong “Zoom webinar” to employers to help them assist workers with mental wellness issues during the pandemic.

The no-cost webinar will be held at 1 p.m. Friday and advance registration is required at this link. Otherwise, call Lora McMahon at 603-224-5388 ext 101 for more information.

Vermont Legal Aid is offering “30-Minute Town Halls” on legal issues affecting some of Vermont’s most vulnerable residents, including low-income, older, and disabled Vermonters.

The first virtual event will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday and will cover who can get a check from the federal CARES Act.

People can attend online at https://zoom.us/j/92311866366 or by phone at 1-888-788-0099 (meeting ID: 923-1186-6366). It will also be broadcast at www.facebook.com/VermontLegalAid.

NH bar exam

The New Hampshire bar examinations, which had been postponed from July, will now be held on Sept. 9 and 10, according to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

News staff writer Tim Camerato contributed to this report.




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