COVID-19 news for Friday: Vermont extends ‘Stay Home’ order to May 15

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 4/10/2020 5:19:03 PM
Modified: 4/11/2020 9:35:37 PM

Here is the COVID-19 news of the day in the Upper Valley:

Vermont restrictions extended to May 15

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Friday extended his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and related restrictions on travel and business through May 15, saying the state is making progress in slowing the spread of the new coronavirus but the outbreak is still a major threat.

Most restrictions had been set to expire on Wednesday, though public schools are teaching students through remote instruction for the rest of the school year.

Scott said he knows some Vermonters will be disappointed by the extension but social distancing needs to continue to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“It’s important that we don’t let up, just yet. As soon as the data shows a downward trend, we will open the spigot, just one turn at a time,” Scott said.

“Until then, we have to continue to stay home and separate from others in order to keep from overwhelming our health care system, and to save lives.”

The Scott administration said forecast models showed that the enforcement of social distancing had slowed the expected spread of COVID-19, but that the peak is still two to four weeks away.

According to Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, the state is “trending toward a milder experience in April” but he said the current forecast still calls for up to 5,000 Vermonters to be diagnosed with COVID-19, with hundreds requiring hospitalization.

“This news is positive; however, our future is not guaranteed,” he said.

As of Friday, Vermont had 679 COVID-19 cases, with 32 people hospitalized with the virus and 24 having died. There have been 24 cases detected in Windsor County and five in Orange County.

Also on Friday, Vermont allowed motorists whose vehicle inspections are due in April to extend them for up to 60 days, in order to abide by the “stay home” directive.

In addition, though bans on most hotel lodging remain in place, the hospitality industry can begin accepting reservations again for events occurring in mid-June or later.

New Hampshire announces school relief

Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday outlined plans for $82 million in federal funding coming into the state to support education. The money will be used to support the shift to remote learning, as well as cleaning schools, school meals and social and emotional support.

He said $9 million will go out in the form of “discretionary grants” to schools that have been “significantly” affected by the shift to remote learning and the COVID-19 response.

About $36 million will go to colleges and universities that had to make the shift to remote learning for the spring semester. Another $38 million will be distributed proportionally, Sununu said.

The state announced one new death, a resident of Hanover Hill Health Care Center in Manchester.

Sununu also said he would soon announce a plan to provide financial relief to long-term care facilities and other Medicaid providers.

The relief, which would likely come through federal funds, aims to “shore up the system” and would include some incentive pay for health care workers including those in public facilities, he said.

New Hampshire announced 66 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. That includes 10 New Hampshire residents who were tested in Massachusetts and brings the total in the state to 885. Between 25% and 30% of the total are in health care workers, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said.

Insurance waivers

Twin State residents may get some relief from COVID-related health expenses through their commercial health insurance. Several insurers serving New Hampshire, including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, have agreed to waive such cost-sharing as deductibles, co-payments or coinsurance for treatment for COVID-19, according to the New Hampshire Department of Insurance.

Health insurers in the state were already required to pay for a COVID-19 test and initial health care provider visit to obtain the test without cost-sharing.

In Vermont, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care have also agreed to temporarily waive costs related to testing and treatment for COVID-19.

Cultural impacts

Concerns about the coronavirus are continuing to have detrimental effects on cultural life in the Upper Valley. The New London Barn Playhouse on Friday said its board of directors has decided to cancel all in-person productions, programs and classes at the Barn for the 2020 summer season.

Questions over whether it would be safe for patrons and staff to gather was a major factor, and the uncertainty also caused concern about the financial commitments required, according to a letter from Executive Artistic Director Keith Coughlin and Board President Pam Perkins.

But they said, “Our team is already busy working on exciting and inventive video and streaming possibilities to bring remarkable young talent from our Barn family to your living room.”

Word is also starting to circulate that Osher at Dartmouth is canceling its 2020 summer lecture series, given the unknown duration of the pandemic and concern that people over 60 are considered a high-risk group.

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