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COVID-19 updates, March 25: Vt. seeing ‘exponential’ growth; Claremont hospital has hotline

  • Tim Lenoch, of Hanover, walks with his son Miles Saskeyfio-Lenoch, 1, past the Leverone Field House in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The field house has been identified as a potential location for a surge hospital site along with the West Gym of Almumni Gym on the Dartmouth College campus if area hospitals run out of space to accommodate patients due to COVID-19. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Dan Allman, of Norwich, waits at a bus stop on the Dartmouth College campus for his wife as she makes a phone call from their car to the Dartmouth College Health Service outside Dick’s House, which is closed due to COVID-19 precautions in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The call was unrelated to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Allman said. Because they live in Vermont and the health center is in New Hampshire, they had to cross state boundary to make the call. (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

  • With hand sanitizer clipped to her backpack, Carolyn Gordon, of Hanover, right, walks with her husband David Webb, and their dog Mila on Grasse Road in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Published: 3/25/2020 2:20:09 PM
Modified: 3/25/2020 9:03:09 PM

Here’s the latest COVID-19 news for the Upper Valley:

Vermont seeing‘exponential growth’

Vermont officials warned Wednesday that they are seeing “exponential” growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state, reinforcing the importance of Gov. Phil Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

Vermont logged 28 new cases, and now had 123 statewide, Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. Two weeks ago, he said, there was just one confirmed case.

“I need you to stay home. Doing so will save lives. It’s just that simple,” Scott said in a news conference. He noted that Vermonters could still walk their dogs and run essential errands, such as grocery shopping, but reiterated, “just keep your distance while doing so.”

Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling acknowledged that there has been a deliberate increase in “visibility” of State Police cruisers in recent days, but that troopers would not be stopping people they encounter without proper cause.

“The presence of someone out and about does not create a lawful ability to stop” their vehicle or question them, said Schirling, a former Burlington police chief. “There are legitimate reasons for people to be moving around.”

Scott said Amtrak service is being suspended, and the VAST snowmobile trails are also closing as part of the clampdown on business and focus on social distancing.

“This is going to take weeks and months, and this is going to be difficult,” Scott said.

“In my personal view, this is going to take longer than Easter to overcome,” he said to a question, differing with President Donald Trump on the timeline.
Scott also said Vermont had not enacted “far more extreme” measures seen in some other countries, and hoped that Vermonters’ voluntary compliance would help slow the pandemic.

But, he cautioned, “We’ll watch the trends, and we’ll still continue to rely on the best science that is available to us and continue to make changes as necessary.”

Human Services Secretary Michael Smith said hospitals around Vermont have 575 available beds, but need a “minimum” of 1,000 to handle the expected demand from new coronavirus cases. The state also has 163 ventilators and 78,000 surgical masks, but needs far more.

“This is not weeks, we’re talking a multiple of months that we are going through this crisis,” Smith said.

Through three clinical surge sites developed so far, Vermont has added 250 beds to take patients, and eight other sites around the state, including in southern Vermont, are being developed in consultation with local hospitals, state officials said.

In New Hampshire, another 29 new positive test results were announced on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 137. Six of the new cases – and a total of 19 COVID-19 patients – are currently hospitalized in New Hampshire, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

One person has died in New Hampshire and eight in Vermont, most of them residents of the Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center in Chittenden County.

Claremont hospital has COVID-19 hotline

Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont now has a dedicated COVID-19 testing center outside its urgent care center.

Patients wanting to be tested must call the hospital’s COVID-19 hotline at 603-542-7850 to be prescreened.

The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to noon on weekends.

Colby-Sawyer postpones graduation

Colby-Sawyer College on Wednesday said it has extended its “remote learning” format for students through the rest of the spring semester.

The New London-based college also said it has postponed its May 9 commencement, with hopes for an in-person ceremony likely to be held over the summer. All degrees would still be certified and effective as of May.

Students were told to “refrain from traveling to campus to pick up their belongings until they've been asked to do so.”

Pledge drive

New Hampshire state law requires that public school students be given the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, if they wish to, and some students appear to be continuing the practice even from home.

The New Hampshire Department of Education on Wednesday put out a video montage of students saying the pledge at home. It can be viewed here.

Changes in White River Valley towns

The Bethel road crew began working in split shifts this week, one starting at 5 a.m., the other coming on at 1 p.m. Though it could mean some delays in service, town officials said it would ensure at least “partial coverage” if one team is ill. The shift change is also considered a work in progress.

“This allows us to keep employees safe and provide us with longer coverage throughout the day,” Bethel officials said in a letter to residents.

In Randolph, the Selectboard held an emergency meeting on Tuesday and unanimously agreed to ease some penalties for late payment of property taxes.

Anyone who fails to pay their property tax by the March 31 deadline will still be considered delinquent, but will not accrue interest or penalties for three months. In addition, liens will also not be recorded for three months.

Homeowners who can pay their taxes on time were encouraged to do so to help with the town’s cash flow.

Welch files broadband bill

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., filed legislation with a Kansas Republican to create a $2 billion fund to compensate smaller companies providing broadband for free or at a discount to low-income families or students stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

Welch said in a news release that small providers are providing an essential “lifeline” in rural communities.

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