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COVID-19: NH panel developing reopening rules for businesses; town mulls mask requirement

  • A customer leaves after a new haircut at the Derry Barber Shop in Derry, N.H., Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Barbershops, hair salons and some retail locations were allowed to reopen with safety restrictions, after being closed in March due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) ap — Charles Krupa

Staff and wire reports
Published: 5/12/2020 9:41:27 PM
Modified: 5/12/2020 9:41:21 PM

CONCORD — A panel tasked with reopening New Hampshire’s economy amid the easing threat from the coronavirus pandemic agreed Tuesday on proposals for six sectors, among them lodging, outdoor attractions and gyms.

The recommendations won’t be final until public health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu give their OK.

The task force unanimously recommended that hotels be limited to half their capacity, though the limit would not apply to motels with outdoor access to rooms or to inns and bed-and-breakfasts with 10 or fewer rooms. Face masks would be required for staffers and are recommended for guests, who would be asked at check-in about any possible exposure to the coronavirus.

A reopening date of May 22 is recommended for lodging, but target dates for other sectors were not included.

On attractions, the guidance covers “recreational and natural settings,” including biking, canoe and kayak rentals, mini-golf, driving ranges, shooting ranges, and racetracks.

Also included are small group tours such as for Lost River Gorge and the Polar Caves, but task force members said amusement parks, water parks and indoor attractions would be addressed later.

Outdoor attractions would be limited to half their capacity, or to the number social distancing guidelines can accommodate, whichever is less. The requirement would be the same for gyms and fitness clubs, which also would be prohibited from enrolling out-of-state residents as new members.

The Republican governor’s stay-at-home order has been extended to May 31, but some businesses were allowed to reopen this week, including retail stores, hair salons and golf courses. Restaurants will be allowed to begin offering outdoor dining on Monday.

NH town considers ordinancerequiring masks in public

Officials in a New Hampshire town near the border with Massachusetts are considering requiring face masks in indoor public spaces.

The proposal in Salem would require anyone over age 2 to wear some type of face covering, or face a fine as high as $200.

The town board discussed the matter during a virtual meeting Monday but didn’t vote on it.

Jim Keller, the selectman who wrote the proposal, said the main concern is to protect residents from visitors from Massachusetts, where the outbreak is worse, WMUR-TV reported.

Some callers disagreed and believed the fine was too high.

In Massachusetts, residents must wear face coverings in public or face fines of as much as $300.

UVM president warns of layoffs

BURLINGTON — University of Vermont President Suresh Garimella is warning the novel coronavirus outbreak could produce big changes at the school, including possible layoffs and cuts to salary and benefits.

In a letter to the UVM community sent Monday, Garimella said any cuts would not burden “any particular segment of our community,” including lower-paid employees and non-unionized staff.

Garimella says national surveys have shown that colleges and universities can expect up to a 20% drop in enrollment.

The loss of income from any drop in enrollment is in addition to the school’s direct expenditures of almost $8.7 million to confront the COVID-19 outbreak, including costs for technology, supplies and room-refunds to students who left campus early. More expenses are to come.

Almost three-quarters of UVM’s undergraduate student body is from out-of-state and additional studies have shown more students are less likely to cross a state-border for school and there are not enough in-state students to make up the difference.

“This new reality is likely to impact our enrollments and revenue significantly,” Garimella said.

In addition to the COVID-related expenses the school has already met, officials expense another $6.4 million in COVID expenses that will be part of welcoming students back to campus in the fall. They are also anticipating an estimated $20 million in additional financial aid for some students and their families and more technology spending.

D-H cancer screenings drop in April

The postponement of elective procedures earlier this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic had at least a short-term impact in detecting new cancer cases.

Dr. Steven Leach, the director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, said the center had about a third of the number of new cancer diagnoses it would normally expect in April — just 200, compared to 600 for February.

Leach said he predicts a “post-COVID surge in new cancer diagnoses.” Norris Cotton, like most health facilities, put elective procedures on hold for about six weeks.

The cancer center began ramping back up to normal levels last week, Leach said. Norris Cotton has continued to care for previously diagnosed cancer patients throughout the stay at home order.

Vermont webinar on safety

The Vermont Department of Labor and state safety officials will hold a virtual town hall on Thursday to help provide guidance for employers as they begin to reopen their businesses to workers.

Employers are required to provide training to workers, including information about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19; proper social distancing and hygiene practices; how to handle and dispose of personal protective equipment, and other measures.

Training materials can be found at

The town hall itself starts at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and can be seen on the Vermont Department of Labor’s YouTube channel.

The session is open both to workers and employers and will include time for questions and answers.

Webinar for front-line workers managing stress

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is offering a webinar on Wednesday to help front-line health care workers and first-responders deal with stress and anxiety from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The session, which is also open to workers in other essential businesses, features two Dartmouth-Hitchcock psychologists discussing such issues as avoiding burnout, having adequate access to personal protective equipment and managing anxiety.

Panelists include Stephen Cole, a manager in the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Employee Assistance Program, and Eve Zukowski, a clinical psychologist in the same program.

The program at noon can be viewed at

Twin State cases

As of Tuesday, 3,239 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 81 from the previous day. There have been at least 142 coronavirus-related deaths in the state.

The Vermont Department of Health reported Tuesday that the state has had one more confirmed case of COVID-19, bringing the total to just under 930. The number of deaths has remained steady at 53 since May 5.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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