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Thursday COVID update: Stay-at-home ends Monday; NH tops 300 deaths

Monitor Staff
Published: 6/11/2020 7:40:17 AM

Most limits under the stay-at-home order will be lifted at the end of Monday, allowing businesses from museums and libraries to private gyms and amateur sports to open, although often with limits on capacity.

The end of the stay-at-home order means that only movie theaters, performing arts venues and amusement parks will have to stay shut as of Monday. Gov. Chris Sununu said they can open starting June 29, as more guidelines are drawn up.

Also still in question is how New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon will operate. Sununu said at a Thursday press conference that discussions are continuing on how the massive facility will work, with hopes that it will be able to host a NASCAR race this year.

In a separate topic, Sununu also announced Thursday new funding programs to distribute federal money given to the state by the CARES Act, including $35 million to help people pay rent and make mortgage payments after the state moratorium on evictions and foreclosures ends July 1.

That funding program will be in the form of one-time grants to renters or home owners, he said.

Sununu also announced a $50 million “broadband initiative” to cover so-called last mile connections that link homes and businesses to nearby fiber-optic routes, as well as $15 million for homeless shelters, $10 million for private colleges and universities, and a $2 million “contract partnership” with local chambers of commerce.

Sununu said that counting these programs, there is roughly “$250 to 300 million” left in the state’s portion of the fund, which must be spent by the end of the calendar year.

As for the end of the stay-at-home order, which occurs as of midnight at the end of Monday, it lifts limits on gatherings of more than 10 people and the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses, allowing most categories of businesses to open while adhering to general guidelines and specific guidelines for each industry.

In general, the number of customers allowed in a store or restaurant at one time will be limited to 50% of potential capacity, and customers and employees will be asked to wear face masks and maintain social distancing. Details will be posted on the NH.gov website, via the “Stay At Home 2.0” button.

In his comments, Sununu reiterated his expectation that numbers of new COVID-19 cases will decline over the summer with warm weather but expressed caution about the fall, as schools and college reopen and temperatures fall.

“In September, October, we have to be prepared for the fact that numbers could spike. We’ve got to be right on top of it,” he said.

Sununu also raised the possibility of a return to stay-at-home orders. “If it doesn’t work out and we’re in a crisis situation, there’s nothing that prevents me from having to pull back,” he said.

300th COVID-19 death

New Hampshire has topped 300 deaths from COVID-19, most of them in long-term care facilities.

The state reported seven more deaths Thursday bringing the cumulative total to 308, of whom 86% have been over the age of 70, most of those in nursing homes or the equivalent. Only one death has been reported in a person under the age of 40.

The state reported 54 new cases of the disease, a number that has been declining slightly all month: The 14-day average of new cases on June 1 was 75; yesterday it was 65.

In a worrisome trend, however, the number of PCR tests, which can spot active cases of COVID-19, reported by the state has declined all week. It was below 1,000 on Wednesday for the first time this month.

M/S Mount Washington returns as restaurant

The Winnipesaukee Flagship Corp. says the M/S Mount Washington will be cruising Lake Winnipesaukee again as a floating restaurant, beginning June 20 for the first lunch cruise of the season. The first dinner cruise will kick off on June 27.

As a side note, the Mount will offer a special Father’s Day lunch cruise for the first time, on June 21. In the past it could not offer a cruise on Father’s Day in the past as it conflicted with Laconia Bike Week, which has been canceled.

The 10 a.m. cruise out of Weirs Beach is suspended, as well as all departures out of other ports, for the time being. There is one lunch cruise every day from Weirs Beach at 12:30 p.m., and a dinner cruise on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This allows time to perform additional cleaning between cruises.

Advance reservations are suggested for all cruises, since the number of passengers on board has been reduced by more than 50%. Buffet service will be replaced by new table service on all cruises.

While dancing is strongly discouraged by the State of New Hampshire, ambient music will be offered on all cruises.

The M/V Doris E and U.S. Mailboat will remain closed for public cruises for the time being.

The M/S Mount Washington has be a New Hampshire icon since 1872. For information, visit www.cruisenh.comor call 603-366-5531 to request a brochure.

State tree salesset a record

The stay-at-home order has created a lot of people who want to grow flowers and crops, and apparently that extends to people who want to grow trees.

The New Hampshire State Forest Nursery sold $193,039 worth of tree seedlings this year, a full 15% more than 2019, which was itself a record sales year. A total of 1,507 orders, totaling 210,165 seedlings, were delivered to customers.

The nursery, part of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, said 96% came from customers in New England and two-thirds of those were from New Hampshire.

Two thirds of orders were for $100 or less, an indication that most customers use seedlings for small projects.

Established in 1910, the State Forest Nursery grows 3 million seedlings on 16 acres of irrigated, outdoor seedbeds; it also has 20 acres dedicated to seed orchards and testing areas. The nursery is located within an 880-acre state forest in Boscawen.

Each year, the State Forest Nursery offers more than 50 bare-root seedling species and specialty packages for sale to the public. All seedlings are grown on site from seed and are not imported or transplanted from other sources, ensuring that they are well adapted to the New Hampshire climate.

For your amusement

Santa Claus could be safe to visit this summer, from a distance.

The Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force has approved  recommendations for the opening of amusement parks with restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus. While character “meet-and-greets” would be prohibited at Canobie Lake Park, the state’s largest amusement park, separate rules for other parks would allow them in fixed locations if at least 6 feet of social distancing is maintained.

“Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to have Santa Claus at Santa’s Village,” said task force member Bruce Berke, referring to the Christmas-themed Santa’s Village in Jefferson.

The recommendations, along with those approved for tourist trains, fairs, festivals and bowling alleys, now go to public health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu for approval. Those sectors of the economy were among the last to be tackled by the task force, which has begun looking to the next phase of reopening.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said the universal guidance for businesses should be updated to encourage businesses to “be creative” in reducing the transmission of the virus.

“This is an important attitude and approach that we are going to take when we move and transition the state to phase 2,” he said. “It is not, in our view, up to the government to independently say this business can do these specific things but not those specific things.”


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