COVID update: Most camps stay closed, increased testing at outbreak sites finds many new cases

  • Concord Hospital medical staff at one of the two undisclosed COVID-19 testing sites holds a testing kit. GEOFF FORESTER

Published: 6/18/2020 7:34:31 AM

As summer is about to begin, nearly half of the licensed day camps in New Hampshire have closed because of the coronavirus, and only six residential camps are still trying to open, according to the president of the state camp directors association.

State safety guidelines that came out recently for the camps to run are “extraordinarily challenging,” Ken Robbins told a group of legislators gathering input for the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. For some camps, it would’ve meant changing the nature of their program; for others, it meant dealing with the costs of screening and testing campers, modifying buildings, and increasing health care staff.

“The cost of opening for the summer, in some cases, actually exceeds the cost of staying closed, and for some, to the point of being unfeasible,” he said.

A quick survey shows that camps will see more than an 80% drop in gross revenue over 2019 numbers. Even closed, the camps still face a number of fixed costs, such as property taxes, insurance, and maintenance, Robbins said. He said 17% of the camps that responded to the survey said they are either likely or somewhat likely not to be able to reopen next summer.

“We know that getting to 2021 is going to be a serious challenge for all camps,” Robbins said, seeking help in the form of grants or other assistance to get ready for next summer.

The numbers

The number of new cases of COVID-19 soared Wednesday to the highest daily figure in weeks as the expanded testing program at long-term care facilities kicked in – an indication of how testing patterns can affect this figure.

The state said 73 new cases were confirmed Wednesday, 54 of which were from “recurring testing of residents and staff at three long term care facilities experiencing an outbreak.” The other 19 were from other sources.

The state hasn’t reported that many daily new cases since June 6; over the past week, fewer than 50 cases have been found every day.

Because the large majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths have occurred at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, New Hampshire has begun a program in which these facilities can collect their own samples have them swabbed, and testing is accelerated at locations with multiple cases.

Four new deaths were also reported, and 10 new hospitalizations. Since monitoring began, 10% of confirmed COVID-19 cases have resulted in hospitalization and 6% have killed the patient.

Lawsuit challenged

A man should not be allowed to sue over a Nashua face-covering ordinance and the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency because he has not cited any specific harm, lawyers said Thursday.

Andrew Cooper’s request to block the emergency declaration and the city’s face mask rules was the subject of a court hearing while his lawsuit proceeds.

His attorney, Robert Fojo, argued that the state hasn’t demonstrated that restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have worked and that the city lacks the authority to require face coverings to be worn in public.

“We do not have an emergency in this state,” he said. “There is no point to any of these measures.”

The lawsuit is one of several challenging Gov. Chris Sununu’s actions during the pandemic, but the others have been brought by plaintiffs who argue harm to their businesses or specific rights, such as religious freedom.

That isn’t the case with Cooper, said Assistant Attorney General Daniel Will, representing the state.

“Mr. Cooper never alleges the state of emergency declaration has caused him any injury at all,” he said. “He just disagrees with it.”

Steve Bolton, Nashua’s city attorney, agreed.

City officials, he said, have the power to make rules to protect the public health of residents, who are more at risk than those elsewhere in the state because of the city’s proximity to the border of Massachusetts, where the virus has been rampant.

“The Nashua citizenry is at risk," he said. “The face covering ordinance reduces that risk."

Seafood festival canceled

The Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, which has drawn over 100,000 visitors during the three-day event in September, won't happen this year because of the coronavirus, organizers said Wednesday.

The Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce said it reached its decision after speaking with volunteers, vendors, state and local officials.

“As much as we would love to continue our tradition, we just don’t feel the environment would b e right and we just do not know if the state of affairs will return to normal by festival time," the chamber said in a news release.

Weirs Beach

Only 400 people will be allowed on Weirs Beach at any one time, less than 20% of its capacity of 2,200 people, the Laconia Parks and Recreation Commission voted.

The decision came Monday for the 450-foot-long beach, in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

The beach opens on June 27.

Canobie Lake Park opens mid-July

Canobie Lake amusement park in Salem will open Thursday, July 16, but advance reservation is necessary because capacity will be limited to one person every 36 square feet.

There there will be no costumed characters to meet park goers, and employees and visitors over 3 years old must wear masks in public places where plausible. 

The park is also hiring in all departments, according to its website.

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