Karaoke, Darts & Drop-In Haircuts: N.H. Relaxes COVID Restrictions As Vaccinations Continue
Gov. Chris Sununu is lifting some of the state's COVID-19 restrictions, citing falling case numbers and rising rates of vaccination.
Out-of-state visitors, and residents returning from out-of-state travel, no longer need to quarantine when they arrive in New Hampshire. International travelers, though, will still be required to quarantine.
At a press conference Thursday, Sununu said the change puts New Hampshire in line with some other states, and will allow the tourism industry to tap into economic opportunities.
“We want to help businesses plan for the summer,” Sununu said. “We know it’s going to be a very good summer. We know a lot of folks in the region and the country are planning now for what their plans might be, and so we don’t want the tourism industry to suffer. They took the brunt of the hit, if you will, last year.”
Sununu announced several other changes in New Hampshire’s pandemic restrictions: Retail stores across the state are also now allowed to return to 100-percent capacity. Barbershops and salons can allow walk-in customers. And bars can resume games including pool, darts and karaoke.
The statewide mask mandate remains in effect, however.
From VAMS to VINI
With vaccination expanding to new groups in New Hampshire, the state will roll out a new platform for managing registration and appointments.
Starting March 17, Granite Staters registering for their COVID-19 vaccine appointments will use the Vaccine and Immunization Network Interface, or VINI for short.
The current VAMS system has caused frustration and confusion for many users.
Sununu said the new appointment process on VINI will be more streamlined, and one major VAMS stressor will disappear: People will no longer have to cancel an appointment before rebooking.
"As we get more vaccine, you'll always be able to go in and move yourself up with no risk of canceling your appointment, which again, I think is going to be a big sigh of relief," said Sununu.
Those who have already registered for vaccine appointments through VAMS will continue to use the VAMS system to manage their first and second appointments.
Global variants found in N.H. samples
As New Hampshire has ramped up its testing to detect more contagious strains of COVID-19, so far about 750 total specimens have been sequenced.
State health officials say nine of those 750 specimens have been identified as the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the U.K.. The strain is more transmissible and more infectious than initial strains.
PCR and antibody tests alone don’t detect COVID-19 variants. Determining the variant in a positive case requires genetic sequencing.
Because most positive cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire are not being sequenced, more variant cases could be going undetected. Some of the nine cases identified so far in the state have been associated with travel, but not all of them.