Coronavirus Update: Southern N.H. Border Malls To Reopen Monday, With Stepped Up Precautions

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NHPR is continuing to cover the developing story around coronavirus in New Hampshire. Bookmark this page for the latest updates. 

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Gov. Chris Sununu has amended N.H.'s stay-at-home order. N.H. schools are closed for the rest of the academic year.

Two New Deaths Reported In State From COVID-19

Update: Sunday, May 10, 7:35 p.m.

State officials say two additional New Hampshire residents have died from COVID-19.  That brings the total deaths from the illness in New Hampshire to 133.

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The two deaths announced Sunday were both 60 years old or older.

The Department of Health and Human Services reported 61 new positive test results in the state, which increases the total number of confirmed cases to 3,071. 

Five of the new cases are residents under the age of 18.

-NHPR staff

Southern N.H. Malls To Reopen Monday, With New Precautions

Update: Sunday, May 10, 7:05 p.m.

New Hampshire's largest shopping malls, located just over the border from Massachusetts, are re-opening on Monday, as the state slowly reopens for business.

The Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, Merrimack Premium Outlets in Merrimack, and Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua will all open with new safety protocols from their manager, Simon Property Group.

The new protocol requires Simon employees to wear face masks and get screened for fever and flu-like symptoms before each shift. It says retailers will be asked to follow those same screening and PPE guidelines with employees.

According to the new guidelines, counters, transaction registers, and computer touchscreens will be disinfected regularly. Malls will make masks available to customers for free at the entrance and will put 6-foot dividers in lines, escalators, and food courts to encourage social distancing.

The malls draw large numbers of shoppers from nearby Massachusetts, where officials say infection rates are rising and the COVID-19 surge is far from over.

In an effort to reduce the density of shoppers at its New Hampshire malls, Simon says it is reducing occupancy of its facilities to 50 square feet per person and, if a mall reaches capacity, customers will be asked to wait in their cars outside.

Read more on the state's reopening here.

-Sarah Gibson

N.H. reports 10 more deaths from COVID-19

Update: Saturday, May 9, 6:15 p.m.

Ten additional residents have died from COVID-19, state officials announced Saturday.

The updated numbers bring the total deaths in New Hampshire to 131. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 71 new positive test results, which increases the total number of confirmed cases to 3,011.

Four of the new cases are hospitalizations. A total of 313 Granite Staters have now required hospital care at some point after their infections, which is 10 percent of the overall known cases. DHHS says 1,228 people, or 41 percent of the total caseload, have recovered from the virus. 

Five of the new cases are residents under the age of 18.

The total current case number is 1, 652. 

The 10 announced deaths Saturday were all 60 years old or older. Six of the fatalities, three women and three men, were residents of Rockingham County. Three women were from Hillsborough County, and a man from Merrimack County also died.

Several cases remain under investigation, but known cases indicate community-based transmission continues to occur across the state, according to DHHS.

- NHPR Staff

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Week in review in 24 photos

NHPR photos by: Annie Ropeik, Cori Princell, Josh Rogers, Genevieve Andress, Sean Hurley, and Dan Tuohy

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Shaheen says Americans should get vaccine for free

  Update: Saturday, May 9, 11:30 a.m.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is calling on the White House to ensure all Americans can have free access to a COVID-19 vaccine, when it becomes available. 

Shaheen joined a group of 22 U.S. senators that is asking the Trump administration to outline the federal government's strategy for production and distribution of the vaccine. The letter was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"A vaccine for COVID-19 is critical to protect the public health and truly get our country back up and running at full capacity once again," the letter reads.

- NHPR Staff

7 new deaths, 104 new cases announced

  Update: Friday, May 8, 3:15 p.m.

State health officials announced seven additional deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, with five of them from long-term care facilities. New Hampshire has now had 121 deaths related to coronavirus.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette reported 104 new positive test results, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,947.

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She said there have been 309 hospitalizations, which is 10 percent of the overall case numbers to date, and indicates a gradual decrease in the hospitalization rate.

Credit Governor's Office

At a news conference in Concord, Shibinette and Gov. Chris Sununu discussed state efforts to expand testing.

Sununu noted ClearChoiceMD has announced it is now offering antibody testing at nine centers in the state, and accommodating telehealth appointments.

The state reports that approximately 32,000 tests have been conducted in New Hampshire and it is averaging about 1,500 tests a day this week, on pace to surpass 2,000 a day sometime next week.

The state also issued new guidance for dentists who choose to reopen their offices on May 11.

- NHPR Staff

Digital divide remains obstacle for remote learners

  Update: Friday, May 8, 2:55 p.m.

A third of school districts surveyed by the New Hampshire Department of Education say Internet availability remains a limiting factor in providing remote instruction online.

The survey released this week says around 10 percent of students in New Hampshire still don't have Internet at home. This comes after many weeks of trouble-shooting by districts, the state DOE, and Internet companies to increase access during the school closure.

The survey results are based on responses from about 80 percent of New Hampshire schools and account for 90 percent of students. Of those that responded, about 40 percent of schools have offered to pay for students' home Internet.

The majority are supplying devices, such as laptops or tablets, to students, and the majority, 68 percent, say that instruction is fully digital.

-Sarah Gibson

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USNH to let students return to campus in the fall

  Update: Friday, May 8, 2:45 p.m.

New Hampshire's public colleges and universities announced today they plan to let students return to campus for the fall semester.

But officials said they are considering a range of scenarios in case some remote learning needs to continue.

The University of New Hampshire says it will seek more public health guidance this summer. And it plans to work on upgrades to classroom technologies that could allow for a combination of virtual and in-person learning, potentially with some social distancing measures as needed.

State officials say community college students may be able to return to complete some in-person requirements this spring and summer.

- Annie Ropeik

Survey: fewer residents are experiencing potential symptoms

  Update: Friday, May 8, 1:17 p.m.

New survey results from Dartmouth College and UNH show fewer people in New Hampshire are experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers started the survey in early April, when there was still a shortage of coronavirus tests. Back then, about 10% of the representative group of over 1,000 residents said they experienced symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 in the past seven days.

Now, that number has dropped to under 5%. The researchers say the decline to under 5% is a promising sign that suggests social distancing efforts have been effective.

The study will continue tracking symptoms as the state begins to relax certain restrictions.

- Jason Moon

N.H. fishing fleet to get stimulus funds

Update: Friday, May 8, 12:30 p.m.

New Hampshire’s small fishing industry will get $2.7 million from the federal coronavirus aid package, officials announced Friday.

The stimulus will provide $300 million for fisheries nationwide, with more than $56 million of that coming to New England states – mostly Massachusetts and Maine, which are receiving some of the highest shares of the money after Alaska and Washington.

States will develop individual spending plans for the aid. It can go to support any impacted fishing business, including commercial or charter boats and aquaculture or processing businesses.

Federal officials say that supply-chain businesses, such as vessel repair shops, restaurants and seafood retailers, will not be eligible for these funds.

- Annie Ropeik

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Task force on reopening economy to meet

  Update: Friday, May 8, 10:51 a.m.

Petey's Seafood in Rye, N.H.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. today, May 8, for public comment and review of beaches. 

The Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery plans to meet with its legislative advisory board at 1 p.m. today.

And Gov. Chris Sununu will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. for an update on coronavirus response in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Public Radio will air the governor's news conference live at 3 p.m., and streaming online at NHPR.org and NHPR's mobile apps.

3 additional deaths, 104 new positive results

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 6:20 p.m.

Three additional residents have died from COVID-19, state health officials announced Thursday. The public health update brings the total number of New Hampshire deaths to 114. 

The Department of Health and Human Services reports 104 new positive test results, for a total of 2,843 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. There are 1,564 current cases in the state. Click here for a high-resolution map of active cases, as of May 7.

The three deaths announced were a woman from Hillsborough County, a man from Rockingham County, and a man from Strafford County. All were 60 and older.

Only one of the newly identified cases required hospitalization. To date, 308 people, or 11 percent, of the overall coronavirus cases required hospital care at some point.

This week, testing in New Hampshire opened up to anyone who has a symptom of coronavirus, or is over 60, or has an underlying health issue - along with health care workers. 

The state says more than 2,200 residents signed up for a test on the first day of the new expansion. Reservations can be made online at NH.gov/covid19. No health insurance is required.

- NHPR Staff

Traffic deaths increase, while traffic counts plummet

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 2:50 p.m.

Despite a drop in the number of cars on the road, the number of traffic-related fatalities is spiking in New Hampshire. The Office of Highway Safety reports that 34 people have been killed in automobile-involved accidents this year, which represents a 75% increase from the same period a year ago.

There has also been a spike in the number of pedestrians struck by cars as more people head outside for exercise during the state's stay-at-home order.

Officials are urging motorists not to speed on the unusually empty roads. The number of cars on the state's highways is down about 50%, according to toll collection statistics.

-Todd Bookman

DOE offers guidance for schools planning graduation

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 12:01 p.m.

School districts planning for graduation ceremonies during the pandemic have new guidance from the New Hampshire Department of Education.

The DOE says in-person gatherings are only allowed if everyone can easily social distance. In a memo sent out Wednesday, the state suggests hosting graduations outside, with attendees remaining in their cars. Another option suggested: groups of 10 or fewer gathering in classrooms spread throughout a school to watch a live broadcast of a ceremony.

In both cases, students would receive their diplomas one-by-one or in small groups. Some districts plan to forgo in-person ceremonies altogether and will host one when the pandemic subsides, as late as a year from now.

- Sarah Gibson

Economic Reopening Task Force Meets Today

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force is scheduled to convene at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The agenda calls for a public health update, and presentations on performing arts and massage therapy.

The group also plans to meet Friday, May 8, from 9-11 a.m. for public comment and for a review of beaches, in terms of reopening.

['The Queen of Hanover Hill': The Human Toll of N.H.'s Nursing Home Outbreaks]

Thousands more in N.H. file for unemployment for the first time

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 10:31 a.m.

Nearly 12,000 more residents filed first-time unemployment claims last week.

That's according to data released this morning from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Sign up for NHPR's email newsletter for news on coronavirus in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire's overall number of new unemployment applications peaked at nearly 40,000 weekly filings in early April.

It's fallen steadily since then. Nationwide, 3.2 million more workers filed for benefits last week.

- Todd Bookman

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19 additional deaths; N.H. seeks to bolster testing

Update: Wednesday, May 6, 7:45 p.m.

Positive tests for coronavirus in New Hampshire as of May 6, 2020.
Credit N.H. DHHS

New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette today announced 19 additional deaths due to COVID-19, the highest number of deaths the state has reported since the pandemic began.

All of the 19 deaths are connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

Related: More Than Three In Four N.H. COVID Deaths in Long-Term Care Homes

The state has now had 111 residents die from COVID-19.

Shibinette said the state health lab identified 108 new cases, which brings the total number of confirmed cases in New Hampshire to 2,740. 

The latest statistics were provided after Shibinette and Gov. Chris Sununu announced efforts to further expand testing.

Sign up for NHPR's COVID-19 newsletter to get the latest updates.

Sununu said the state is launching an online portal that will allow residents to sign up and reserve a test for coronavirus at one of five fixed sites in Claremont, Lancaster, Plymouth, Rochester and Tamworth.

The residents may self-attest they have one of the symptoms, such as chills, loss of smell or taste. Residents who are over 60, and with underlying conditions, do not have to have symptoms to request and receive a test, the governor said.

Residents also no longer need their primary care provider or doctor to order a test, according to DHHS.

Sununu said expanding the state's testing capacity in this way is critical to containing the spread of coronavirus as the state reopens parts of its economy. 

Shibinette says the additional testing is part of a scaled-up approach to containing and identifying cases.

"The next phase is not just mild symptoms, but people who have underlying conditions that put them at risk," she said.

Read more here.

- NHPR Staff

DHHS to further expand testing at nursing homes

  Update: Wednesday, May 6, 1:50 p.m.

The state's top health official told the New Hampshire Executive Council that the state will redouble efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus at long-term care facilities.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette says the state will increase testing, including of people without COVID-19 symptoms.

"And I think we are going to be ramping that up in the next couple of weeks, to surveillance testing, sentinel testing, which is hopefully going to identify people quicker," she says.

The state had previously said testing nursing home residents who didn't have symptoms would put them at needless risk of exposure.

Shibinette told councilors Wednesday the state previously lacked the supplies needed to test asymptomatic residents at long-term care homes. 

- Josh Rogers

AMC huts to remain closed this year

  Update: Wednesday, May 6, 1:31 p.m.

The Appalachian Mountain Club's iconic high mountain huts will remain closed for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The AMC runs lodges and huts throughout the White Mountain National Forest and in Maine. It announced most facilities will reopen no sooner than July 1, with new safety protocols.

However, the eight high mountain huts, most located near 4,000-footers and miles from the nearest road, are a different story. The AMC says reopening those would be too difficult given heightened concerns about health and safety during the pandemic.

- Sarah Gibson

Click here to make a donation to support NHPR's reporting on COVID-19.

Medicaid to cover test costs for residents without insurance

  Update: Wednesday, May 6, 1:20 p.m.

Coronavirus tests for people in New Hampshire without insurance will soon be covered by Medicaid, thanks to federal legislation and an emergency order from Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu issued an order that waives the requirement for the state Legislature to approve changes to Medicaid eligibility. Those changes are needed to take advantage of the federal program.

Sununu says the move will allow the state to offer the new benefits sooner. Under the change, Medicaid will only cover testing for COVID-19, not treatment.

- Jason Moon

Take a Brief Survey: What Questions Do You Have About Coronavirus?

Total COVID-19 deaths rise to 92

  Update: Tuesday, May 5, 8:07 p.m.

New Hampshire health officials announced six additional deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday. The total number of deaths is now 92. 

The Department of Health and Human Services reports 50 new positive test results, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 2,636. 

Of the newly identified cases, four individuals are under the age of 18.

Nine of the new cases required hospitalization. The current number of hospitalizations is 115. To date, 295 patients, or 11 percent of known cases, have required hospital care at some point.

DHHS said five of the six deaths were residents 60 or older; the state did not identify the age of a female resident of Strafford County who died. The five others were a man and a woman from Hillsborough County, and two women and one man from Rockingham County.

- NHPR Staff

Special Report: More Than Three In Four N.H. COVID Deaths Occurred in Long-Term Care Homes

Merrimack school custodian tests positive

  Update: Tuesday, May 5, 5:16 p.m.

The Merrimack School District has suspended its remote school lunch program after a custodian tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Mark McLaughlin made the decision, though the custodian was not directly involved with the school lunch program.

"We made this decision not because we have reason to suspect transmission," he says. "We don't. It's almost a patented phrase now, you know, abundance of caution, but in this case, it really is."

The district's food service workers have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Starting Thursday, school lunches will be provided by a local catering company.

- Alex McOwen

SEIU union asks state to provide PPE, tests for employees

Update: Tuesday, May 5, 3:19 p.m.

A union representing about 10,000 state and municipal workers in New Hampshire is asking the state to improve working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The local of the Service Employees International Union issued a list of demands today, including free protective gear and COVID-19 tests for all public employees. The union is also asking for more consistent guidelines on teleworking.

Workers in the employment security offices say they are not allowed to work remotely, even though staff from other agencies are.

The union says that contradicts Gov. Chris Sununu's guidance in March for all state agencies to help employees work from home when possible.

- Sarah Gibson

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Going to court? You'll need a mask.

 Update: Tuesday, May 5, 12:25 p.m. 

All people entering a court in New Hampshire must now wear a face mask. The order from the state's supreme court begins today and will last until May 25th, or until the end of the declared state of emergency.

Click or tap here to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on coronavirus in New Hampshire

Most court hearings are being held over video conference or telephone during the pandemic, but some are still held in person. The judicial branch is encouraging people to bring their own masks to court, but will provide masks to those who need them.

- Sarah Gibson

State announces 72 new positive test results for COVID-19; additional pay for first responders

Update: Monday, May 4, 6:15 p.m.

Positive tests for coronavirus in New Hampshire, as of May 4, 2020.
Credit N.H. DHHS

The state announced 72 newly identified cases of COVID-19 Monday (May 4), bringing New Hampshire's case total to 2,588. So far, 86 residents have died from the virus.

Related: Click here for our tracker of cases and testing in New Hampshire

At a press conference, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said the state will be dealing with coronavirus for several months or longer, stressing that residents should maintain social distancing guidelines as the weather gets warmer.

Chan said those heading outside to exercise should be mindful of maintaining six feet between themselves and others, and that dog owners should keep their pets leashed to avoid contact with other people.

"The risk that animals pose to other people in terms of spreading COVID-19 is considered low," Chan said. "But as you may be aware, there have been a small number of reports of animals worldwide becoming infected with COVID-19, from people."

Additional pay for first responders, money for communities

Gov. Chris Sununu announced that $40 million in federal funding will be allocated to help New Hampshire cities and towns cover expenses related to the pandemic. He said the money will cover costs incurred between March 1 and August 31, including cleaning, social services, telework, and child care for first responders.

"These funds will help bridge the gap between what towns have incurred and what FEMA will ultimately cover," Sununu said. "Every town, from Pittsburg to Portsmouth, will be able to be reimbursed for COVID-19 costs."

Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted this graphic breaking down additional pay for New Hampshire first responders, funded through federal CARES Act funds.

Sununu said that the state's first responders will receive additional pay funded through the CARES Act, the federal relief package passed in March.

Sununu tweeted details of the "front line stipend," which includes pay enhancements for firefighters, EMS workers, law enforcement, and corrections personnel through the end of June.

- NHPR Staff

State tax receipts foreshadow big hit to N.H. budget

Update: Monday, May 4, 5:10 p.m.

New Hampshire's tax receipts tumbled in April, providing a glimpse at how severe the pandemic’s impact will be on the state budget. The state collected $76 million less in taxes than it targeted for April. That’s a shortfall of 22 percent.

Business tax receipts, the state’s single largest source of revenue, were down about 40 percent, although some of that is due to filing extensions.

The shuttering of hotels and many restaurants put a big dent in the Meals and Rooms tax. Those collections were down 43 percent.

Real estate taxes held largely steady, though that’s likely because of the lag time in transactions. The state's tobacco tax was the only bright spot, though not from a public health standpoint. Sales were up 30% from the same month last year.

- Todd Bookman

PPP loans granted to 9,000 more New Hampshire businesses

Update: Monday, May 4, 3:35 p.m.

Nearly 9,000 more New Hampshire small businesses and non-profits were approved for emergency loans last week through the Paycheck Protection Program. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office says those loans total more than half-a-billion dollars.

Under the PPP, businesses with under 500 employees can apply. If the money is spent on payroll or other approved expenses, the loans will be forgiven.

In the first round of the program, which ran out of money in April, more than 11,000 New Hampshire entities received more than 2-billion dollars.

NHPR is among the companies that have received a loan through the PPP.

- Todd Bookman

State to receive money for affordable housing, rural healthcare

Update: Monday, May 4, 2:40 p.m.

New Hampshire will receive another round of federal coronavirus aid for affordable housing and rural healthcare providers. The state’s Congressional delegation announced the new disbursements of funds from the federal stimulus package Monday.

Passed last month, that package includes more than $1.25 billion for New Hampshire. In the next round of allocations, the delegation says the state’s rural hospitals and health care providers will receive another $115 million. They’re also expecting $3.6 million dollars in aid for local public housing and vouchers used by low-income tenants.

- Annie Ropeik

Seacoast bus system to reopen with new protections in place

Update: Monday, May 4, 12:00 p.m.

The Seacoast public transit service will reopen on May 11 with new health protections in place. Unlike other municipal bus routes in the state, the COAST service shut down at the end of March, citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Now, COAST says they’ll resume some bus service next Monday (May 11) as staffing allows. They're asking passengers to only ride for essential reasons such as for work, groceries or medical needs.

Passengers are also encouraged to wear face masks. Drivers will sit behind clear barriers and have their own protective gear.

COAST is discounting its monthly passes for May by about 60 percent.

- Annie Ropeik

2 deaths, 90 new coronavirus cases in New Hampshire

Update: Sunday, May 3, 7:00 p.m.

The state released this map showing positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire as of May 3, 2020.
Credit N.H. DHHS

The state has announced two more deaths related to COVID-19 in New Hampshire. Both patients were over 60 years old, one a female resident of Hillsborough County and one a male resident of Rockingham County.

Related: Click here for our tracker of cases and testing in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services also announced 90 new positive test results for coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 2,518. 

Of the cases with complete information, the regional breakdown is: 32 in Rockingham County; 43 in Hillsborough County (including 18 in Manchester and 12 in Nashua); six in Strafford County; three in Merrimack County; and one in Belknap County. The counties of residence are still being determined for five of the new cases. 

DHHS says that community transmission continues to increase in the state. 

- NHPR Staff

N.H. reports 3 additional deaths, 121 new cases

Update: Saturday, May 2, 7:17 p.m.

State health officials announced three additional deaths and 121 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday. The three new deaths, all of whom were 60 or older: a woman from Hillsborough County and a man and a woman from Rockingham County. There have now been 84 deaths due to COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

Of the new cases identified Saturday, there are four individuals under the age of 18.

Seven of the new cases were hospitalized. At some point, 277 of the total confirmed cases in the state required hospital care.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services also announced more than 1,500 people were tested for coronavirus on May 1, the highest one-day total since the state began ramping up testing.

Nearly 26,000 Granite Staters have tested negative for the virus.

Of the 2,429 people identified with COVID-19 to date, 1,017 have recovered, according to DHHS.

- NHPR Staff

State providing free masks for business employees and customers

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 3:12 p.m.

With the partial reopening of some businesses set to begin in the next few weeks, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Saturday that the state is providing free disposable face masks for those business employees and customers.

Businesses can fill out a form online and pick up the masks at any New Hampshire DMV next week.

The form says businesses will need to reorder masks as needed. Retailers, barbershops, hair salons and restaurants can reopen, under various new restrictions, later this month.

Daniela Allee

Surrogates get OK to consent to treatments

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 2:39 p.m.

A new emergency order allows agents or surrogates to give consent to experimental treatments on behalf of COVID-19 patients in certain situations.

If a patient experiencing severe symptoms or complications doesn't have the capacity to consent to experimental treatment, the person designated under an advance directive can provide the consent. 

And in the case there is not an advance directive, a surrogate, or an adult who has health care decision-making capacity, can also consent to the treatment for the patient. 

But the order says that consent by another person can only be given in three situations: If it's life threatening, if informed consent from the patient cannot be obtained due to an inability to communicate, or if there's no alternate therapy method that provides an equal or greater likelihood of saving the patient's life.

- Daniela Allee

WMNF to open some trailheads

Update: Saturday, May 1, 9:29 a.m.

The White Mountain National Forest has reopened several trailheads that were closed a week ago due to concerns about crowding and hikers not maintaining social distancing. WMNF officials said the decision was also made due to illegal parking while trailheads were closed.

The WMNF is implementing a phased-in approach to reopening trailheads and sites. A limited number of sites, including Tuckerman Ravine, will remain closed. Here is a list of what is open and closed at this time.

Trailheads reopening include Alpine Garden, Great Gulf Wildnerness, Lincoln Woods, Osceola, and Welch-Dickey, according to the list updated Friday.

- NHPR Staff

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Dairy farmers feel economic squeeze

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 8:59 a.m.

Two-thirds of New Hampshire's dairy farmers are at risk of closure, says Shawn Jasper, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food.

Jasper mentioned the economic impact due to the coronavirus pandemic while on a conference call Friday.  Although there have been milk shortages in grocery stores, he says the closure of schools and restaurants forced many farms to dump their product.

"We expect some balancing to take place," he said. "However, prices are falling and farms are being asked to cut production by up to 15 percent."

Jasper is asking the state to allocate $5 million from the $1.25 billion in CARES Act money the state has received to support dairy farms.

-Alex McOwen

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Sununu amends stay-at-home order

Update: Friday, May 1, 6:08 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced an amended stay-at-home order today that will remain in effect until May 31. The previous order was due to expire May 4.   

Starting May 11, golf courses, hair salons, drive-in movies, and retail operations may reopen, but with certain restrictions. Golf courses will be limited to residents and club members. Barbers and hair salons will have to limit occupancy to no more than 10 people at the business. Campgrounds may continue to remain open, but access will be limited to residents and members, Sununu says in his presentation of what he's calling Stay At Home 2.0.

Retail stores will be limited to 50 percent occupancy, staff must wear cloth face coverings and maintain social distancing, and workers will be either screened or questioned about possible symptoms at the start of every shift. Below are links to read the full guidance documents Sununu discussed Friday:

Sununu says Seacoast beaches and parks will remain closed. Restaurants will continue under the state's ban on indoor dining. Sununu says take-out and delivery only service will continue until May 18, at which time the order will transition to allow for outdoor food service.

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The governor said steps to reopen parts of the economy are supported by data and state health officials. Sununu encouraged residents to continue with social distancing and wearing cloth face coverings when in public.

"We're not taking giant leaps forward. We're just not at that point yet," Sununu said.

Nine new deaths; 164 new cases

The announcement comes as state epidemiologist Ben Chan reported nine additional deaths from COVID-19, and 164 new positive test results on Friday.

There have now been 81 deaths and a total of 2,310 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Hampshire. Chan said the nine additional deaths were associated with long-term care centers or nursing homes.

Chan provided the update at a news conference in Concord with Sununu. See a high-resolution map of town-by-town coronavirus cases here.

Chan said the state's health care system remains stable, and the state is not near requiring the use of "surge" capacity centers that have been established to handle a potential major increase in patients.

DHHS reports 980 people have recovered from coronavirus. The current coronavirus cases, as of May 1, was 1,249. Current hospitalizations numbered 103. To date, 12 percent of the total confirmed cases have required hospital care at some point.

The state says more than 22,000 residents have tested negative for COVID-19.

- NHPR Staff

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Lonza making potential vaccine

Update: Friday, May 1, 1:56 p.m.

A Portsmouth company will help make a potential new vaccine for COVID-19 beginning this summer.

The Lonza Biologics manufacturing facility at Pease International Tradeport is teaming up with Massachusetts-based Moderna on the project.

Moderna is one of many companies worldwide working on vaccines and other treatments for the new coronavirus. The Moderna vaccine is currently undergoing government-led clinical trials.

Lonza has agreed to make up to a billion doses a year of the medication.

The Swiss company has around a thousand workers in Portsmouth, making it one of the city's top employers.

- Annie Ropeik

Food Bank mobile pantry coming to Berlin

  Update: Friday, May 1, 1:30 p.m.

The New Hampshire Food Bank is bringing its mobile food pantry to Berlin on Saturday, for only the second time since the coronavirus pandemic.

Christy Langlois, the pantry's food system coordinator, says demand for food was nearly double what they expected the last time they visited Berlin over a month ago.

"We kind of did a rough intake of how many we were short and we estimated approximately 250 households had showed up that we weren't able to service," she says.

This time, they are prepared to distribute dry goods, produce, meat, and dairy products to around a thousand families. The following weekend, the mobile food pantry plans to travel to the racetrack in Loudon.

- Alex McOwen

Mobile testing sites in Laconia, Sunapee and Keene

  Update: Friday, May 1, 12:02 p.m.

The state is launching three temporary mobile COVID-19 testing sites this weekend. 

The one-day locations will be in Laconia on Friday, Sunapee on Saturday, and Keene on Sunday. These sites are in addition to the five fixed drive-through locations announced earlier this week, as part of the state's community-based testing program for coronavirus.

The Department of Health and Human Services encourages anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to contact their health care provider to discuss testing. Residents without a doctor or provider can call the state's hotline at 2-1-1.

- NHPR Staff

Related story: Tracking COVID-19 Cases and Testing in New Hampshire

Task force forwarding ideas to Governor Sununu

Update: Friday, May 1, 11:31 a.m.

A task force on reopening New Hampshire's economy has made its first set of recommendations without waiting for the public to weigh in.

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force hosted a public input session Thursday, and it has another Friday morning. Meanwhile, it approved draft plans for restaurants, retail stores, hair salons, campgrounds and drive-in movies.

The plans will be reviewed by state health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu. The governor plans to announce steps to reopen parts of the economy during a news conference in Concord on Friday at 3 p.m.

Listen live to the conference on NHPR and streaming online at NHPR.org

"We do want to try ways to phase in and flex open parts of our economy," Sununu said earlier this week about his presentation about modifying his stay-at-home order, which is currently due to expire May 4.

- NHPR Staff

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Prescott Park cancels summer season

  Update: Friday, May 1, 8:50 a.m.

The Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth will not have its summer season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The safety of our audience is our primary concern, and unfortunately there is simply no safe way to gather a crowd of people in a summer setting without risk of infection," John Tabor, chair of the festival's board of directors, says in a statement. "So, we will be dark this summer but look forward to a rejuvenated 2021 season."

The festival is one of several traditional summer events in New Hampshire that have been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. Others include the Cheshire Fair, Lancaster Fair, Sandwich Fair, and the Stratham Fair.

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Earlier updates