By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu intends to make an announcement Friday on stay-at-home orders and what aspects of the state’s economy he may be able to reopen and when, the governor’s policy director said Tuesday.
D.J. Bettencourt, who is also chairing the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force, said he hoped to get input this week from the group on limitations that would be imposed on those openings to protect the public health.
“The situation is constantly evolving,” Bettencourt said during the Tuesday meeting of the 19-member committee, which met by phone.
COVID-19 has killed 60 and sickened close to 2,000 in New Hampshire and the state is still in the midst of it, but testing has ramped up dramatically this past week and state officials said there are efforts toward reopening various aspects of the state.
Sununu’s stay-at-home order runs through May 4 and he has said it is not likely it will be completely lifted as the virus continues to spread in the state, but he has said he would look at lifting some of the emergency orders.
The committee is being broken down into subcommittees with a goal of having something for the governor and the state Department of Health and Human Services to consider by Thursday at 5 p.m.
“We will eventually get where we need to go in an open and transparent way,” Sununu told the committee.
More information is available on how to listen to daily meetings at https://www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce.
“We want to keep people safe. This is our first goal,” Bettencourt stressed.
All those will be forwarded to the governor before he makes his announcement, Bettencourt said, adding the committee is expected to meet all five days next week and will be hearing from some different industries.
Universal guidelines, which will be applicable to all businesses, were part of the discussion during Tuesday’s meeting. Trish Tilley, deputy director for the state Division of Public Health, gave an overview of where the state is from a public health recommendation perspective on COVID-19 health guidelines for both employers and employees.
She said this guidance is based on federal recommendations from the CDC, EEOC, and OSHA and is based on what is currently know about COVID-19, but as the science evolves, those recommendations may be changed.
– The state would be asking them to continue to support their employees to stay home when they are sick or not feeling well.
– Screening. When staff comes to work, daily health screening and temperature checking with a touchless thermometer and a new question, change of taste and smell in addition to questions related to contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or travel to areas where the virus has spread rapidly
– Development of HR policies and guidance on what to do if an employee says “yes” to any of the screening questions or has a temperature
“We are promoting frequent hand hygiene both hand washing and use of hand sanitizer,” Tilley said.
– Face coverings. “We are looking to mitigate exposure and part of that is using a cloth covering over the face and not use PPE,” or personal protective equipment which is reserved for health-care workers and is in limited supply.
– Appropriate etiquette for coughing, sneezing, and discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, or equipment when possible
– Early release if a worker is sick during the course of the day
– Stay home if sick
– Be in contact with a supervisor about health issues
– Avoid touching face eyes and mouth and cough into elbows at work
– Encourage use of a face cloth mask for those working with the public
– Practice social distancing of at least six feet between others
Tilley said the daily temperature check and screening is an area that many employers are concerned about and adding them into their guidelines will be discussed in more detail.
She noted the state is already doing that at its facilities in Concord.
Camping, Child Care
Chris Emond, chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Hampshire addressed the committee. He said like many industries, it has been hit hard by closings related to the pandemic.
He offered a PowerPoint presentation with information on a statewide perspective for daycare, day camp, and overnight camp recommendations for keeping these facilities operable this summer. It is from https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/af27c5e8-d82f-42b4-95d4-3dd585247f9e/2-NH-TASK-FORCE-TO-REOPEN-THE-ECONOMY-PRESENTATION-4-28-2020.pdf.
He said many camps would operate with fewer children, if allowed, to increase health and safety protocols and the state would need to help organizations with limited liability. Emond said before the pandemic, there were 788 daycare centers open and now there are 243 with 2,400 workers providing care for children of families whose parents are essential workers.
There are thousands of day camps in the state waiting on guidance, he said. Also, there are 85 overnight camps that serve about 40,000 campers and have staff levels of 8,000. Emond said camp and daycare providers are waiting for guidelines from the CDC which are expected May 4 but it is expected there will be a reduced density of campers, likely shortened seasons, and counselors would have to stay on the campgrounds for the entire summer.
Overall, he said, he is hearing from parents who are counting on there being camp and other services for their children this summer, rather than hearing from people who don’t want to send their kids to camp. “All camps will have to work at a limited capacity,” Emond said.
There will be no magazines to read at the hair salon. You will need to wear a mask while your hair is cut and don’t forget to bring your own pen, as you won’t be offered one at check-out. These are some of the recommendations the cosmetology industry put forward to the committee, based in part on federal health guidelines the industry already adheres to.
Pam New, of the New Hampshire Cosmetology Association, made the presentation on changes to re-open during the pandemic. She suggested both the hair cutter and the customer wear facial coverings during the appointment.
“Once a customer has had their service done, the cutting chair will be disinfected and sanitized. The cape they were wearing, removed, and replaced…When a customer is cashing out and rescheduling, they must use their own pens and the counter.”
And no more than 10 people in a room at one time, all practicing social distancing.
“We’re in a different time right now,” and we must accommodate to keep the customer and the workers safe, New said.
Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash and sanitize gloves immediately after removing the mask,” it read. To be honest, she said, some stylists, not hers, are going into people’s houses to cut hair which is unsafe.
She wondered why, if animal groomers were considered essential, hairdressers were not. The committee will meet again on Wednesday.