By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Zoom is not the same as in-person worship, members of the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force were told in a two-hour public input session on Friday morning.
A subcommittee has been formed to look at when and how the state’s houses of worship can safely reopen, the caller, who missed the communal aspects of the church, was told.
Tattoo workers said they could limit their work to New Hampshire residents only and are trained in health awareness and proper hygiene.
The motorsports parks operators reminded the task force they have 20 days to make a year’s living and they are having to come up with a plan to open just one day a week.
The massage community also called in imploring the task force, sometimes tearfully, to allow them to help alleviate the pain of their clients who have gone almost two months without a massage treatment.
The 19-member task force, formed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, has been listening to industry presentations daily, formed subcommittees and has taken weekly public input in an effort to create guidance documents for reopening.
The documents will then be reviewed by the state health department and considered by Sununu, who has issued emergency orders to protect the spread of the new coronavirus.
Campgrounds, cosmetologists, dentists, attractions, performing arts all have subcommittees and leaders of each are working with task force members on draft protocols.
Many also said it is too soon to reopen many aspects of life in a pandemic, particularly because of neighboring Massachusetts having one of the worst coronavirus hot spots in the nation.
COVID-19 has forced Sununu to close beaches greatly upsetting the state’s surfing community, which called in, too.
People will find ways, to surf, they were told. Others were focused on the emotional need for them to access the water.
Performing arts operators called in, too. They are working together on their own plans to make the summer’s stages open. Many have canceled seasons or are waiting for clarity on reopening. The clock is ticking.
Currently, the state is seeing a plateau or in some metrics, a decline over about two weeks though there was a spike this week in deaths due to COVID-19 in New Hampshire.
Task Force chairman D.J. Bettencourt said small businesses may be able to open under the universal guidelines document on the task force’s website.
He said it would be micromanaging to put industry-specific guidelines together for every industry and that some may be “good to go” under the universal guidelines. Reopening decisions will be guided by public health, he said.
“Safety is paramount. Nobody handed us a playbook on how to do this. As we go forward we are going to constantly be better and make adjustments to help the public get their lives and their businesses back in order,” Bettencourt said.
In another telephone call-in session this week attracting thousands of listeners with questions from across the state, state labor officials said they expect about 15 percent of the state’s employees lost their jobs to COVID-19 in the past few weeks.
This was the ninth telephone town hall convened weekly on Wednesdays by Congressman Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, both New Hampshire Democrats.
They were joined on the call by George N. Copadis, commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security; Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security; Kenneth Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness; and Dr. Michael Calderwood, Dartmouth-Hitchcock epidemiologist, and infectious disease expert.
Most of the one-hour teletown hall was dedicated to public questions over the coronavirus outbreak in New Hampshire.
“These regular telephone town halls allow me to stay connected with Granite Staters to hear about the issues that matter most to them and the impact that this virus is having on their lives,” said Kuster.
Pappas said he is here to “serve your interest” and strongly encourage residents to reach out to his office for help by calling (603) 285-4300 or going to https://pappas.house.gov/.
Norton offered confirmation of the challenges everyone is facing. His message was that “it is OK to not feel OK about the situation…It is important to acknowledge that grief and loss…it is also important to recognize gratitude.”
Dr. Calderwood, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, made an emphasis on the importance and availability of testing and identifying folks who are pre-symptomatic as he looks to future antibody testing.
You don’t have to go to your primary care provider now to get tested. If you have symptoms and want to be tested but have no primary care and are not insured you can go online and make an appointment at https://prd.blogs.nh.gov/dos/hsem/?page_id=8479
Kuster gave her own advice that works for her and her family: Get outside and “smell the roses as my mother would say. The birds are singing… do something kind for someone else…reading a good book. Watching a movie or work on jigsaw puzzles. Please do take care.”