By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Going virtual with performing arts and getting back on the horse to go riding were among the issues tackled on Monday by the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force.
The task force also revisited issues related to opening massage therapy, attractions, lodging, gyms, and daycare. It is the job of the 19-member board to create reopening guidelines for industries during the pandemic.
The task force has been meeting daily by phone for several weeks with industry officials and has already created some guidelines.
After the presentations from the industry, the task force meets in subcommittees that recommend guidelines which then go to the full task force, then to the state Department of Health for consideration before Gov. Chris Sununu makes a decision on reopening.
Monday was the first day for the reopening of the state’s retail shops and golf courses after almost two months of closure. Dentists and the offices of oral surgeons, which had been open for an emergency, also opened for more routine procedures Monday.
Malls are also open, and Sununu sent a letter to Simon Malls, which operates a number of malls in Southern New Hampshire.
The safety guidelines for malls, which include no seating in the food courts but allow for grab and go foods, are part of the plan, and employees will wear masks.
D.J. Bettencourt, chair of the task force, said the governor noted in a letter to Simon Malls that the state “will be watching to make sure things go smoothly.”
While the public is invited to listen to the task force and can access information www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce copies of the subcommittee drafts being discussed most days, and again Monday, were not available to the public and no agenda was available until minutes before the daily meeting at 1:30.
On Tuesday the task force plans to vote on various business sector guidelines. On Wednesday, there will be three presentations – charitable gambling, indoor sports arenas, and tattoo. On Thursday, municipalities, weddings and venues will be discussed, and on Friday a public comment session is planned.
Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, and a member of the task force, said 95 percent of the guidelines were offered by the equine community. Similar to golf guidelines, this includes appointments scheduled, pre-screening for COVID-19, arrival and departure times scheduled, and sanitation of tack after use.
Group lessons would be allowed provided the ring is at no more than 50 percent of its maximum occupancy.
Gyms, yoga studios, gymnastics clubs, martial arts, dance studios, and fitness training guidelines would include added employee protections, disinfecting, and training. This includes pools.
Capacity would be limited to 50 percent and it would be for New Hampshire residents and members only and no new memberships or guests during phase one. It includes bring your own mats for yoga. Sanitation of equipment would be required on a regular basis.
Lockers would be open for changing but when possible, the patrons should come in and leave without using the locker room. Showers would be off-limits but in some pools, there are rinse-off stations and they would remain open.
Trish Tilley of the state Division of Public Health services, said this is a complete set of guidelines and a varied group.
“It may take some time for us to consider,” she said.
Sen. Shannon Chandley D-Amherst, a member of the task force, said the arts group is very broad and they are getting a working group together to answer questions and go into more detail on opening guidance.
Lang said it is about the ability for performing arts to host events and stream them live on the internet for a fee. This would still require staff and employee protections but not patron access.
He called it “low-hanging fruit” that could likely be approved while more discussion is underway about live performances with audiences.
On May 22 the goal is for a soft opening of lodging, with 50 percent capacity a maximum for hotels, Lang said.
This category includes motels, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and hotels.
Enhanced housekeeping would be required. Doorknobs would be cleaned every two hours.
Room service would be offered as a replacement for restaurant service and check-ins and check-outs would be online.
Most daycare centers have been closed but some have stayed open to care for children of first responders to the pandemic.
Bettencourt said guidelines are meant as assurances for parents and for direction to protect all from COVID-19. A vote is expected Tuesday on these guidelines.
Masks would be required for the employees but not for the children. Those children who have a high-risk profile need to stay home. Activities and lunch and snack time would be limited to no more than 10 at a time. There would be staggered drop-off and pick-up times, he said.
Ventilation, gloves, and other precautions for hands-on teaching materials and toys would need to be cleaned at the end of each day.
Vickie Branch, a government relations coordinator for the massage industry in the state, worked with the task force and a variety of massage and body workers to come up with guidance.
It does not include acupuncture. The template includes statutory references and definitions of the work. Cloth masks and a change of clothing would be required between each client.
Clients would need to wear masks with the exception of when they are lying prone. No shaking hands or hugging would be allowed. No walk-in appointments and pre-consultation would be required to ensure that the client did not have exposure to COVID-19.
Bettencourt said it is a therapeutic aspect to the economy and many are eager for these to open.
Bruce Berke, a member of the task force, said mini-golf, fishing charters, bike rentals, kayak rentals, race tracks, and amusement parks are included in this guidance document.
The ones with natural settings, in the outdoors, were separated from indoors so the focus of this group is the former in the first phase.
These businesses could maintain up to 50 percent capacity or what space allows for in terms of social distancing, he said.
Efforts to handle financial transactions online would be encouraged.
Sanitizing equipment after every use would be under the guidelines along with new messaging, directional flow markers, and hand-washing stations.
No indoor seating, keeping visiting groups to ten or fewer, and some by appointment would help.