By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Restaurants could open for outdoor dining, campgrounds for up to 50 percent of capacity, and retail stores could open by appointment under the first phase of reopening, the Governor’s Economic Re-opening Task Force recommended Thursday.
All of the recommendations made by the 19-member task force now go to the state Department of Public Health for consideration before Gov. Chris Sununu announces his plan Friday at 3 p.m.
There was no way for the public to view the draft recommendations made by the committee prior to the vote during the remote call-in meeting nor were they immediately available after the discussions.
D.J. Bettencourt, Sununu’s policy director who chairs the task force, said they would be up on the website by the end of the day or early Friday at https://www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce.
Outdoor dining would be allowed in the first phase limited to groups of no more than six, according to what could be understood from the discussion on the phone.
The task force voted overwhelmingly with Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, casting the lone dissenting vote to support a subcommittee’s recommendation. Giuda wanted to allow for indoor seating with more space between tables.
State Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, a member of the committee, offered amended committee recommendations that were not available to the public on the website but were being shared with the committee by email.
The industry offered phased recommendations for reopening in-restaurant dining starting with allowing outdoor dining when it made a presentation last week.
The industry’s recommendations are here. https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/0addd671-6a62-405f-8091-b60129c267f9/Reopening-Task-Force-Presentation.pdf and were along the lines of what the committee is recommending.
Take-out service is already allowed.
While the industry would continue to serve the public with curbside and delivery, it would allow for stores to open with limitations with the focus on limiting density and keeping social distancing. The industry submitted the following proposed guidance. https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/bb39b64e-eb43-48dd-8ed5-135380df3df7/4-24-2020-Retail-Presentation-to-Re-Opening-Task-Force_1.pdf.
Again, no draft proposal from the committee was made public.
State Sen. Shannon Chandley, R-Amherst, asked about the amount of time clothing or shoes would be removed from the shelf after someone tried them on but did not buy them.
The recommendation initially was for 48 hours but after hearing from retailers that this could be difficult for small boutiques, it was recommended that 24 hours would be adequate.
Patrica Tilley, deputy director of the state Department of Public Health, said she wanted to look at the science on how long COVID-19 lives on clothing and other material before she could make a recommendation.
The committee agreed that it would prefer 24 hours but would agree to 48 hours if the health department thought it was needed.
The committee voted unanimously on the first steps to allow for salons to open. Clients and stylists would need to wear cloth face coverings for hair cuts and coloring on a limited, appointment-only basis.
No manicures or pedicures will be allowed yet, but it could be considered part of future phases that could be worked on later. There would be more cleaning requirements, also.
The industry offered these proposed guidelines for opening. https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/8e085b1b-ffe1-4731-a040-f607b2fd54f5/Cosmetology.pdf
State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said the proposal would include a provision that there is no requirement for salons to open.
“If they don’t feel it is financially viable to open them, that is a business decision,” Carson said.
This licensed industry would have a no-cost course on how to open under COVID-19 and the new standards that would be applied would be required as part of the license, Carson said. If they were not in compliance, they would be shut down.
Unemployment benefits for part-time workers will be addressed in the governor’s decision and Carson said that information will be on the board of cosmetology website.
The committee voted unanimously to support the opening of campgrounds with a limited capacity of 50 percent of the campsites being available and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people.
The industry offered proposed guidelines that would reduce capacity and the state health department added amendments to make sure all recommendations were science-based or from CDC recommendations.
The campground industry recommendations are here. https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/3025afa0-7355-41fa-b821-8adaa281a810/NeHaCa-Presentation-to-Re-Opening-Task-Force.pdf
Bruce Berke, a member of the committee, offered an amendment that shower facilities and laundry could be open during the first phased opening. He also proposed that Recreational Vehicle sites could use all of the sites.
Sen. Giuda said the virus doesn’t go through walls and RVs have walls. The committee agreed to the changes.
Tilley said in theory, shower and laundry may be appropriate depending on the location provided that is not in an enclosed area and that social distancing and appropriate cleaning can occur.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state’s epidemiologist, will review the matter of showers and laundry at campgrounds before Sununu’s recommendations are made tomorrow, Bettencourt said.
Phil Bryce, director of state parks, had concerns about staffing levels and meeting some requirements at state campgrounds. He said he does not know how bathrooms, retail, and social distancing are going to work out.
“We only allow six people (to a campsite) now. We are not allowing group camping,” at state campgrounds.
Tilley said the state should reserve personal protective equipment for health-care providers and for most jobs, cloth face coverings would be adequate for most industries and job functions. Carson said the governor should consider PPE for cosmetology workers if there is enough.
Bettencourt said Sununu will address PPE during his address Friday. Tilley said this may be a place where a procedural mask, which is more protective than a face covering, could be used.
Earlier in the afternoon, the committee held the first of two public hearings by phone on flex opening of various aspects of the economy.
Cosmetologists said they are concerned about returning safely to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. What added costs and rules would be applied to their work took up the majority of public testimony to the committee during the first, two-hour public hearing Thursday.
Another public hearing over the phone is scheduled for Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in advance of the governor’s expected announcement Friday afternoon. The task force will also meet from 3 and 5 p.m. The number to call is 1-800-356-8278 and use pin numbers 194499, or 600744 or 125563 to listen.
In addition to hairdressers, there were a number of people who wanted to know why Sununu shut down the state and took their rights away, why beaches were still closed, while some were interested in knowing about cabins in campgrounds, golf courses, bowling allies, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors.
The task for has already received over 1,000 emails at its website at firstname.lastname@example.org and is still taking comments that will be considered by Sununu and the state Department of Public Health.