MANCHESTER — Emergency management officials in Manchester announced Thursday the city will begin targeted testing for COVID-19, in accordance with updated testing guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Health care providers are determining who should be tested, city officials said.
According to a news release, COVID-19 testing supplies are limited, and to preserve resources priority will be given to symptomatic healthcare professionals, first responders, and other critical workforce members in the community who are caring for people in high-risk groups.
High-risk groups include older adults (60 years and older) and/or people with serious chronic conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, for example.
Claremont councilor closes restaurant
Claremont City Councilor Nick Koloski shut down Time-Out Sports Bar and Grill, the restaurant he runs with his mother, Mary Koloski, rather than try to keep going with takeout-only orders during the COVID-19 restrictions.
“I was faced with the decision to limp along or do what’s fair for employees,” Koloski said.
Koloski’s three longtime employees are now free to sign up for unemployment, he said. Koloski ran the restaurant and his escape room entertainment business, Escape Factory, out of the Topstone Mill building on Mulberry Street.
Koloski said he has been building his Escape Factory business for years and was starting to see it gain traction in recent months.
“The escape room side of the business has dropped to zero,” he said. “We had several large corporate and school field trip bookings. All gone.”
Erica Sweetser, another city councilor, has already been laid off from her server job at Taverne on the Square, which is doing takeout orders only, per Gov. Chris Sununu’s order on Monday.
“A lot of restaurant employees are young, with kids, who now can’t go to school either,” she said.
Sweetser fears a lot of restaurants will be unable to reopen once the pandemic measures are lifted, potentially leaving a lot of people out of work.
Keene State switches to remote learning
After initially delaying the return of students to campus, Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell said Wednesday the school will be cleared out for the rest of the semester and all classes will be held remotely.
“This decision to extend campus restrictions and remote learning through the semester reduces the number of people gathered in our space, and provides more opportunity for social distancing,” Treadwell wrote in an email to students Wednesday night. “This is a difficult decision to share, but it’s important at this time of rapid growth of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Keene State initially planned to have two weeks of remote learning after this week’s spring break, but Treadwell announced Tuesday night that remote learning would be extended after a Keene State faculty member tested positive for COVID-19.
The faculty member is being treated at a Massachusetts hospital.
All students must stay off campus for the rest of the year, and students who stayed in Keene for the break will be helped to get home, Treadwell said. Some students with extenuating circumstances will be allowed to remain on campus, she said.
Room and board for the rest of the year will be refunded once the college calculates the prorated cost.
“The college will continue its functions to support students, just in a different way,” Treadwell said.
Plans for the school’s spring commencement are still up in the air, Treadwell said.
“We are developing contingency plans with our senior class executive board. It’s too early right now to make a final determination about commencement,” Treadwell said.
Bolduc places blame on China
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc said China’s secrecy led to the worldwide spread of COVID-19 that could have more devastating consequences than the Ebola virus he dealt with as a brigadier general working in Africa.
Bolduc, a Stratham resident, was the head of U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
During a telephone conference call with reporters, Bolduc said those fighting Ebola dealt with many of the same challenges, including a shortage of protective personal equipment and a need to dramatically expand hospital bed capacity.
But one difference, Bolduc said, was the leaders of countries seeking to contain Ebola cooperated with one another in contrast to what he said was China’s refusal to be transparent early on about the outbreak.
“All these areas came together and worked much better than we are seeing now,” Bolduc said. “The French, Germans, British, Japanese, the UN came together, African Union and NATO, they all cooperated.”
By contrast, Bolduc said the actions of China’s leadership made the spread of COVID-19 much worse.
“It’s my perspective that everything I have read is China is the problem here, China has created this entire worldwide epidemic,” Bolduc said.
Bolduc said he agrees with the past views of Sen. Thomas Cotton, R-Ark, who has said the Chinese government was responsible for the virus and could have created it as a biological weapon.
“This is probably a biological program that they put together and, unfortunately, it got beyond what they could contain and the entire country is now infected by it,” Bolduc said.
Many western health care officials have pushed back on that theory and there were reports in the past week that Russian hackers were promoting this and other conspiracies on the Internet to foster division in the U.S.
The European Union reported that disinformation reports include “claims that the coronavirus was brought to us by migrants, or that it is a bio-weapon developed by either the U.S., the U.K. or China.”
HHS ends in-person interviews for welfare, other assistance
The state agency that processes applications for welfare, food stamps and other public assistance will no longer take applications by the public in person due to concerns regarding COVID-19, state officials announced Thursday.
This ban on “client-facing” activity will continue “until further notice,” officials said.
The district offices of the Bureau of Family Assistance across the state will remain open to take these requests either by telephone or online.
People in need of assistance may apply for benefits at www.nheasy.nh.gov and will be scheduled for a phone interview in order to complete their application.
Those with no internet access who are applying for assistance through the agency should call 1-844-275-3447.
Manchester launches online form for those looking to donate
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig announced Thursday the city has developed a form for people to fill out to donate time, money or resources after receiving numerous phone calls and emails from people wanting to know what they can do to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The support we’ve seen from across our community is incredible,” said Craig. “I want to thank everyone for all they’ve done over the last week. We are facing an unprecedented time in our city’s history, and many things are unknown. But, residents across the Queen City have stepped forward and offered help to our health care providers, our first responders, our students and more. It makes me so proud to be from Manchester.”
Individuals looking to donate time, services, resources or funding can visit the Manchester Emergency Operations Center Page, or visit: https://www.manchesternh.gov/Departments/Fire/Emergency-Center/COVID19-How-Can-I-Help.
City officials said if a need arises that fits your particular options, someone will reach out to you.
Residents with questions surrounding COVID-19 can direct them to COVID19@manchesternh.gov.
Manchester police waive fees for electronic records requests
Manchester police announced Thursday the department is waiving fees associated with obtaining incident or accident reports if those documents are sent electronically, in an effort to minimize face-to-face contact between personnel and the public.
Anyone in need of a copy of an incident or accident report who is unable to receive the documents electronically is asked to call ahead at 668-8711 before heading to police headquarters.
“All emergency calls will be handled as usual, including crimes in progress, those of a violent nature, or crimes against a person,” Manchester police said in a release. “The number of officers on the streets has not decreased. We are working diligently to continue to provide the same level of service the city expects and deserves. We understand this ever changing situation has many people on edge, and this is unchartered territory for everyone.”
Hannaford schedules special hours for seniors
Hannaford Supermarkets announced effective March 24 that its stores will offer dedicated shopping hours for people age 60 and older, as well as those with compromised immune systems. Stores will open early from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Tuesday through Thursday.
In addition, Hannaford is shortening its general store-operating hours starting Saturday in order to provide for additional time to clean, stock shelves and give workers additional time to rest, the company said in a release Thursday. The new daily hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.