A mobile testing center that opened at the New Hampshire National Guard Armory over the weekend was overwhelmed Monday by people who were not referred there by a doctor, officials said.
The location was supposed to be used only to test people referred there by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Jake Leon, a DHHS spokesman.
The site is not the only one in the state, but officials are not identifying the location of others.
Across the country, mobile testing centers have been open for people to be tested after consultation with their physician or health care provider.
Testers wear personal protective equipment and use swabs to gather samples.
The Manchester center included a police-operated road block and red tents. Health officials say such operations allow screening to take place safely away from other locations, such as emergency rooms.
The testing center is staffed by the Metropolitan Medical Response System, a volunteer corps of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, mental-health professionals and others who assist during public health events.
Late last week, Elliot Hospital opened a similar structure on its campus, a “surge tent” designed to allow testing outside the ER.
As with the mobile testing center, patients must contact their doctor before arriving at the Elliot and seeking a test.
In-person court proceedings suspended
In-person hearings and other proceedings in the New Hampshire court system will close for three weeks starting Tuesday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court announced.
In a three-page order issued by senior Supreme Court Justice Gary Hicks, the court said the suspension of in-person hearings will run from the close of business on Monday to Monday, April 6. Hearings and other proceedings will resume the following day unless changed by the court. The suspension covers the Supreme Court and the superior and circuit courts.
Last week, New Hampshire court officials canceled superior court jury trials for a month. That move did not cover the much more frequent actions that take place in courthouses every day — hearings on pre-trial issues; bench conferences at which judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors discuss the progress of a case; and plea and sentencing hearings where plea bargains are made to avoid trial.
The memo extended deadlines on any court business until April 7. All protection orders and temporary injunctions with deadlines over the next three weeks also are extended to April 7.
The memo included a number of exceptions: proceedings such as bail hearings or plea agreement for jailed defendants; requests for domestic protection, stalking or child-abuse orders; DCYF requests for emergency orders; emergency orders in child custody cases; requests for emergency injunctive relief; guardianship proceedings; cases involving involuntary admission to the state psychiatric hospital; emergency relief in landlord/tenant matters; proceedings related to COVID-19; and other exceptions approved by a judge.
The Supreme Court said a judge can hold hearings at locations other than normally expected or by video conferencing or by telephone. The court also said that in-court proceedings will be limited to the parties, their lawyers, security officers, witnesses and “other necessary persons as determined by the trial judge.”
That would be a divergence from traditional and constitutional norms, which guarantee that nearly all court hearings are open to the public, including the media.
The state Supreme Court did stress that judges remain responsible to ensure that “core constitutional functions and rights are protected.” But they went on to say that judges and court clerks should try to limit in-person courtroom contact as much as possible.
Grocery stores will be restocked
A Hannaford Supermarkets spokesperson said the chain’s shelves are being restocked, but consumers might not able to buy as many items as they have in recent days.
“For high-demand products, there may be purchase limits. We are working as quickly as possible to replenish specific high-demand items when a low inventory occurs. And we are in close contact with our suppliers so that we can keep our shelves stocked and serve customers,” said Ericka Dodge, Hannaford’s manager of external communications.
“It is important for all of us at this time to be mindful of other customers who also have needs. So to that end, we encourage customers to purchase what they need and leave some for others.”
Gov. Chris Sununu said he has spoken with grocery store and delivery truck operators and was confident supplies would be replenished.
“Overall the supply chain is good….the stocks will be resupplied,” Sununu said.
Sununu said the items most in demand, besides paper products, are flour and bread.
City tax office closed to public
The Manchester’s Tax Collector’s Office — where city residents both pay their property tax bills and register their automobiles — was closed to the public at noon Monday until further notice.
A drop box will be used to avoid face-to-face transactions, the city said.
The city also asked that people avoid visiting the Ordinance Bureau, where parking tickets are paid, for the next two weeks.
Online payments for taxes and car registrations can be made through the city website.
NH Maple Weekend is canceled
The New Hampshire Maple Producers Association Board of Directors announced Monday “with heavy hearts” that it is canceling New Hampshire
Maple Weekend March 21-22 and the remainder of New Hampshire Maple Month.
Sugar-makers in New Hampshire still have maple syrup and maple products available, and local sugar houses can be contacted directly to see if they’re open for guests, the group said in a statement.
“Additionally, NH sugar houses may offer off-hours pick-up, sell their products online, and be willing to mail their delicious maple products right to the customer’s door,” the statement read.
A list of local sugar houses can be found at www.nhmapleproducers.com.
PA, Chester Academy warn of possible COVID-19 exposure
School officials at Pinkerton Academy and Chester Academy sent notices to families of students over the weekend reporting incidents involving potential exposure to coronavirus at both schools.
Officials at Pinkerton Academy reported Sunday an individual from “our daily school community” tested positive for COVID-19, while Chester Academy officials warned of possible COVID-19 exposure to young children involved in the YMCA aftercare program.
According to a notice sent by Pinkerton Academy headmaster Tim Powers, officials with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notified the school Sunday that the department is trying to determine who might have come in close contact with the infected person, who has not been on campus since last Tuesday.
Also on Sunday, SAU 82 Superintendent Darrell Lockwood posted a notice on the Chester Academy website that a person who had contact with the YMCA aftercare program last week has tested positive for COVID-19. DHHS has requested contact information for parents of children who attended the program last Monday and Tuesday.
Sununu, AG advise about public meetings
The coronavirus represents a public emergency that would permit government boards to conduct business without a quorum being physically present, Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald advised in a memo Monday.
The memo also states the emergency declaration could permit a meeting to be held without the required 24-hour notice under the Right-to-Know Law, though they suggested such a move should be rare.
“Where the rationale justifying the emergency meeting is the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by physical attendance, there should generally not be a need to waive the notice requirement,” they advised.
The guidance stressed that if meetings are held electronically or with most or all members not physically present the public must have the opportunity to observe or at least listen in on all meetings.
All votes taken at such emergency sessions should be by roll call, Sununu and MacDonald said.
Programs canceled at state prisons
Visitation and volunteer services have been suspended at all state prisons and correctional facilities, the New Hampshire Corrections Department said.
The suspension, effective Monday, includes in-person visits with inmates and attorneys.
“The Department of Corrections will make accommodations for electronic attorney/client activity,” the department said in a statement.
Officials will re-evaluate the decision no later than April 3.
“We will lift these restrictions when it is safe to do so,” the statement read.
Sick rider sidelines Nashua bus
A Nashua Transit System bus was removed from service Monday afternoon after an ill passenger stepped off the bus.
“We did get a notification that they took a bus offline,” said Justin Kates, emergency management director for the city. “It could have been somebody with the flu, or somebody that was just sick. We didn’t have a confirmation that it was COVID-19, and we don’t have a confirmation if it was even related to COVID-19.”
However, out of an abundance of caution, the bus driver informed the Nashua Transit Center about the situation and the decision was made to take the bus out of service, he said.
The vehicle is being cleaned and sanitized, according to Kates.
The city’s public health department is conducting an investigation, he said, adding it was not immediately known if the passenger was a male or female, or if they were on their way to receive medical attention.
Food pantry in city is temporarily closed
Families in Transition-New Horizons announced Monday that it has temporarily closed its Manchester food pantry through Tuesday “in order to allow time for staff to plan for safe and effective food distribution taking into account all of the guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
It has also temporarily closed its thrift store and suspended clothing and home goods donations.
FIT said in a statement it has also suspended its agency-wide volunteer programs for the next three weeks and encouraged staff who can work from home to do so.
Compiled from wire reports, Union Leader staffers Mark Hayward, Paul Feely, Kevin Landrigan and Union Leader correspondent Kimberly Houghton.