All U.S. adults are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. To register for a vaccine appointment in New Hampshire, please visit vaccines.nh.gov or call 2-1-1. To register for a vaccine appointment in Vermont, please visit healthvermont.gov or call (855) 722-7878.
Here are the latest developments regarding the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic throughout New England:
New HampshireIndependence Day fireworks celebrations are returning in New Hampshire communities, but with some changes.
In Portsmouth, the City Council voted to to hold the celebration on July 3, with a rain date of July 5. Last year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Seacoastonline.com reports City Manager Karen Conard said this year, there will be no entertainment, food or vendors “so as to discourage gathering.”
The Fourth of July fireworks display in Dover was moved to an area that will allow more of a 360-degree view for spectators, organizers said.
“We usually see between 8,000 to 10,000 people in downtown Dover for a typical Fourth of July,” said Gary Bannon, the city’s recreation director. “We needed a location that would provide enough room for people to spread out. This location allows a lot of people to see it from their neighborhoods, too, so they can meet with their neighbors and safely have more smaller group settings outside.”
Telehealth services: A bill supported by U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare and permanently remove geographic restrictions on them.
The bill also would require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m glad to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to permanently expand telehealth options and in turn get more patients, especially in rural communities, the care that they are counting on,” Hassan said in a statement Monday.
The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act would allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, a provision currently in place because of the pandemic, but on a temporary basis. It also would allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies.
Hassan and Shaheen joined with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a fellow Democrat from Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, and others in introducing the bill.
The numbers: More than 95,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 161 cases announced Monday. No no deaths were announced; the total remained at 1,305.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks, going from 390 new cases per day on April 17 to 222 new cases per day on Saturday.
VermontVermont is leading the nation in the number of vaccines administered per 100,000 people but is slightly below the national average in the number of 18 to 29-year-olds getting the shots, state officials said Tuesday.
Nearly 95% of Vermonters over age 65 have gotten at least one dose but only about half of people under age 30 have been vaccinated or made an appointment to get a shot, Gov. Phil Scott during his biweekly virus briefing.
The state needs to increase those numbers in order to hit the June 1 goal of having over 70% of eligible Vermonters vaccinated so that by July, enough of the state will be vaccinated for mandates and restrictions to be dropped, Scott said.
“So if you want to attend concerts, fairs and festivals, if you want restaurants and bars to stay open past 10:00, do your part and get vaccinated,” the Republican governor said. “This is truly is a moment of service.”
The state is hosting a number of pop-up clinics at colleges, worksites, fairgrounds and speedways that will allow walk-ins, said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. Those included clinics at Middlebury College and Bennington College on Tuesday; St. Michael’s College on Thursday; Northern Vermont University in Lyndon on Friday; Castleton University on Saturday; and Northern Vermont University in Johnson on May 11.
People may also sign up online on the Health Department’s website or by calling 855-722-7878.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine urged people who have not been vaccinated to get one and to look at the experience in Vermont, where there’s almost never a case of COVID-19 in people over 65 now and death rates have plummeted, especially in that age group, he said.
“When a death occurs, it is almost invariably in an unvaccinated person,” he said. “And we’re not hearing about delayed or unanticipated side effects of vaccine months after inoculation. Instead, we are hearing stories of people who got the COVID-19 virus and are having prolonged symptoms or even long-haul syndrome who had not gotten vaccinated.”
Fraud spike: The Vermont Department of Labor stopped accepting new online applications for unemployment benefits last week after its system was receiving nearly 3,000 new claims a day, more than 90% of them fraudulent, Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said Monday.
The department on Friday said it would no longer accept online first-time claims for unemployment benefits. Residents were told to file their claims over the phone. The change dropped the number of new claims by about 90%.
“The hardest part is that these fraudsters have a lot of data points on individuals’ identities,” Harrington said. “It looks like a real person, it feels like a real person, but in the end it’s not.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic Vermont didn’t have a dedicated fraud unit and the department dealt with between five and 10 cases of identity fraud a year. That changed when the pandemic hit.
Harrington said unemployment insurance fraud has been a problem across the country that law enforcement has linked to national and international criminal organizations that could be using peoples’ personal information that was stolen many years ago.
He didn’t have an estimate of how much money has been paid out fraudulently in Vermont. He said it’s likely hundred of thousands, “if not millions of dollars.”
Motor vehicles: The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles is considering whether to reopen a number of regional offices across the state that were closed during the early days of the pandemic.
DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli says they are in the process of evaluating the future of offices in St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, Middlebury, Dummerston, and White River Junction.
Offices in Bennington, Rutland, Newport, South Burlington and Springfield are open by appointment only.
The pandemic spurred significant improvements to online services, such as license renewals and some vehicle registration services, that has reduced demand for in-person services.
Minoli has said the reopening of satellite locations is dependent on how things go in the locations that are open.
Among the services now available online are online vehicle registration and standard learner’s permit tests. Commercial learner’s permits tests must still be taken in person.
Driving tests still must also be taken in person.
The numbers: Vermont reported 34 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, for a statewide total of more more than 23,190 since the pandemic began.
Cases continue on a positive trajectory and have only gone over 100 once in the last two weeks, Levine said.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 117.29 new cases per day on April 18 to 77.29 new cases per day on May 2.