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:
More than 1 million doses of vaccine have been administered in New Hampshire, and more than half of the state’s total population has received at least a first dose, according to Beth Daley, chief of the state bureau of infectious disease control.
“Even if you think you’re at low risk for severe infection, getting vaccinated will help keep you at work or in school, it prevents you from having to quarantine after an exposure and it will help to protect the people around you who may be more vulnerable,” she said.
Appointments are still available for three state-run clinics offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this weekend in Concord, Nashua and Newington. U.S. health officials lifted an 11-day pause on that COVID-19 vaccination last week, after scientific advisers decided its benefits outweigh the rare risk of blood clot.
Treasury guidance: U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire are requesting that the Treasury Department provide guidance to states on how to use funds allocated to them in the American Rescue Plan.
The senators said given impending budget deadlines, New Hampshire and other states “require prompt guidance from Treasury regarding the eligible uses of state and local relief funds.”
States specifically need guidance on a section of law that “aims to ensure that relief funds are directed toward essential workers, services, and investments,” they said.
State workers: State government employees who have been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic will be back in their offices by May 10, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday.
“All agencies are getting the same message, we’re not picking or choosing certain agencies or divisions or departments,” he said. “We expect to be fully operational and in person, with buildings open to the public, with public access for the business transactions that have to happen one-on-one.”
While Sununu lifted the statewide mask mandate earlier this month, state offices remain subject to any municipal ordinances in their particular location, according to his office. The ordinance in Concord, however, where many state offices are located, only applies to retail businesses.
Individual workers can wear masks if they prefer, Sununu said.
The numbers: Nearly 95,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 264 cases announced Friday. Two new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 1,303.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks, going from 441 new cases per day on April 14 to 252 new cases per day on Wednesday.
Vermont will relax its guidance on mask-wearing outside on Saturday while also moving to the second phase of reopening that will allow larger gatherings, lift industry-specific guidance for most businesses and require them to all follow the same rules about wearing masks, distancing and staying home when sick, Gov. Phil Scott said Friday.
Starting Saturday, vaccinated and unvaccinated Vermonters will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors if they are able to physically distance themselves. The new rules follow updated guidance this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Scott said during his twice-weekly virus briefing.
Masks will only be required in crowds or with multiple households when distancing isn’t possible, said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
“The science and data show that outdoor transmission is rare, it poses little risk if you follow our guidance,” the Republican governor said. Municipalities and businesses can have stricter policies if they want, Scott said.
Over 60% of Vermont adults are vaccinated, meeting the state’s goal to move to the second phase of reopening, Scott said. If the state reaches 70% of adults vaccinated by June 1, the state will be able to take its final step to turn mandates into recommendations in July, he said.
“We’re getting closer and closer to getting back to normal again. Why? Because vaccines work,” he said. “If you need proof, just look at our declining hospitalizations, our death rate and our seven-day case count average, which is the lowest its been since November.”
Over 90% of Vermonters 65 and older are now vaccinated. But officials are concerned about the lag in people aged 18 to 29 getting shots.
Scott urged Vermonters to step up and do the right thing as a public service, especially younger people.
The only thing “we’re asking of this group, this 18- to 29-year-old grouping, is to have one shot. Do one thing. Step up to help everyone else. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask,” Scott said.
There are plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated in the upcoming weeks, said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.
The next phase of reopening starting Saturday moves universal guidance to wear masks, distance and stay home when sick to the following businesses: manufacturing, construction and distribution operations; restaurants, catering food service and bars; religious facilities and places of worship; close-contact businesses including gyms and fitness centers; organized sports including youth and adult leagues; hair salons and barber shops; indoors arts culture and entertainment; and meetings of public bodies, said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling.
He stressed that the distancing requirement under universal guidance, as opposed to specific guidance by industry, still remains, meaning that “safe distancing and crowd limitations are still important mitigation measures in most setting,” he said.
Health care, education, child care and summer camps continue to have specialized guidance, Schirling said.
Also on Saturday, indoor gatherings and events may include one unvaccinated person per 100 square feet (9.2 square meters) for up to 150 unvaccinated people, in addition to any number of vaccinated individuals. Outdoor gatherings may include up to 300 unvaccinated people and any number of vaccinated people, he said.
“Again, physical distancing and masking remain important safety measures for gathering both indoors and outside,” Schirling said.
The numbers: Vermont reported 124 cases of the coronavirus on Friday for a statewide total to date of more than 22,900 cases.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont decreased over the past two weeks, going from 142.14 new cases per day on April 14 to 71.29 new cases per day on April 28.