Virus in New England: Anti-lockdown protest in New Hampshire
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A look at developments around New England related to the coronavirus pandemic:
A few hundred demonstrators cheered and waved signs outside the New Hampshire State House on Saturday during a call to reopen the state.
Members of the crowd carried signs with slogans such as “Live Free or Die,” the state’s motto. Others included “Restore Jobs” and “Kiss My Constitution.”
One demonstrator, talk show host Ian Freeman, said the government was guilty of fear-mongering over the state of the virus, and it was time to restore individual rights.
“Even if the virus were 10 times as dangerous as it is, I still wouldn’t stay inside my home. I’d rather take the risk and be a free person,” he said.
New Hampshire has had nearly 1,300 cases of the virus and more than three dozens deaths through Friday.
The ACLU of New Hampshire and national ACLU said they have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court seeking the release of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement civil detainees from Strafford County Department of Corrections in Dover. The ACLU said it’s impossible to maintain safe social distance at the facility.
Physicians with Massachusetts General Hospital said they’ve found widespread evidence of exposure to the new coronavirus in a small Boston-area city.
Nearly a third of 200 Chelsea residents who gave a drop of blood to researchers this week tested positive for antibodies linked to the virus, the Boston Globe reported. The participants seemed to be healthy, but half told doctors they experienced at least one symptom in the past four weeks.
Massachusetts has been hit hard by the virus. More than 1,500 people have died, and a total of 36,372 people have tested positive for the virus. The state hit a new high for deaths in a single day on Friday with 159.
Dr. John Iafrate, vice chairman of MGH’s pathology department and the study’s principal investigator, told the Globe that Chelsea is in the midst of a “raging epidemic,” but is also probably further along in the outbreak than other communities.
The state’s largest city is backing off restrictions on non-essential businesses that prohibited them from shipping items or allowing curbside pickup.
Portland officials initially said non-essential businesses would be limited to administrative functions. Many business owners complained the new rules were punitive, and the City Council is scheduled to hold a remote emergency meeting on the subject on Monday.
The city is also scheduled to consider whether to extend a stay-at-home order that lasts to April 27.
Maine has had 847 people test positive for the virus and 32 deaths.
Vermont’s largest city has closed some roads to vehicular through traffic to make it easier for residents to maintain social distance.
City officials told NECN that the initiative is being rolled out in phases. Mayor Miro Weinberger said the goal of the initiative is to allow residents to get outside and enjoy the outdoors while doing it safely.
Vermont has had at least 779 virus positive tests and 35 deaths.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Connecticut has declined for the first time since the outbreak began, Gov. Ned Lamont said Saturday.
New data released by state officials show there were 1,938 hospital patients being treated for the coronavirus disease, eight fewer than on Friday.
“This is providing us with some hope, and is a sign that our social distancing measures are having an impact,” the Democratic governor said. “But one day of data alone does not mean we are out of the woods and can return to life as normal.”
Deaths in the state associated with the coronavirus increased by 50 to 1,086, and the number of people who tested positive increased by 741 to 17,550, officials said.
Lamont visited a new coronavirus rapid testing center in New Haven on Saturday. The site at the former Gateway Community College offers new testing by Abbott Laboratories that produces results in about 30 minutes. People who want the tests must register online to schedule a testing time.
More than 600 tests were completed Friday, the first day of testing at the site, Lamont said. Officials hope to conduct about 750 tests daily.
Also Saturday, Lamont and Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey said marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers in the three states can open for personal use. They said social distancing and sanitizing protocols must be followed, and chartered watercraft services and rentals will not be permitted.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said the state will reopen its economy in phases. She said the phase-in will put a premium on supporting small businesses as well as bigger employers.
Raimondo also said the state has prepared guidelines for who will get hospital care and equipment in the event of shortages. The Providence Journal reported Raimondo said she’s confident it won’t come to that, but the state needs to be prepared for it.
Rhode Island has had more than 100 deaths due to the virus.