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Restaurants boost capacity, courthouses keep travelers out

August 22, 2020 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Restaurants are letting more customers in, while courthouses might keep some recent travelers out as New Hampshire responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

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RESTAURANT CAPACITY

New Hampshire restaurants statewide can resume indoor dining at full capacity, Gov. Chris Sununu said Friday.

Restaurants have been allowed to serve customers indoors since June 15, but those in Rockingham, Hillsborough, Merrimack and Strafford counties have been limited to 50% capacity because the majority of the state’s COVID-19 cases have occurred there and because of their proximity to the Massachusetts border. But restaurant owners have been urging the state to relax the restrictions as the end of summer nears.

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“We’re coming into the fall months, and outdoor seating is not going to be as possible as it was over the summer,” Sununu said. “So effective immediately, we’ll have 100 percent capacity in restaurants that choose to do so.”

Restrictions remain related to the distance between tables, face mask requirements and limits on bar service.

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TAX SPAT

An emergency tax rule in Massachusetts is undermining both public health and New Hampshire’s sovereignty during the coronavirus pandemic, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said Friday.

MacDonald wrote to the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue ahead of a public hearing next week on a July 21 rule that subjects New Hampshire residents who were working in Massachusetts before the pandemic to Massachusetts’ income tax while they work from home.

Previously, New Hampshire residents were only taxed for days spent in Massachusetts, and the regulation has raised strong objects in New Hampshire, one of nine states without an income tax. Beyond the harm to individuals, MacDonald said the regulation is at odds with efforts to protect public health, including a drastic increase in remote working.

“This increase is not a matter of convenience, but rather a concerted civic effort,” he said. “The Emergency Income Tax Rule undermines that effort by imposing a retroactive, extraterritorial income tax on individuals who are doing their civic duty to protect the broader public health at a time when they can least afford an unexpected new cost.”

He also said the rule raises significant legal concerns and is “incompatible with New Hampshire’s unique sovereign policy choices.”

“New Hampshire’s rejection of an individual earned income tax has been longstanding, consistent, express, clear and bipartisan,” he said.

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COURTHOUSE TRAVEL

The New Hampshire court system is adopting the state’s general travel guidance and requiring anyone who travels outside of New England to quarantine for 14 days before entering a courthouse.

An order issued Friday advises litigants and lawyers to plan ahead and to notify witnesses and others who would attend in-person proceedings.

Courts have been open on a very limited basis. A pilot program to resume jury trials begins next week in Cheshire County.

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DARTMOUTH DELAY

Dartmouth College is delaying its decision about the date undergraduate students will begin returning to campus.

The college had planned to announce arrival dates and room assignments this week, but instead will do so early next week, Provost Joseph Helble said during a live webcast Wednesday. The goal is to ensure thoughtful, data-driven decisions, he said.

“We absolutely must continue to advance the public good and the health and safety of our community over any individual preference,” he said.

About 2,300 undergraduate students, about half the usual population, will be on campus this fall. Classes are scheduled to start on Sept. 14.

The college also is reminding students that they will be subject to the same daily online self-screening process that employees have faced since May.

Students living on campus will be required to complete the screening even if they don’t leave their rooms or residence halls.

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THE NUMBERS

As of Friday, 7,071 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 21 from the previous day. The number of deaths stood 428. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks from 29 new cases per day on Aug. 6 to 18 new cases per day on Aug. 20.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia or death.