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NH reps push for border to reopen to vaccinated Canadians

August 28, 2021 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is pressing the Biden administration to reopen the U.S.-Canada border to vaccinated Canadians, saying businesses in the state are hurting from a ban on nonessential travel.

The U.S. government recently extended the ban to slow the spread of COVID-19, until at least Sept. 21. Canada opened its side of the border to vaccinated U.S. travelers Aug. 9.

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas met Thursday with representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Canadian Consul in Boston, and state business leaders to discuss the effects of the ban.

“Our businesses and tourism sector are feeling the economic impact, which they already can’t afford as they fight to get their feet back on the ground following the financial fallout from the pandemic,” Shaheen said in a statement. “I understand the serious challenges posed by the rapid spread of the Delta variant and the urgent need to keep people safe, but we also know this is vastly due to an epidemic spurred by the unvaccinated. These are difficult decisions, but I believe there is a responsible way to get this done.”

Hassan said she does not see the reason for extending the border closure even longer, when Canadian vaccination rates “exceed our own, and while Canada is willing and able to admit U.S. visitors.”

The travel restrictions have been in place since early in the pandemic in March 2020 and repeatedly extended while allowing commercial traffic and essential crossings to continue.

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LAWSUIT-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Four New Hampshire residents filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a decision by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s administration to end unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act nearly three months earlier than they were scheduled to run out Sept. 6.

The lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua against the state of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Employment Security and its commissioner asks a judge to reinstate the benefits dating back to June 19, when they were ended. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states where the benefits were ended early.

New Hampshire was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck. Thousands of people were collecting unemployment benefits, including $300 per week supplemental payments either from the state or a federal program created during the pandemic. The state decided to end the extra payments June 19 because the unemployment rate had dropped and given the abundance of available jobs, Sununu had said.

Mike Perez, an attorney representing the four residents, said neither state nor federal law gives New Hampshire Employment Security the authority to abandon a program known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance before it expires.

Ben Vihstadt, a spokesperson for Sununu, said in a statement that when the state announced over three months ago that it would be ending participation in the enhanced federal employment benefits, “it was met with resounding support from people across the aisle.”

Vihstadt said the lawsuit, filed less than two weeks before the federal programs expire, “is nothing more than a political stunt as the state moves ahead with one of the fastest rebounding economies in the country.”

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DARTMOUTH-HITCHCOCK VISITORS

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has gone back to a more restrictive visitor policy and has resumed COVID-19 testing for patients being admitted.

The changes took effect Wednesday, “in the interest of continuing to protect the health and safety of patients and Dartmouth-Hitchcock staff, and our communities,” the center said in a news release. It said the policies are a result of “substantial levels of statewide community transmission of COVID-19.”

Under the revised visitor policy, adult inpatients are allowed one visitor a day. Pediatric inpatients are permitted to have two caregivers, who can’t be changed once they are designated. For outpatient visits, both adults and children are permitted one caregiver. Two caregivers are allowed for newborn/infant appointments.

The center said for births, two adult support people are permitted during the entire stay: before, during and after the birth. Two adult support people may spend the night during labor and delivery, and one adult support person may stay overnight before and after the birth. These designated people cannot change.

The center also will resume COVID-19 testing for any patient being admitted to the hospital, regardless of vaccination status, and prior to surgical procedures in select circumstances.

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THE NUMBERS

More than 106,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 356 cases announced Friday. Five new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 1,415.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 165 new cases a day on Aug. 11 to 277 new cases a day on Wednesday.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.