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Ski, snowmobile businesses see good season, with changes

December 9, 2020 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Ski and snowmobile businesses in New Hampshire are optimistic about the season as they see increased interest in people eager to get outdoors, but they note there will changes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Your car is sort of your base lodge this year,” Ben Wilcox, general manager of the Cranmore Mountain Resort, said during an online meeting Wednesday hosted by U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas. People should try to store their equipment in their car; no bags are being allowed in buildings, he said.

There will be social distancing in lift lines. Face coverings will be required at all times except when skiing and eating in a restaurant, Wilcox said.

Cranmore also is going to a reservation system for restaurants and lodges, and season and day tickets are being capped to limit crowds, he said.

Peter Gagne of Northern Extremes Snowmobiling, a rental service in Bartlett, said a lot of new customers are interested in snowmobiling this winter. He said there’s even been record sales for used equipment.

Gagne said he’s advising people to book four to six weeks out for weekends because there’s been record demand. He said he’s also seen a big increase in mid-week reservations.

Ellen Chandler of Jackson Cross Country Ski Center said she’s also seen increased interest in season passes and in programs for children during the week.

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PRISON CASES

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections said it is training National Guard members to fill staffing vacancies at the state prison system for men in Concord because of rising COVID-19 cases.

The department reported more than 50 active virus cases among staff and inmates so far this week. The department says 831 staffers work at the prison and the resident population is over 2,100.

Commissioner Helen Hanks told WMUR-TV about 20 staff are out, and the National Guard will help fill some positions. She said they will not directly supervise inmates.

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“We want to be very careful that we reserve the direct resident work to our certified corrections officers and use the National Guard service members in a way that’s effective and will have positive outcomes for all of us,” Hanks said.

Hanks said the prison is following federal and state public health guidelines.

The department is isolating any residents that show signs of COVID-19, based on CDC guidelines for detention centers.

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MASKS IGNORED

A New Hampshire county legislative delegation held a public meeting with some members deciding not to wear a mask, despite a statewide mandate requiring them to do so when social distancing isn’t possible.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who approved the mask mandate in November, said this kind of meeting “is incredibly irresponsible and flies in the face of open government while putting public health at risk,” The Laconia Daily Sun reported.

Lakes Region Public Access usually sends an employee to videotape the Belknap County meeting, but did not do so this time because it could not be assured state-required public health measures would be followed, said station manager Grace McNamara.

An audio link was eventually set up for Tuesday’s budget meeting after The Sun said it had asked the attorney general’s office to intervene. The newspaper cited the risk of getting COVID-19 from attending the event in person. The Sun said it didn’t hear back from the office.

Rep. Mike Sylvia, a Republican from Belmont who set up the event, said about half of the 18 representatives wore masks; The Sun said he was one of them. There were about 10 people in the audience.

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PASSPORT CENTER WORKERS

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is asking for COVID-19 relief aid for the Office of Passport Services, which is facing job cuts nationwide.

The Democratic delegation wrote to congressional leaders on Senate and House appropriations committees on Tuesday for funding to prevent job cuts. The National Passport Center in Portsmouth is the nation’s largest passport processing facility.

Passport demand has been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

The delegation wrote that maintaining the workforce “will be integral to ensuring the processing capacity expected by the public, particularly if there is a surge in passport demand following the pandemic.”

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THE NUMBERS

More than 27,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including more than 1,000 cases announced Wednesday that included results from several days earlier in the week. Four new deaths were announced, for a total of 570 since the pandemic began.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from nearly 440 new cases per day on Nov. 24 to over 660 new cases per day on Tuesday.