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MA’s 1st virus variant case; New test to NH governor’s power

January 18, 2021 GMT

MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts health officials have announced the state’s first case of the more infectious coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom.

A Boston woman who traveled to the United Kingdom felt sick the day after she returned, the state Department of Public Health said Sunday. The health department said it was notified of her test results on Saturday evening.

The woman in her 20s had tested negative for COVID-19 before leaving the U.K., officials said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant is about 50% more contagious than the other strain that is currently causing the bulk of cases in this country.

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Health officials said by March, the new strain will likely become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States. The CDC says there’s no evidence that it causes more severe illness or is transmitted differently so mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing and other prevention strategies can still work.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

More than 300 New Hampshire residents have filed a formal request asking the Legislature to repeal the powers granted to the governor during an emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The remonstrance received by the House clerk on Thursday argues that the law granting the governor emergency management powers is unconstitutional, though it has been upheld in court.

“The experience and feeling of your Memorialists too dearly prove that some ruinous exercise of undelegated powers of issuing emergency orders and public policy guidelines enforced as law has been lately adopted in New Hampshire,” the group wrote. “Such acts could have been devised to bring the good people of this State into the deepest distress.”

Several lawmakers have filed bills limiting the governor’s powers. One would require the governor to explain the conditions necessary to extend a state of emergency and would require approval of the Legislature or Executive Council for renewal. Another would allow the Legislature to terminate any emergency order or part of an order, while a third would require legislative approval of any order issued during the renewal of a state of emergency.

Polls have shown Republican Gov. Chris Sununu enjoying bipartisan support for his handling of the pandemic, and he easily won reelection to a third term in November. He has faced opposition from some members of his own party, as well as protests outside his home, however, from people who disagree with the restrictions.

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RHODE ISLAND

The Rhode Island House of Representatives has canceled its session on Tuesday after some members of the senior and operational staff tested positive for COVID-19.

House Speaker Joe Shekarchi said in an email to representatives on Monday morning that he was canceling the scheduled session at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium “out of an abundance of caution,” WPRI-TV reported.

It’s the second session this year that has been scraped because of cases among some employees.

“As you know, my highest priority is to protect the health and safety of all House members,” Joe Shekarchi, D-Warwick, wrote in the email. He did not say how many employees had tested positive or when they were infected.

The House was still planning to hold another session on Thursday, he said.

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CONNECTICUT

Hundreds of Connecticut schoolteachers were able to sign up for coronavirus vaccine appointments before they were actually eligible, due to confusion over the rollout rules, a newspaper reported Monday.

State Health Department spokesperson Maura Fitzgerald told The Hartford Courant the issue arose after some school districts mistakenly put their entire staff rosters into a registration system when the state actually had asked only for lists of school nurses.

Teachers in those districts got automated emails confirming their registrations. That enabled them to make appointments to get the shots, and an unknown number did so, the newspaper said.

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VERMONT

The Vermont attorney general’s office says it has reached a settlement with a Rutland gym owner who reopened in May against state rules early in the pandemic.

Under the settlement announced Friday, Club Fitness and owner Sean Manovill agreed to comply with the governor’s executive order and make a payment to the Vermont Foodbank’s Rutland Regional Distribution Center, the attorney general’s office said.

Currently, gyms are allowed to operate with occupancy limits and other restrictions.

“These are tough times for all Vermonters, including Vermont’s small businesses,” Attorney General T.J. Donovan said in a written statement. “But even in these tough times, we all have to do our part. The vast majority of Vermonters have done the right thing by following the executive orders and the advice of public health experts.”

Manovill could not be reached for comment. A phone message was left at Club Fitness on Monday, a federal holiday.

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MAINE

An outbreak of COVID-19 has closed the fire department in the town of Alfred.

All fire and EMS personnel are in quarantine after multiple workers tested positive, newscentermaine.com reported.

Emergency calls will be covered by Sanford, Waterboro, Lyman, Kennebunk, and Goodwins Mills, town selectmen announced Saturday.

“Obviously our fire and rescue personnel took all the precautions that are possible but considering all the close contact with other people, it is not surprising this occurred,” selectmen wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s the reason first responders get the first doses of the vaccine, but as you know the numbers have surged recently and this is a reflection of that surge.”