News & Notes 20/12/17

Covid-19 updateAs of December 7As of December 14
Total cases statewide25,81631,875
Total current infections statewide5,3866,752
Total deaths statewide566604
New cases4,822 (Dec. 1 to Dec. 7)6,059 (Dec. 8 to Dec. 14)
Current infections: Hillsborough County2,0152,453
Current infections: Merrimack County703872
Current infections: Rockingham County1,2961,722
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

On Dec. 10, Gov. Chris Sununu issued Emergency Order No. 75, an order authorizing certain qualifying nursing students in the state to obtain temporary licensure to join the frontlines of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. For the duration of the state of emergency, senior nursing students who are scheduled to graduate on or before May 31, 2021, qualify for the licensure, provided they are practicing under a licensed health care provider.

Also on Dec. 10, the state Attorney General’s office announced in a press release the autopsy results for Speaker of the House Dick Hinch, who died the day before. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie V. Duval determined the cause of Hinch’s death to be Covid-19, according to the release. Hinch had been elected Speaker of the House just one week before his death. He was 71.

During a Dec. 10 press conference, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said that, statewide, New Hampshire has seen around 750 to 800 new infections per day in the last week. The state later reached 30,000 overall infections and 600 deaths — both reported from updates on Dec. 12 — since the start of the pandemic in March.

On Dec. 11, Sununu issued Emergency Order No. 76, so all health care providers administering the vaccine are required to participate in the New Hampshire Immunization Information System, reporting all vaccination events within 24 hours. All patient-level information relating to vaccine administration will then be stored in the system as a medical record. Also on Dec. 11, Sununu issued Executive Order 2020-24, extending the state of emergency in New Hampshire due to the pandemic for another three weeks through at least Jan. 1, 2021.

On Dec. 13, the state Department of Health & Human Services announced in a press release the arrival of the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to New Hampshire. The vaccine was distributed the following day to at-risk health care workers in the state, including frontline clinical staff providing direct patient care. Two doses of vaccine, administered 21 days apart, demonstrated an efficacy rate of 95 percent during initial trials. According to the release, the timeline for widespread access to a Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be approximately six to 12 months.

Charter schools

Last week, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee voted to accept the first $10.1 million installment of a $46 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand public charter school options in the state, with a focus on at-risk students, according to a press release from the New Hampshire Department of Education. The state was first awarded the grant in August 2019 but had been voted down by the fiscal committee along party lines numerous times. According to a press release from the Office of the Governor, the committee has a new Republican majority. “Charter schools are public schools, and this game-changing grant will open up doors of opportunity for school children across the state,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. House and Senate Democrats also released a statement after the vote, saying that the grant is unsustainable and is intended to double the number of charter schools in the state, which will create a $17 million gap in funding for the traditional public school system. “With declining enrollments across the state, it is imperative that we invest more in our existing public schools, not create more schools that will be left underfinanced,” Senator Lou D’Allesandro said in a statement. Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said in a statement that charter schools are an important part of the state’s public school system, giving students non-traditional options to help them thrive. According to the Department of Education, there are 29 public charter schools in the state, seven of which have achieved the federal definition for high-quality charter school replication. The $46 million grant is intended to support efforts to increase the number of high-quality charter schools in New Hampshire, focusing on at-risk, educationally disadvantaged students, according to the press release.

Jury trials

All jury trials in the New Hampshire Superior Court have been canceled through the end of December, according to a press release. Chief Justice of the Superior Court Tina Nadeau made the decision based on the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, noting that there’s more than a 70 percent risk that one person in 25 will be infected in each of the remaining counties where jury trials were to take place in December. “As a result, based on scientific advice provided by the court’s consultant epidemiologist Dr. Erin Bromage, we can no longer conduct jury trial proceedings with adequate protections in place,” Nadeau said in the release. The court will continue to conduct virtual hearings, and as of now, jury trials scheduled to resume in January in Rockingham, Hillsborough Northern District, Cheshire and Merrimack counties will continue.

Here’s something to look forward to in the new year: Winter Fest will be returning to Concord for its third year in a row! Presented by Intown Concord and The Hotel Concord, the event allows spectators to watch ice-carving demonstrations and meet some of New England’s most talented ice carvers on Jan. 29, followed by an ice carving competition on Jan. 30, according to a press release.

The Goffstown and New Boston police departments now have pet microchip readers thanks to a donation from the NH Animal Rescue Alliance. According to a press release, the scanners will allow the police departments to reunite lost pets and their owners.

Several local businesses recently received recognition for being veteran-friendly. According to a press release, the state Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services and NH Employment Security recognized 19 businesses and organizations as NH Veteran-Friendly Businesses at the first annual recognition event, which was held virtually last week. Among the local businesses that received platinum awards were BAE Systems of Nashua, HydraCor of Windham, New Hampshire Hospital Association in Concord and Veteran and First Responder Healthcare of Manchester.

Voting is now underway for the Manchester Holiday Lights Contest, with 43 registered residences vying to win the city’s first lights contest. An interactive map that shows you where to find the houses is available at manchesternh.gov, where you can also vote for your favorite. Voting is open until Monday, Dec. 21.

News & Notes 20/12/10

Covid-19 updateAs of November 30As of December 7
Total cases statewide20,99425,816
Total current infections statewide5,1455,386
Total deaths statewide526566
New cases3,396 (Nov. 23 to Nov. 30)4,822 (Dec. 1 to Dec. 7)
Current infections: Hillsborough County2,2462,015
Current infections: Merrimack County462703
Current infections: Rockingham County1,1181,296
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

In line with the CDC’s updated Dec. 2 guidance for quarantining, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan announced during a Dec. 3 press conference that the required quarantining period for people in New Hampshire who have potentially been exposed to Covid-19 has been decreased from 14 days to 10 days. If someone has not experienced symptoms after the 10th day, the quarantining period can end. However, because of the continued rates of community transmission in the state, Chan said the state is not adopting the CDC’s option to allow people to end quarantining early with a negative test result. “If we were to start implementing a test out of quarantine option, the risk of missing somebody with Covid-19 and of spreading it … within our communities increases even further,” Chan said, “and that is not acceptable to us at this point in time.”

Later in the press conference, Gov. Chris Sununu reported that the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be arriving “very, very shortly” to New Hampshire. “The Pfizer vaccine will be the first one to arrive in the state of New Hampshire, sometime probably in the third week of December, with the Moderna vaccine to arrive likely sometime in the fourth week of December, early in that fourth week,” he said. The first doses will primarily be distributed to health care workers and those in long-term care facilities.

On Dec. 5, the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services issued a notice of potential community exposures connected to positive virus cases. At least eight people who have tested positive for Covid-19 visited Filotimo Casino & DraftKings Sportsbook in Manchester between Nov. 19 and Nov. 29. At least nine people who tested positive visited MacDougall’s Tavern in Keene between Nov. 20 and Nov. 24, and at least two people who tested positive visited the Chop Shop Pub in Seabrook during a live music event on the night of Nov. 21. Anyone who visited either of the three businesses on any of those days should be monitoring symptoms and should seek testing.

On Dec. 7, state health officials reported 1,045 new positive test results of Covid-19, the greatest number in a single day to date.

Also on Dec. 7, Sununu announced on his Facebook and Twitter pages that a member of his staff has tested positive for the coronavirus. According to Sununu, the individual was last in the governor’s office on Dec. 2. “Contact tracing found only one close contact within the office, who is currently quarantining,” Sununu said. “I will continue to monitor for symptoms, as will all other members of my staff.”

Finally, Sununu has joined several other governors in urging Congress to pass a new Covid-19 relief package immediately, according to a press release.

School funding report

Last week the Commission to Study School Funding released its final report, which includes policy recommendations for the 2021 legislative session. The commission was established in 2019 and was appropriated $500,000 for comprehensive research and public engagement processes, according to a press release. “For the first time in decades, this Commission engaged a national research team with expertise in education, public policy, and data analysis to help us understand the problem,” Commission Chair Representative David Luneau said in a statement. According to the press release, student outcomes “vary widely” based on the amount spent per student, as well as unique student needs and the characteristics of each school district. “For New Hampshire to meet its constitutional responsibility where all students have equal opportunity to an adequate education, its state aid distribution funding formula needs to be altered. Currently, most state aid is allocated to districts as a flat universal cost per student. The state can more effectively use its education funds by distributing higher portions of state aid to districts with greater student needs and less capacity to raise funds due to lower property valuations,” Sen. Jay Kahn said in a statement. The report proposes an Education Cost Model that would “assist state budget decisions regardless of the amount of funding distributed.”

DCYF Data Book

The state Division for Children, Youth and Families has released the second DCYF Annual Data Book, which shows that, for the first time ever, DCYF’s child protection workforce is approaching national caseload standards, according to a press release. Right now, the average number of assessments per Child Protective Service Worker is 16 — down from 90 in 2016. Recent legislation has funded more CPSW and supervisor positions, and DCYF’s staff now includes the largest number of CPSWs and supervisors ever, the release said. The Data Book also shows that there has been a reduction in the number of children in out-of-home care, more children being cared for in their own homes with their own families, more foster homes available, and, for the first time since 2015, fewer assessments involving caregivers struggling with substance use disorder, according to the release.

Manchester is holding its first Holiday Lights Contest this year, with anyone interested in participating asked to fill out a registration form prior to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, at manchesternh.gov. According to a press release, all registered lights displays will be included in a Manchester Holiday Lights Map. Any Manchester resident can vote online starting Monday, Dec. 14, and there will be a Virtual Holiday Lights Tour online as well.

Jack Barry of Bedford is being recognized for his work with the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, where he volunteers as the build manager for a student plane-building program that the museum hosts in partnership with the Manchester School of Technology. According to a press release, Barry, 72, is being honored with an Outstanding Volunteer Service Award from VolunteerNH in the senior category.

Make the most of the shortest day of the year with a Winter Solstice Luminary Walk, being held Sunday, Dec. 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Beaver Brook Nature Center in Hollis. There are six time slots for groups of 10 to 12 people, and the cost is $12 per person. Register at beaverbrook.org.

Last week, the City of Nashua held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Dr. Crisp Elementary School and turned on the school’s new 534-panel solar array. According to a press release, that solar array, along with the 1,760 panels that were just installed on the roof of Fairgrounds Middle School, is part of the city’s transition to 100-percent clean energy. The two projects were completed at no cost to taxpayers by ReVision Energy, and they are the first public schools in the state to get all of their annual electricity needs from solar power, the release said.

News & Notes 20/12/03

Covid-19 updateAs of November 22As of November 30
Total cases statewide17,59820,994
Total current infections statewide4,1995,145
Total deaths statewide512526
New cases2,569 (Nov. 17 to Nov. 22)3,396 (Nov. 23 to Nov. 30)
Current infections: Hillsborough County1,6562,246
Current infections: Merrimack County350462
Current infections: Rockingham County8891,118
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

On Nov. 21, the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services issued a notice of potential community exposures connected to positive cases of Covid-19 at Grumpy’s Bar & Grill in Plaistow. According to the notice, the exposures likely occurred in the eatery’s bar and pool table areas on the evenings of Nov. 10 and Nov. 14. State health officials have identified three positive cases of the virus associated with Grumpy’s, and the state Attorney General’s Office is investigating multiple violations of food service guidelines.

New Hampshire surpassed 20,000 positive tests of Covid-19 over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to a Nov. 28 report from WMUR — these included a two-day total of 702 cases on Thanksgiving Day and the following day. WMUR also reported that state hospitalizations from the virus also reached a new high, of 160 as of Dec. 1.

Because people can begin experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 within two days of being exposed, state health officials say now is the time when you will see any direct links between the virus and Thanksgiving celebrations you had, according to WMUR’s Nov. 29 report. The incubation period of the virus can last anywhere from two to 14 days.

On Nov. 30, DHHS issued a notice of potential community exposures connected to positive virus cases at the Stumble Inn Bar & Grill in Londonderry, which occurred between Nov. 11 and Nov. 23. At least 11 positive cases have been reported so far at the Stumble Inn, which is currently closed, according to the notice.

New council

Last week, members of the newly established Council on Housing Stability were announced. According to a press release, the council is a “revamped effort of the State’s Interagency Council on Homelessness” and has been tasked with updating the state’s plan for addressing homelessness, including broader issues related to housing affordability and stability. The council is made up of dozens of members, including city mayors, representatives from several state departments, building and landlord association representatives, experts in the areas of homelessness and housing instability, and people who have experienced housing instability. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, and the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority will lead the council, according to the release. A preliminary plan is due from the council no later than Dec. 14; its first meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4.

NH-JAG awarded

New Hampshire Jobs for America’s Graduates has earned the national 5 of 5 Award, according to a press release. NH-JAG, which provides support for youth in the state who face significant academic, emotional and economic challenges, has met or exceeded JAG’s national standards. The program offers mentoring, employability skills instruction and leadership development activities and is available at eight New Hampshire high schools and one out-of-school health care training program. NH-JAG has served more than 300 students this year, and more than 19,000 students since its inception, according to the release. “In New Hampshire, JAG boasts an impressive 100 percent graduation rate and 76 percent full-time job placement rate, even amid a pandemic. We applaud the NH-JAG Specialists [teachers] for their hard work and unwavering support of their students, which helped NH-JAG achieve the 5 of 5 Award this year, despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19,” Ken Smith, president of JAG, said in the release. Smith presented the 5 of 5 Award to Gov. Chris Sununu during a virtual ceremony on Nov. 30.

Voluntary services

The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families announced last week that it has partnered with two social service agencies to provide community-based voluntary services for at-risk children and families. The partnerships with Waypoint, based in Manchester, and the Family Resource Center, based in Gorham, will bridge the gap between initial contact with DCYF and community-based voluntary services. According to a press release, voluntary services provide tools to families that are struggling with health and safety concerns that do not currently meet a finding of abuse or neglect today but could meet that standard without intervention. “Voluntary services help strengthen and preserve families, keep children safe at home and foster environments in which they will thrive,” DCYF Director Joseph E. Ribsam said in the release.

The Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association has been named Nonprofit of the Year by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, according to a press release. The award was presented virtually during the Chamber’s annual Pinnacle Awards last month.

The New Hampshire Food Bank will bring its drive-through mobile food pantry to Manchester on three Fridays in December: Dec. 4, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. According to a press release, truckloads of food will be distributed to people in their vehicles in the Comcast parking lot at 676 Island Pond Road, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on those days.

Merrimack County Savings Bank is now holding its annual Mitten Tree drive at its locations in Bow, Concord, Contoocook, Hooksett and Nashua. Each branch will have a decorated box where community members can drop new handmade or store-bought mittens, hats, gloves and scarves; the bank will also contribute $2 to local food banks for every donated item, according to a press release.

The Upper Room, a family resource center based in Derry, is offering a series of free parenting and stress management workshops, according to a press release. The pre-recorded videos are available for viewing at URteachers.org.

News & Notes 20/11/26

Covid-19 updateAs of November 16As of November 22
Total cases statewide15,02917,598
Total current infections statewide3,3444,199
Total deaths statewide500512
New cases2,330 (Nov. 10 to Nov. 16)2,569 (Nov. 17 to Nov. 22)
Current infections: Hillsborough County1,1681,656
Current infections: Merrimack County320350
Current infections: Rockingham County690889
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

On Nov. 19, Gov. Chris Sununu issued Emergency Order No. 74, a statewide mask mandate effective Nov. 20 for everyone over the age of 5 in both indoor and outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible. The order came on the same day that 529 people in New Hampshire tested positive for Covid-19, the highest single-day total to date. “[This was] obviously a decision that did not come lightly,” Sununu said in a press conference announcing the order. “Many factors were clearly taken into consideration with regards to the data and the impact, and the effect on our citizens and businesses.” The mandate, which will remain in effect through Jan. 15, has a few exceptions, including anyone with a medical condition or disability preventing them from wearing a mask, anyone engaged in strenuous physical activity, or anyone asked to remove a mask or face-covering to verify his or her identity for lawful purposes. Public spaces where masks are required, as recognized by the mandate, include lobbies, waiting areas, outside plazas or patios, restaurants, retail stores, streets, sidewalks, parks, beaches, elevators, restrooms, stairways and parking garages. According to the Associated Press, at least 100 people protested the mask mandate outside Sununu’s home in Newfields on Nov. 23.

On Nov. 20, Sununu issued Executive Order 2020-23, extending the state of emergency in New Hampshire due to the pandemic for another three weeks through at least Dec. 11. It’s the 12th extension he has issued since originally declaring a state of emergency on March 13.

Details of all of Sununu’s Executive Orders, Emergency Orders and other announcements can be found at governor.nh.gov.

The New Hampshire Hospital Association, the New Hampshire Medical Society and the New Hampshire Nurses Association issued a joint statement Nov. 23 in anticipation of the holiday season, asking residents to continue following the public health guidance. “The Governor’s most recent Executive Order requiring Granite State residents to wear a mask when they are unable to maintain social distance is very important and a signal of just how serious this situation is as we seek to slow the spread of Covid-19 and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed,” the statement read.

Many hospitals have also tightened up their visitor restrictions as case numbers have increased. Catholic Medical Center, for example, announced that as of last week no visitors will be allowed, with the exception of some caregivers in certain circumstances, and it has also put stronger mask requirements in place.

Homeless encampment

On Nov. 20, the state Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice and Safety issued a joint statement regarding the homeless encampment located on state property at the Hillsborough County North Courthouse in Manchester. Signs were posted at the encampment earlier this month ordering everyone to leave by Nov. 16, or they would face penalties. According to the statement, the state had received multiple requests in the past few months from the City, the court system, businesses, legislators and the County Attorney’s Office to remove the encampment. Since then, the statement said, the state has “repeatedly” offered alternative housing and other supportive services to each person living there, including for several days beyond the Nov. 16 deadline. “On Nov. 19, officials from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and local providers approached each one of individuals in the encampment and [offered] housing with accompanying transportation offered by several providers across the state, transportation to stay with family or friends, or relocation to another encampment [as well as] mental health and substance use disorder services,” the statement said. On that day, 27 individuals accepted services and left the encampment; on Nov. 20, individuals were again offered services and were told that if they did not accept, they could either leave the property or would be removed, according to the statement. Six more people accepted services, while three people who chose not to leave were issued summonses for illegal camping. One then left the property while the other two were arrested and charged with criminal trespass, according to the statement. The property has since been cleared and a fence will be put up.

Following these actions, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig issued a statement saying that she had contacted local services, including the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, Families in Transition – New Horizons and the City Welfare Department. “As a result, Families in Transition – New Horizons already filled all of their available beds with people being forcibly removed from the courthouse lawn, and we’re working to find any other options available,” she said in her statement. She said the eviction will disconnect individuals from the services they’ve been receiving for months and noted that “this action from the State is inhumane, causing trauma to individuals with nowhere else to go.”

According to the statement from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice and Safety, the services offered to people at the encampment on Nov. 19 “were provided by the State of New Hampshire and not the City of Manchester, despite it being the City’s legal obligation under RSA chapter 165 to provide welfare services for those within the City.”

Previously, on Nov. 18, Gov. Chris Sununu sent a letter to New Hampshire’s mayors detailing steps the State has taken to combat homelessness; he also signed an Executive Order to expand the scope and membership of the State’s Interagency Council on Homelessness and renamed it to the Council on Housing Stability, which will update the state’s homelessness plan, with a preliminary report that includes legislative recommendations for the 2021 legislative session due by Dec. 14. “Our focus on homelessness is not new and our philosophy is consistent: housing is not an optional lifestyle commodity, but rather, is an irreplaceable requirement for any form of humane human condition,” Sununu wrote in the letter.

Benefits paybacks

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D-Concord) issued a statement last week after a Union Leader article reported that the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security is seeking to reclaim nearly $25 million from 10,773 people who received unemployment benefits during the pandemic because it says they were overpaid by the state. Feltes said in his statement that the Senate had tried back in March to create legislation to “prevent the clawing back of benefits paid under the emergency orders,” but that legislation was vetoed. “If they are not at fault in causing the overpayment, then they will not be required to repay the benefits,” Rich Lavers, deputy commissioner at Employment Security, told the Union Leader. “However, if they misstated the circumstances of their separation to make themselves eligible or overstated their earnings from self-employment and were paid at a higher benefit amount than is supported by the information in their federal tax return, then they will and should be expected to repay those benefits.”

Mobile classroom

As part of its campaign to promote career and technical education, the New Hampshire Department of Education will be bringing its 35-foot RV, named MAPs (Mobile Access to Possibilities), to the Tanger Outlet in Tilton on Saturday, Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. According to a press release, the mobile classroom will be making stops at shopping areas around the state during the holiday season, offering information about CTE offerings at local high schools and community colleges.

More than a dozen nonprofit organizations in Concord and its surrounding communities received more than 3.5 tons of nonperishable food items from the Capital Region Food Program. According to a press release, the distribution last week included the traditional Year Round Distribution Project foods, plus chickens and turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Manchester’s overnight winter parking ban will go into effect Dec. 1 at 1 a.m., according to a press release. Between 1 and 6 a.m., parking will be allowed only on the odd-numbered side of a street on odd-numbered calendar months and only on the even-numbered side of a street on even-numbered calendar months. There is no on-street parking during snow emergencies; you can be notified of snow emergencies by signing up at manchesternh.gov/snow for automatic email or text.

To kick off the bell-ringing season, a $20,000 donation was made on Nov. 19 to the Salvation Army Holiday Kettle outside the New Hampshire State Liquor & Wine Outlet in Bedford. According to a press release, the check was presented by the Great NH Restaurants charitable trust FEEDNH.org, in partnership with Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Greater Nashua Mental Health is now home to the Nashua area Mobile Crisis Response Team, according to a press release. The MCRT will provide 24/7 emergency services, including going directly to people in need.

News & Notes 20/11/19

Covid-19 updateAs of November 9As of November 16
Total cases statewide12,69915,029
Total current infections statewide2,0573,344
Total deaths statewide489500
New cases1,379 (Nov. 3 to Nov. 9)2,330 (Nov. 10 to Nov. 16)
Current infections: Hillsborough County5761,168
Current infections: Merrimack County227320
Current infections: Rockingham County497690
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

Several state chief medical and nursing officers issued a joint statement with the New Hampshire Hospital Association on Nov. 10, urging people to continue to adhere to the guidance from state health officials to prevent the spread of Covid-19. “We ask that you … wear a mask, stay at least six feet apart, avoid crowds, wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough and stay home if you are experiencing any respiratory or unexplained symptoms,” the statement reads.

State health officials reported 462 new positive tests of Covid-19 in New Hampshire on Nov. 13, the most recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic in March, and an increase of more than 100 from the previous record set just the day before (323 new positive tests on Nov. 12). “In the last week, we have now averaged about 240 new infections per day statewide, which is up from where we were last week,” state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in a Nov. 12 press conference. “This … virus is now widespread in our state. The number of infections are increasing. The hospitalizations are increasing. The test-positivity rate is increasing, and the number of people dying from Covid-19 is also increasing.”

Chan also announced that, due to the rapidly increasing rates of community transmission, the state Department of Health & Human Services will no longer be conducting contact tracing investigations for those who test positive. “Instead, we will be prioritizing who we investigate and targeting our public health resources to those individuals in those situations most at need and most at risk for [the] spread of Covid-19,” Chan said.

As of Nov. 12, 64 people in New Hampshire were being hospitalized for Covid-19, but Gov. Chris Sununu said he expects that number will rise “very aggressively,” which may prompt the need to open more temporary “surge hospitals” in the state. “Hospitals are open and they’re performing services, [and] they have a lot of testing capability,” he said. “That means we have less available bed capacity today than we did [in March and April] … and so the need to open a surge or flex hospital would probably come much sooner.”

Later during the same press conference, DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette reported four instances of potential community exposures of Covid-19 at polling locations on Election Day (Nov. 3) — at Souhegan High School in Amherst, Pembroke Academy, Belmont High School and Newfields Elementary School. “These were all people that identified in the last couple of days of having positive Covid-19 tests and reported being in line and not being able to six-foot socially distance,” Shibinette said, noting that anyone who was at any of those polling stations should monitor for symptoms.

Sununu also announced that New Hampshire, along with each of the five New England states and New Jersey, has suspended all interstate hockey competitions for public and private schools, and for youth hockey, from Nov. 14 through Dec. 31. “This doesn’t pause hockey,” he said. “It pauses crossing the border for games.” Sununu added that college, professional or national team hockey activities are not impacted by the suspension.

With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday just one week away, Sununu announced the state has updated its travel guidance for residents who travel outside of New England. “Currently, when you come back, we’re having folks quarantine for 14 days,” he said. “We’re augmenting that to allow a seven-day quarantine with a test. So if you get a test, after seven days, you don’t have to do the 14. You could do the 14 without a test, or you can quarantine for seven days with a test. … “Obviously, we’re not going to tell people that they can’t have a family gathering at Thanksgiving. But what we can do is manage our controls, expectations, the elevated message, and especially the data that we’re seeing out there.”

On Nov. 14, Sununu issued Emergency Order No. 72, an order extending Emergency Order No. 52, which had been issued on June 15. Emergency Order No. 52 is an order regarding public health guidance for business operations and advising Granite Staters they are safer at home. Emergency Order No. 72 extends that advisory through Jan. 15.

On Nov. 16, Sununu reactivated the state’s Long Term Care Stabilization Program, offering stipends to frontline health care workers at Medicaid facilities until Dec. 31.

Details of all of Sununu’s Emergency Orders, Executive Orders and other announcements can be found at governor.nh.gov.

Child Advocate report

Released last week, the Office of the Child Advocate’s Annual Report cited the pandemic as the “dominating factor of the year” for children, according to a press release. The Division for Children, Youth and Families received praise from Child Advocate Moira O’Neill for the support it provided to families to help prevent abuse or neglect that stemmed from pandemic restrictions. The report identified pandemic-related concerns, such as less access to school personnel, who usually monitor for signs of abuse and neglect. The Office of the Child Advocate is working toward implementation of an expanded community-based system of care, which it identifies as the most critical response to child and family needs, the press release said. Also in the report is a look at the number of complaints about state services for children that the office has received from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020, as well as reports of incidents that involve kids in state care during that same time frame. “We received, reviewed and monitored outcomes of 2,183 incident reports,” O’Neill said in the report. “That is an increase of three times what we saw in the year before.” However, those numbers reflect DCYF coming into compliance with the mandate to report and not necessarily an increase in incidents, according to the release.

School lunches

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig sent a letter last week to the New Hampshire congressional delegation regarding the concern that the city’s school district, as well as districts throughout the state, is in danger of losing funding due to a reduction in the number of families who have filled out paperwork to be eligible for free or reduced lunches. That number helps determine school funding needs, but because all students have been able to get free school lunches during the pandemic without filling out forms, the current number does not reflect the actual need, the letter says. In Manchester, prior to the pandemic, about 49.5 percent of students in the district were eligible for free lunch; as of Oct. 31, that number dropped to 39.99 percent. “This decrease in enrollment does not reflect the needs of our community, however, and if this continues, the Differentiated Aid under the Adequacy formula that is tied to the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch will be approximately $3.6 million lower than this year,” Craig wrote in the letter. “This is an unintended consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic that could have detrimental impacts on school district budgets across the state.”

Sports betting

Since it debuted on Dec. 30 last year, the New Hampshire Lottery has surpassed $200 million in total sports wagering, with more than 52,000 registered customers in New Hampshire making over 6 million bets that totaled more than $205.1 million as of Nov. 9, according to a press release. Since Dec. 30, New Hampshire Lottery and DraftKings have launched mobile sports betting in New Hampshire and have opened two retail sportsbook locations for in-person betting, at DraftKings Sportsbook at The Brook in Seabrook and DraftKings Sportsbook at Manchester at the Filotimo Casino & Restaurant. “The success of sports betting in New Hampshire represents success for our entire state, as revenue from sports betting directly benefits education in New Hampshire,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in the release.

The 1914 Colonial Theatre complex in Laconia has been named to the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and its role as a center of entertainment and commerce into the 21st century. According to a press release, its most prominent feature is a 1930s marquee.

The Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association recently honored Director of Donor Relations Melissa Howard with its peer-nominated “Living Our Values” award. According to a press release, Howard has been with the VNA for almost five years, and the colleagues who nominated her said she “is a wonderful leader, a pleasure to work with and a true role model.”

The Department of Athletics at UNH in Durham announced last week that its athletic programs, including hockey and basketball, will begin play for the 2020-21 season. According to a press release, spectators will not be allowed at Wildcats home events, though hockey games will be televised on NESN.

The Brookside Congregational Church Complex in Manchester has been named to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places, according to a press release. The complex includes a 1908 neo-Classical estate house, a 1960 brick Georgian Revival church, a circa 1908 carriage house and a caretaker’s cottage.

News & Notes 20/11/12

Covid-19 updateAs of November 2As of November 2
Total cases statewide11,32012,699
Total current infections statewide1,4072,057
Total deaths statewide483489
New cases923 (Oct. 27 to Nov. 2)1,379 (Nov. 3 to Nov. 9)
Current infections: Hillsborough County425576
Current infections: Merrimack County192227
Current infections: Rockingham County360497
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

During a Nov. 5 press conference, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan provided a public health update on New Hampshire’s ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic. New and active infections of the coronavirus have been on a continuous increase over the last couple of weeks in the state, he said, with seven of its 10 counties — Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham, Coos, Grafton, Belknap and Stafford — at a substantial level of community transmission. According to WMUR, Gov. Chris Sununu said the state is preparing for what could be a “very aggressive” spike in Covid-19 cases, with New Hampshire potentially seeing 500 to 1,000 new daily cases by the end of the month. He said the state is ready, with PPE, testing, funds and resources, according to WMUR.

During the Nov. 5 press conference, Sununu also provided an update on the status of New Hampshire’s federal CARES act funds, which he said must be spent prior to Dec. 31. More than 4,000 businesses applied for the Main Street Relief Fund 2.0, around 3,000 of which were eligible. Sununu added that around $15 million is still available that has been allocated for the state’s housing relief program. As of Nov. 5, about 2,100 people have applied for and received funds totaling about $5.6 million.

On Nov. 7, the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services issued a potential community exposure notice related to a person with Covid-19 who visited the 401 Tavern in Hampton. According to state health officials, the exposure occurred in the eatery’s bar area during the evenings of Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. Anyone who was there on those evenings should monitor for symptoms of the virus and seek testing.

Details of Sununu’s Emergency Orders, Executive Orders and other announcements can be viewed at governor.nh.gov.

Addressing homelessness

On Nov. 5, New Hampshire’s 13 mayors sent a joint letter to Gov. Chris Sununu asking him to make it a top priority to develop a statewide plan that addresses homelessness. According to the letter, homelessness is a crisis in all of the mayors’ communities. “In recent months, in an effort to prevent community spread of Covid-19 and allow for social distancing, shelters have been forced to decompress and reduce the number of available beds,” it reads, though it also notes that the number of people living unsheltered has been increasing even in the years prior to the pandemic. The letter cited a lack of funding and emergency shelter beds in some communities and said that with many homeless individuals living on state-owned properties, the state needs to create and implement a winter shelter surge plan, as well as a comprehensive housing plan that would increase the number of supportive, transitional and affordable housing options for couples, victims of domestic violence, families with children and felons. “Because of a lack of an overarching statewide approach, our communities’ homelessness strategies have been reactive rather than proactive,” the letter reads. “The state must take a role in designing an incident command infrastructure to address homelessness, similar to the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drugs, to establish a set of metrics to determine success, and implement accountability measures, and progress tracking to ensure positive outcomes.”

On Nov. 8, the Union Leader reported that people have been ordered to leave the homeless encampments on either side of the Hillsborough County Superior Court by Nov. 16 or they will face penalties, and any personal items remaining on the property will be disposed of. The signs that have been posted say camping is not allowed on the property; the Union Leader reported that about 26 tents were set up at the two encampments as of Sunday night. Sununu told the Union Leader that a commission would be “great,” but that he would want one that addressed all of the issues related to homelessness, like mental health, addiction, abuse and neglect and poverty.

Better food

After five weeks of receiving low-quality foods as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to Trunk program, the New Hampshire Food Bank now has a new supplier, according to WMUR. New Hampshire’s congressional delegation recently sent a letter to the USDA citing concerns about the product that was being supplied by Delaware-based Vincent Farms. The delegation requested an investigation, and while Food Bank Director Eileen Liponis told WMUR that she doesn’t know what will come of that, “word has gotten out that we were not happy, and this next distributor that has gotten the award is making sure they don’t get themselves in the same pickle,” she said.

SUD relief

More than 20 organizations across the state that provide services to people affected by substance use disorder have received CARES Act funding, awarded by Granite United Way, which was chosen by the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery to receive $750,000 in funding, according to a press release. Granite United Way worked with United Ways throughout the state to identify organizations that will use the funding for people with substance use disorder who are struggling even more during the pandemic. Funding will cover basic needs like food, clothing, transportation and housing. “This has been a great opportunity for all of our United Ways to work together and with our community partners to ensure this funding gets to those who need it the most,” Patrick Tufts, President and CEO of Granite United Way, said in the release. “This support will really help our organization continue to help people struggling with addiction,” said Steve Gadomski of Teen Challenge in Manchester, one of the organizations that received the funding. The funding will run through Dec. 30, according to the release.

Busy day

The state’s Attorney General’s Office, which supports and assists election officials, announced on Monday the results of its Election Day Operations, calling it a successful election that was “the result of extraordinary efforts of thousands of local election officials.” More than 100 attorneys, investigators and staff from the Attorney General’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office and other state agencies covered 305 of New Hampshire’s 307 polling places, with each inspector completing a detailed checklist and working with local election officials to resolve any issues, according to a press release. More than 275 phone calls were made to the Attorney General’s Election Hotline, and “the majority of issues were resolved on Tuesday by working directly with local election officials.” Comparatively, 302 out of 309 polling places were inspected in the 2018 General Election and 185 unique calls were received. In the 2016 general election, only 76 percent of polling locations were inspected, according to the release.

The Ice Castles will return to North Woodstock this year, with ice slides, caves, crawl spaces and fountains as well as new features to promote safety, including a winter light walk and a sledding hill, according to a press release. Construction is scheduled to begin in late November with an opening date anticipated in early January.

The General Court of New Hampshire has created a new video tour that will allow students to virtually tour the Statehouse in Concord, according to a press release. The tour includes the historic Hall of Flags and the Executive Council Chamber and Legislative Chambers, as well as the Statehouse grounds. The link to the tour can be found at gencourt.state.nh.us/nh.

The Girl Scout Discovery Zone has opened at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, offering free special activities each day that it is open (Thursdays through Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.), plus a Girl Scout Scavenger Hunt and information about becoming a Girl Scout, according to a press release from The Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.

On Oct. 21, Bridges in Nashua moved to a new location at 28 Concord St. According to a press release, the new building will allow Bridges to help more clients who are dealing with domestic or sexual violence.

Humanities star

Watters honored with lifetime achievement award

New Hampshire Humanities has named David Watters as the recipient of its 2020 Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities award, which celebrates individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the humanities in New Hampshire. Watters talked about the humanities work he has done during his years as a UNH professor, NH Humanities board member and New Hampshire State Senator.

What is your background in the humanities?

I taught English and American studies at the University of New Hampshire for 39 years, and I retired about three years ago. My work was on New Hampshire and New England culture and literature. I did a lot of work studying early burying grounds and the symbols on gravestones, and I did a lot on New Hampshire Black history and New Hampshire political history and New Hampshire writers. … One of the big projects I did was I co-edited the Encyclopedia of New England 1.2 million words and 900 contributors and everything you thought you knew or didn’t know about New England.

What have you done with New Hampshire Humanities?

When I started doing projects with New Hampshire Humanities, what I loved about it was that it was an opportunity to get off campus … and really connect to the people in the libraries, historical societies and places of work, and to kind of really put down roots and bring the ideas and conversations out to New Hampshire communities. I spent 35 years working with New Hampshire Humanities, doing programs around the state, doing institutes for teachers in the summer on New Hampshire history and literature and culture, doing a lot on bringing Black history and awareness of Black authors in New Hampshire to the general public, and working on projects about immigrant communities.

What areas of the humanities are you especially passionate about?

As a professor, of course, I’ve intrinsically found literature and history going back several centuries interesting and always wanted to teach my students about it. But what makes my work with New Hampshire Humanities different [from teaching] is that we’re trying to connect people to ideas today. What can we learn from our past, both good things and the bad things? How does [history] make a difference for us today and how we live, how we treat each other, what our values are and how we live up to our ideals as a community and as a state? … I think learning how people have struggled in the past and connecting to that history helps us talk about contemporary things as well … and by having those conversations, we can live up to our values.

What other kinds of humanities work have you done in New Hampshire?

I’ve been able to serve on a lot of boards of trustees. I’ve been on the board of the New Hampshire Historical Society. I’ve been on the board of … the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. I’m also the New Hampshire legislative commissioner for the Atlantic States Marines Fisheries Commission, which regulates fisheries from Maine to Florida. … I was on the Robert Frost Homestead board … and on the board of the Dover Adult Learning Center.

What have you been up to lately?

The most recent project I’ve done connected to the New Hampshire Humanities is helping to create a Black Heritage Trail tour of Concord … to honor the history of slavery and of African-Americans, abolitionists and more contemporary African-Americans who made Concord their home, with a focus on political history, since it’s in Concord.

Has your work in the humanities tied into your work as a State Senator?

Humanities are about people’s values, and it’s good to have a law that’s founded on values, so in that way, I think a legislature can be really strengthened by an understanding of the humanities. … It’s been a good blend for me, and I’ve been able to translate a lot of my work with history and the humanities into legislation. … One [example] is that I got a bill passed to create a [substance abuse] recovery monument in New Hampshire the first in the country which would recognize the history of recovery and those who have been lost to it, and celebrate those people who are in recovery. … There have been organizations in New Hampshire working for recovery for a couple of centuries now … so it’s a way of bringing our past into a very public place, which I think is important for our communities.

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I worked as a carpenter way back when I was in high school and college and for a year after college, so I have a shop in the basement. … I’m on the board of corporators for Canterbury Shaker Village, so I make Shaker boxes and Shaker oval boxes, plus a lot of other things. When I get time to go down to the basement, I’m happy.

News & Notes 20/11/05

Covid-19 updateAs of October 26As of November 2
Total cases statewide10,39711,320
Total current infections statewide1,0021,407
Total deaths statewide475483
New cases651 (Oct. 20 to Oct. 26)923 (Oct. 27 to Nov. 2)
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

On Oct. 25, Gov. Chris Sununu issued Exhibits V and W to Emergency Order No. 29, which had been issued on April 9. Emergency Order No. 29 requires state agencies, boards and commissions to submit recommendations to Sununu if any regulatory deadlines should be adjusted in response to the state of emergency. Per Exhibit V, in order to mitigate staffing concerns in police departments across the state, part-time officers who have not attended the full-time police academy will continue to be allowed to work during the pandemic. Per Exhibit W, in accordance with Emergency Order No. 12, the state’s Current Use Advisory Board will hold one public forum via phone and Webex in lieu of three in-person meetings. The forum will take place Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 1 p.m.

On Oct. 27, Sununu issued Emergency Order No. 71, an order temporarily suspending the penalty for a school’s failure to file a financial report showing receipts and expenditures to the state Department of Education.

On Oct. 30, Sununu issued Executive Order 2020-21, extending the state of emergency in New Hampshire due to the Covid-19 pandemic for another three weeks through at least Nov. 20. It’s the 11th extension he has issued since originally declaring a state of emergency on March 13.

In the last week, the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services announced two additional potential community exposures linked to positive cases of Covid-19, both at the Atkinson Resort & Country Club. The first one was announced on Oct. 27, with potential community exposure dates inside both Merrill’s Tavern and the Stagecoach Grille on Wednesday, Oct. 21, from noon to 7:30 p.m., and on Thursday, Oct. 22, from noon to 11:30 p.m. A second notice was issued on Oct. 30 in the same location, with more possible exposures, on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday, Oct. 26, from 4 to 9:45 p.m. Anyone who was there on any of those dates and times should monitor for symptoms and seek testing.

State health officials also announced 205 new positive infections on Oct. 31, the most reported in New Hampshire in a single day since the start of the pandemic in March. In a statement addressing this, Sununu said he expects cases to rise as community transmission increases. “As we enter these winter months, it will be more important than ever to wear your mask, practice social distancing, and maintain proper hand hygiene,” he said.

Details of all of Sununu’s Emergency Orders, Executive Orders and other announcements can be found at governor.nh.gov.

Inferior food

The New Hampshire congressional delegation has sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue regarding concerns that the products the New Hampshire Food Bank has been receiving do not meet nutritional standards, according to a press release. The USDA contracts with farms to provide food to state food banks through its Farmers Families Food Box Program; New Hampshire’s current distributor is Delaware-based Vincent Farms. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Representatives Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas said in the letter that the distributor for the program from the previous round, Costa Fruit & Produce, provided high-quality products for families in need, while the product provided by Vincent Farms was of “enormously inferior nutritional quality.” The letter also alleged that the USDA is paying more than the food boxes being provided by Vincent Farms have been estimated to be worth. “We understand that the USDA is paying $40 – $60 per box under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. However, the cost per box of food provided to the New Hampshire Food Bank by the round three distributor has been estimated to equal $10 – $12. This significant discrepancy in value indicates a large potential profit opportunity for this distributor,” the letter reads. The delegation has asked the USDA to investigate the matter before it awards the fourth round of contracts for the program.

PFAS report

Last week, the Commission on the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Perfluorinated Chemicals released its first Interim Report to highlight its initial assessments on the impacts of PFAS in the air, soil and groundwater in Merrimack, Bedford and Litchfield. The report includes recommendations such as extending the statute of limitations on chemical and PFAS-related injury, establishing a policy related to the identification of any PFAS chemicals that pose a concern to public health and/or the environment, create and implement educational standards and practices related to health implications of PFAS chemicals for all health care personnel, and require any source company responsible for water and soil contamination to be responsible for the costs of medical monitoring over a long-term basis for those exposed. The full report with all recommendations and findings can be seen at gencourt.state.nh.us/statstudcomm/committees/1495.

At-home-school tool

Parents have a new resource to help them support their children’s at-home learning. According to a press release from the New Hampshire Department of Education, the Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide will help parents use digital tools and resources, and it outlines the benefits and challenges of remote learning. “As New Hampshire families adjust to remote and hybrid instruction, parents remain essential in supporting students, and keeping them on track,” New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said in the release. “This new Digital Learning Guide is a great tool for parents and caregivers to meet this challenge.” Access the guide at nhlearnsremotely.com.

EnVision Center

Harbor Care in Nashua has been designated as the first EnVision Center in New Hampshire, creating a centralized hub to provide resources to people in need, according to a press release. The EnVision Center program is run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and provides services for HUD-assisted families. Harbor Care is one of more than 60 EnVision Centers in the country, but only the third in New England. The center supports four key pillars of self-sufficiency, according to the release: economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness and character and leadership. “Harbor Care’s designation as an EnVision Center provides those chances for success for low-income residents,” Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess said in the release. “It makes even stronger Nashua’s existing support network for individuals and families in need of not just housing and financial support, but actual tools to guide them on a brighter path.”

Tons of drugs

During National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 26, New Hampshire collected nearly 17,000 pounds of expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs, as well as electronic vaping devices and cartridges, according to a press release. Throughout New England, the Drug Enforcement Administration collected more than 57 tons at 586 collection sites. This is in comparison to the first National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in September 2010, when the division collected 25,810 pounds of unwanted drugs. Massachusetts and Maine had the highest tallies (40,284 pounds and 40,100 pounds, respectively). New Hampshire collected 16,840 pounds, while Connecticut collected 8,002 pounds, Rhode Island collected 6,218 pounds and Vermont collected 4,498 pounds, according to the release.

Concord’s fall leaf collection started Monday with bulk leaf collection and bagged collection will start Nov. 23 for residents with curbside trash collection, continuing (weather permitting) through Dec. 11, according to a press release. For more details about how this year’s process will work, visit concordnh.gov.

Several roads will be closed for the Manchester City Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 a.m., according to a press release. Starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, Elm Street from Pleasant Street to Merrimack Street will be closed until 5 p.m. Sunday. Starting at 6 a.m. Sunday, Elm Street between Granite and Bridge streets will be closed, and portions of the following roads will be closed: Hanover, Merrimack, Central, Spring, McGregor and Granite streets, and the Bridge Street Bridge. All roads will be reopened by 5 p.m.

The Hopkinton and Warner Historical Societies will present a virtual discussion about the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. The Zoom talk is free; for login information, email director@hopkintonhistory.org or info@warnerhistorical.org.

Nashua will hold its final Household Hazardous Waste Collection of 2020 on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Nashua City Park & Ride, 25 Crown St. Residents from Amherst, Brookline, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, Nashua, Pelham and Windham can participate, according to a press release. The cost is a $15 user fee per vehicle, with extra charges for waste that exceeds 10 gallons or 20 pounds. Latex paint, electronics and medications will not be accepted.

Moon mission

Local grad working on EagleCam project

Bedford High School grad William Edwards, now an undergrad at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, is one of 20 students working on “EagleCam,” the first-ever student project to be sent to the moon. Edwards talked about the mission of the project, his role on the project’s software team and what he is learning from this unique opportunity.

Why did you decide to go to Embry-Riddle and pursue a career in aeronautics?

I just like planes, honestly aviation, aerospace, pretty much any fields having to do with flying or space. It’s something I was always interested in, even as a kid, and I just never lost interest. … A close family friend who knew I was really into aviation recommended the school to me because he knew it was a very good aviation-based school.

What is the EagleCam project?

It’s a module that’s going to be a payload on a Nova-C launcher from the company Intuitive Machines. The goal of the project is to take a third-person photo of the lunar lander actually landing on the surface of the moon. As the lander is coming down on the surface, it’s going to jettison our payload, and our EagleCam is going to take pictures of the lunar lander and send the pictures back to the lander via WiFi, and then the lander is going to send the data back to Earth. That’s the minimum requirements of this project. We’d also like EagleCam to continue to take pictures after it has landed to collect some information on dust plumes as the lunar lander actually makes its descent, and hopefully take some pictures of Earth as well.

How did you end up working on the EagleCam?

I actually had a friend of mine recommend me for it. She was already working on it, and I found out about it and said, ‘That sounds really cool,’ and she said, ‘Well, we need some extra help. Do you want to hop on?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ … One of the reasons I came to Embry-Riddle is that I’ve always wanted to work on something important like this, like anything to do with research, and especially anything to do with space, so once I heard that this was a project based on the moon, I was like, ‘Absolutely, I need to do this.’

What is your role?

We have a couple teams. There’s the electrical engineering team, and they’re the ones who actually choose the computer that goes on board and the cameras that go on board, and they’re going to figure out the connections between our EagleCam and the Nova-C launcher. I’m on the software team, so I’m going to be the one who’s controlling the function of the cameras, when the payload is going to be jettisoned and the way the pictures are going to be taken. Also, the pictures are going to be taken with 186-degree cameras, so afterward we have to do some software post-processing to make the pictures look like normal-field-of-view pictures instead of wide-field-of-view pictures.

What are you working on right now, specifically?

Right now I’m just having to learn the [software] framework, and I’m making an application that controls the camera lens cleaners, so that if any dust particles get on the camera lens we can clean them off.

What’s the most exciting part of this experience for you?

I think it’s just the excitement of being able to do all of this and work on it for so long, and knowing that we’re going to get an end result that I could even make a screensaver on my phone. It’s also a great experience for me as a software engineer to actually be using NASA-based software frameworks to control our EagleCam and the jettison and any internal functions that we have on.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Learning the NASA software framework. It’s called cFS, and it’s a lot of C code, which I’m not too familiar with, so spending the first two or three weeks learning that has been pretty difficult.

Do you think the EagleCam project is helping to prepare you for what you want to do in the future?

Yes, most definitely. As a software engineer, being able to work on a team with electrical engineers and aerospace engineers is definitely an important skill. Since I want to be working in the aerospace industry, having the skills to communicate with them and understand what they’re doing and understand how my code influences their decisions and vice versa is definitely very important to me.

EagleCam
The Nova-C launcher carrying the EagleCam will launch in October 2021. To follow the progress of the project, see @ERAUEagleCam on Instagram and visit daytonabeach.erau.edu/eaglecam.

Featured photo: William Edwards. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 20/10/29

Covid-19 updateAs of October 19As of October 126
Total cases statewide9,74610,397
Total current infections statewide1,0201,002
Total deaths statewide468475
New cases603 (Oct. 12 to Oct. 19)651 (Oct. 20 to Oct. 26)
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

During an Oct. 22 press conference, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan provided a public health update on New Hampshire’s ongoing fight against Covid-19, saying that the state has seen about 80 new infections per day on average over the last one to two weeks.

With its updated numbers on Oct. 23, New Hampshire surpassed 10,000 positive tests for the virus since the start of the pandemic in March. Despite this, the state has the third lowest rate of new cases of Covid-19 per capita in the country, according to Gov. Chris Sununu, with the test-positivity rate continuing to be at around 1 percent.

Also on Oct. 23, the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force released new guidance documents for hockey and indoor ice arenas in the state, following a two-week “pause” that began on Oct. 15 of all indoor ice activities due to multiple Covid-19 outbreaks. All rink staff, volunteers, athletes, referees and coaches are required to be tested for the virus before Nov. 6. The guidance for indoor ice facilities prohibits restaurants, bars and arcades from being used, encourages sneeze guard barriers at check-in/check-out counters, and requires a one-way flow of foot traffic throughout the facility, with specific entry and exit points.

Details of Sununu’s Emergency Orders, Executive Orders, Re-Opening guidance documents and more can be found at governor.nh.gov.

Emergency order violations

Two businesses have been fined for not complying with the governor’s coronavirus emergency orders, and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office continues to get complaints from customers about noncompliance, according to an Oct. 26 report from WMUR. The complaints are mainly about workers not wearing masks and businesses not enforcing social distancing. According to an Oct. 19 press release, Fat Katz in Hudson was sent a notice of violation assessing a $2,000 civil penalty for allegedly bringing karaoke indoors. According to WMUR, New England Flag Football was also fined $2,000 for violations. “We were very clear in writing to those organizations and businesses as to what they needed to do, and they both confirmed with us they understood that and then they proceeded to do different things,” Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards said, according to WMUR. More fines are expected to be issued in the next few weeks as the Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate complaints, Edwards said.

Fire ban lifted

State officials have lifted the ban on certain fires now that some soaking rains have reduced the potential for wildfires, according to a press release. Kindling of open fires is now allowed, as is smoking outdoors in or near public woodlands or on public trails, and permits are once again available for fires greater than four feet in diameter and not contained within a ring of fire-resistive material. Permits are always required for any open burning, according to the release, and can be obtained from a local fire department or at nhfirepermit.com.

MediGap shopping

There’s a new free interactive online dashboard to help consumers who are shopping for Medicare Supplement (MediGap) plans, the New Hampshire Insurance Department announced in a press release. The dashboard will allow consumers to find and compare rates based on their gender, age, plan type and preferred company. MediGap policies help cover some health care costs that Medicare does not, including copayments, coinsurance and deductibles, according to the release. The rates on the dashboard are available during an individual’s open enrollment, a six-month period that begins the month the person turns 65 and has Medicare Part A and Part B, though people who are changing plans or want to get a renewal rate can contact specific companies directly, according to the release. Visit nh.gov/insurance or call 1-866-634-9412.

Drought assistance

Low-income New Hampshire homeowners who have residential wells with insufficient or no water because of the drought can get short-term relief and financial assistance with a new initiative from the state’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Advisory Commission and Department of Environmental Services. According to a press release, short-term relief will be available in the form of free bottled water deliveries for people whose income is at or below 80 percent of the area median household income and who have no water due to the ongoing drought. This is a temporary measure to ensure that everyone has access to clean water for drinking and cooking. For permanent drought relief, financial assistance will be available for improving or replacing residential wells, or to connect to an existing community water system. “Given the severity of the drought, recent precipitation has done relatively little to alter drought conditions impacting residential wells in New Hampshire,” NHDES Commissioner Bob Scott said in the release. “Residents still need to take every action to conserve water now and for the foreseeable future.” Income eligibility requirements and financial assistance information can be found at des.nh.gov.

Drug disposal

Last week, the New Hampshire Hospital Association, the New Hampshire Department of Education and the Foundation for Healthy Communities partnered with the Public Health Networks and the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of New Hampshire to distribute 25,000 prescription drug disposal bags throughout the state, according to a press release. In the past few months, 50,000 of the Deterra Drug Deactivation disposal pouches, donated by RALI NH, have been distributed as part of an effort to educate families on safe medicine storage and disposal practices. Making sure prescription medications are securely stored out of the reach of children and safely disposing of unused or expired medications can help prevent drug misuse, the release said. Find take-back locations at ralinh.org

At a press conference in Concord on Monday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it is awarding more than $12.3 million to agencies in New Hampshire to help protect children and families from lead-based paint and home health hazards, according to a press release. The week of Oct. 25 through Oct. 31 is Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

Free meal boxes that include 12 pounds of produce, 5 pounds of meat, 5 pounds of dairy and a gallon of 2-percent milk will be distributed to families in need on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 9 to 11 a.m. at SNHU Arena in Manchester, according to a press release. The food is being provided by Granite United Way, in partnership with the YMCA of Downtown Manchester, Southern New Hampshire University and the Manchester School District.

A socially distant groundbreaking ceremony for the new location of Family Promise of Southern New Hampshire is scheduled to be held Thursday, Oct. 29, at 3 Crown St. in Nashua. The renovated space will provide transitional housing to more than 25 families, which is double its current capacity, according to a press release.

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