Quality of Life 20/12/10

First storm of the season

Last weekend we got our first real taste of what’s expected to be a cold, snowy winter (says The 2021 Farmer’s Almanac). Heavy snow and wind caused more than 100,000 power outages throughout the state, according to a report from WMUR, with some residents still in the dark as of Monday evening. The hardest-hit towns where restoration efforts took longer included Raymond, Rochester and Wakefield, and downed trees in roadways had a significant impact on crews’ abilities to restore power, according to the report.

Score: -1

Comment: At least we’re all used to being stuck at home…

All kinds of cancellations

With the increasing number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in New Hampshire, more venues and businesses are shutting down through at least the end of the year. Public places like libraries are reverting back to shutdown days; Nashua Public Library, for example, announced last week that it will close until at least Jan. 5. Many of the closures are arts venues: Capitol Center for the Arts had made the decision to close a couple weeks ago, and it’s been joined by places like Hatbox Theatre, Tupelo Music Hall and the Palace Theatre, all of which announced last week that their programs scheduled for the rest of the year have been canceled (see more about that on p. 11, where you’ll also find some virtual arts options).

Score: -2

Comment: The most wonderful time of the year? Not in 2020.

Building a Tower of Toys

The pandemic isn’t stopping the annual Tower of Toys, which is collecting unwrapped children’s toys, sports equipment, cosmetics and gift cards for children and families in need. Now through Thursday, Dec. 17, the donations will be formed into a toy-filled tower at the Atrium of the Beacon Building at 814 Elm St. in Manchester, according to a press release. On that final day of collection, there will be a socially distanced open house to view the tower, from 5 to 10 p.m. Last year, the toy drive benefited nearly 350 children, and the event’s sponsors expect there will be even more need this year.

Score: +1

Comment: With so many community events and live fundraisers being canceled, it’s great to see that local kids in need will still get gifts this year. You can drop off donations at Red Arrow Diner headquarters (or shop online and have them shipped there directly: the full address is 814 Elm St., Suite 102, Manchester, 03101) or at Alley Cat Pizza or OrangeTheory in Manchester. Families looking for assistance can send a private message requesting toys at facebook.com/toweroftoysnh.

Help is on the way

Last Saturday, the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton sent out an urgent call for help due to “very serious staffing challenges” due to the pandemic. “We need more people to step up and help our veterans get through this,” Margaret LaBrecque, commandant of the NH Veterans Home, said in a press release. “This is an all-hands-on-deck response. We are shifting resources and … calling in federal resources to assist, but some positions remain to be filled.” Positions include everything from registered nurses to food service workers and recreational assistants, the release said. On Sunday, WMUR reported that there was an immediate response to that call for help; staff from state agencies will be stepping in to fill numerous non-clinical positions, while the VA is sending extra medical personnel and the National Guard is helping with testing and building maintenance.

Score: +1

Comment: There’s still plenty of opportunities to help with both clinical and non-clinical positions; the Veterans Home asks anyone interested to email their resume and contact information to helpnhvh@nh.gov.

QOL score: 68

Net change: -1

QOL this week: 67

What’s affecting your Quality of Life here in New Hampshire? Let us know at news@hippopress.com.

Hayward’s explanation

I’ve never been a professional athlete and certainly have never been involved with a business decision where I could get an additional $20 million if I took a new job. But, while I understand the entire business and playing situation, I must say the Gordon Hayward free agent defection to the Hornets for a boatload of dough after opting out of the final year of his contract with the Celtics really irked me.
That’s me the “fan” talking, not me the sports writer. The sports writer gets the business decision thing. Ditto for what should go through any Celtics player’s mind after how Danny Ainge and the brass kicked Isaiah Thomas to the curb after he put his earning power/career on the line after taking one for the team by playing through a severely deteriorating hip injury during the 2017 playoffs. Not to mention doing it while playing through the pain of his sister’s death in real time and a face plant that forced extensive dental surgery that would have been a season-ender for me-firsters like the guy he was traded for a few months later. He’s still trying to come back from the damage that caused, which probably cost him somewhere between $50 million and $100 million.
But for me the fan, it irked me because it’s a reminder why fans should treat players as they treat them – as disposable commodities. I could give a lengthy speech about why things were better back in the day, but it’s not relevant. Today is what it is. Red Auerbach held on to his Big 3 because he felt they earned the right to retire in Boston and I was OK with that. But that led to 22 years without a title. Conversely, I must also admit I was in the chorus singing Danny’s praises for not doing that with his Big 3 after the haul he got back produced Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others to give much more promise to the future than Red’s approach.
The being irked part comes in because isn’t getting attached to favorite players part of being a sports fan? It always has been that for me. I like the winning, but I also want to like the players on that team. That’s one reason I was cool to bringing Cam Newton to the Patriots, as I wasn’t sure about him. Turns out he’s a good guy and he gets extra slack because of it.
Now, on to specifically why Hayward’s leaving irked me. It was two-fold. First, while his horrific broken ankle wasn’t his fault, people in these parts invested a lot in him and his recovery. That included, if you read this space, infinite patience by me repeatedly sticking up for him to critics who didn’t get how long it would take to physically and especially mentally come back from that terrible injury. Ditto for the Celtics brass, especially Brad Stevens, who took a lot of heat inside the locker room for playing him when he clearly wasn’t the same. That led to a tumultuous 2018-19 Celtics season and if you want to insert toxic for tumultuous feel free. When a guy everyone did that for just up and leaves it makes one say what’s the point? Though smarter, more realistic people might say grow up because that’s the way it is.
The second part is the bigger issue, and no it wasn’t that I was bothered he was leaving. After all they beat Philly and Toronto and made it to Game 6 of the conference finals vs. Miami with very little help from him after getting hurt (again) in Game 1 of the playoffs. Plus, somewhere in the middle of last season I’d decided he was the guy to trade to help them get to a higher level. That’s because while I liked how he played at point forward, he’s just not mentally tough enough for me.
What I didn’t like was that his abruptly leaving as a free agent for the aforementioned extra $20 million scuttled a sign and trade being lined up with Indiana. And while I wasn’t in love with getting Myles Turner back, as the rumor mill said was being proposed, I knew he could be flipped for a better fit later. Which certainly was better than the talent drain of losing Hayward without getting anything back, as players of his caliber are hard to replace for a capped out team as the rising Celtics are. That irked me because it left fans who stuck by him during the dark times holding the bag for a lesser team.
However, by turning it into a sign and trade (for a mere second-round pick) Danny got back a valuable $28 million trade exception instead. That lets teams over the cap make trades involving contracts up to that amount without having to give matching salaries back. That’s even better than having Hayward’s contract to trade because it can be broken up into separate deals to fill their multiple pressing needs for bench scoring, long-range shooting and a deeper overall team.
Which brings me to the point of this diatribe regarding fans investing emotion in players who don’t return the favor. I’m not sure if it’s being willing to give up a piece of being a fan to avoid being irked in the way I was over the ungrateful way Hayward bolted. Or hanging in there because all’s well that ends well as this one may turn out to be. The only thing I do know is it’s not going to end here. Hayward joined far greater players named Brady and Betts in the exodus out of town for greener pastures this year and since the system isn’t likely to change any time soon they won’t be the last ones to do it. So all I’ll say to players going forward is just be honest. Say, “I couldn’t pass up the extra $20 million.”
Because most fans respect that and almost all know the rest of it is BS.

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.

No Grinch this year

For more years than I can remember, at this time of year someone within earshot would say, “Christmas carols so soon? It’s the day after Thanksgiving and the carols have started. Far too early.” That always struck me as a little Grinch-like. This year, however, no one has uttered those words. Instead, there seems an almost universal haste to bring on the holiday season.

Our favorite nursery and hardware store reports their stock of wreaths, garlands, lights, candles and festive decorations is nearly sold out. Drive through neighborhoods after dark and more houses than usual seem festooned. And while many of us are staying away from retail shops for health and safety reasons, seasonal shopping is at a brisk pace online as witnessed by the UPS, FedEx, Prime and USPS trucks out and about.

We should not be surprised at ourselves this year. As we enter the 10th month of mask-wearing, social distancing and cabin hibernation, we are looking for the comfort of those seasonal traditions that were commonplace before the pandemic.

Across cultures worldwide, regardless of their religions, rituals bring meaning to ordinary time and action. They lift us out of the commonplace by changing what we see, hear, taste and smell. In short, rituals of whatever kind link the present with the past, whether it is our tribe’s, family’s, community’s or our very own. And we seem to need them most when the world around us seems dark and possibly even dangerous.

For centuries and in many cultures the winter solstice (which occurs this month) has been seen as a significant time and has been marked by festivals and rituals. It marked the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.

With the pandemic death toll in our country now approaching 280,000, we are truly in a very dark time. And while the promise of effective vaccines offers a light ahead, as does the solstice promise the return of the sun, we seek some comfort in rituals of this season and trust they will bolster our hope for better times.

So this year, whatever festival we observe, we are likely to do so more thoughtfully and with greater intensity. As much as we may trust in science, we also take comfort in our rituals.

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