Quality of Life 21/04/29

Honoring forgotten soldiers

The fourth installation for Flags for Forgotten Soldiers in New Hampshire will be placed at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack on May 1, according to a press release. There will be 660 flags installed, representing the loss of veterans to suicide, of which there are an average of 22 each day in the U.S. The first installations were in Derry, Chester and Danville and were installed for 30 days each — 22 a day multiplied by 30 days. This larger installation will include five flags that represent the first responders lost daily, and a single flag to signify active-duty members, according to the release, and it will be left up all summer.

Score: +1, for bringing attention to a tragic problem

Comment: The public is invited to attend and assist placing the flags on Saturday May 1, at noon at Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 221 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack.

Breathing better

New Hampshire’s air quality has improved for both ozone and year-round particle pollution, according to the 2021 State of the Air report from the American Lung Association. According to a press release, New Hampshire has several counties that were ranked among the cleanest in the Boston metro area for short-term particle pollution. All five reporting counties (Belknap, Hillsborough, Rockingham, Cheshire and Grafton) maintained A grades for short-term particle pollution, and all seven of the state’s reporting counties (all of the above, plus Merrimack and Coos) either maintained or improved their grades for ozone.

Score: +1

Comment: In just the counties included in this report, more than 240,000 residents are living with lung diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer, as well as heart disease, making them more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.

Manchester cleans up

The Manchester Urban Ponds Restoration Program is in the midst of its annual spring cleanup. According to a press release, the program has organized 119 cleanups since it started in 2000, and its kept tally of some fun stats: 1071 volunteers have spent approximately 3,632 hours collecting 2,431 bags of trash — which does not include illegally “dumped” items like shopping carts (99), tires (441), car batteries, construction debris and more. The value of volunteer time spent at these cleanups has amounted to over $78,000, the release said.

Score: 0 (+1 for the volunteers, -1 for the absurd number of illegally dumped items found in Manchester’s parks and ponds)

Comment: The next two cleanups are at Stevens Pond and Stevens Pond Park on Saturday, May 1, from 9 to 11 a.m., and at Nutts Pond and Precourt Park on Saturday, May 8, from 9 to 11 a.m. Cleanups will be held rain or shine and anyone is welcome. Latex gloves and plastic trash bags will be provided.

Scam alert

Last week Eversource warned its customers to watch out for scammers who are using new techniques to trick people into thinking they’re legit, including using phony caller IDs that display “Eversource” and reading from scripts that sound like they’re coming from a real company representative who is threatening to disconnect their electric or gas service because of an unpaid bill. According to a press release, Eversource will never ask for an instant payment over the phone, will not ask for prepaid debit cards and will not ask customers to meet at a “payment center” to make the payment. Anyone who thinks they might have received a scam phone call, text or email should contact local police.

Score: -1

Comment: “These scam artists sound sophisticated and are ruthless,” Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner said in the release. “[If you] get a call and the caller’s message doesn’t look or sound right, don’t panic and don’t pay. Remember, we will never threaten to disconnect service or demand instant payment over the phone.”

QOL score: 69

Net change: +1

QOL this week: 70

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

A draft blows through

With Round 1 going off tonight, draft day has arrived. Finally! The mocks are done and all that’s left is the announcers introducing every single player taken as if they are certain Hall of Famers, which we all know they won’t be. Oh, and there’s uproar around here if Coach B freaking trades down or out of Round 1 altogether instead of addressing the need everyone around here wants him to address on the draft’s first round. If that happens, yowza.

In the meantime, with Jacksonville on the clock here are some topical thoughts.

The Quarterback Issues:With three QB’s expected to go 1-2-3 tonight (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and a mystery guy from the trio of Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Justin Fields to San Francisco), with the other two likely to be taken in the Top 10, QB’s will be the night’s biggest story whether that happens or not, but especially if it doesn’t.

When I see scouts bash someone anonymously, as some are doing to Jones or Fields, I’m thinking it’s either a smoke screen from a team with interest, or someone trying to pump their own tires with a reporter and not having the stones to put their name on it.

Given the varying degrees on how good people think the Tom Brady play-alike Jones is, if I were doing the evaluating I’d go back to Brady’s 2000 scouting reports to compare them with what’s being said about the Bama QB today. Of special interest would be what the knocks were and whether they actually mattered in the long run.

After the fourth QB comes off the board, would it be smart for Buffalo to trade up in front of the Pats and then re-auction it to a QB-needy team like Chicago at a lower price? Unconventional for sure. But depending how expensive it is, would a couple of lower draft picks be an acceptable cost to keep a long-term solution at QB away from their AFC East rival for a couple more years?

Does it seem weird that QB’s from Utah, Alabama and North Dakota will be in Cleveland tonight and Fields from nearby Columbus wont’? Could that mean it’s to save embarrassment because his camp thinks he could suffer a major slide?

Big Board All Name Team:(1) Kwity Paye, edge rusher, Michigan. (2) Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon. (3) Hamilcar Rashed Jr., edge, Oregon State. (4) Azeez (god bless you) Ojulari, OLB, Georgia. (5) Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington. (6) Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC. (7) Ifeatu Melifonwu, DB, Syracuse.(8) Hamsah Nasirildeen, DB, Florida State. (9) Osa Odighizuwa, DT, UCLA. (10) Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State.

Although I’d have paid to be the announcer at UNC for the Chazz and Dazz show, which has LB Chazz Surratt and wideout Dazz Newsome ranked at 79 and 90 on the Big Board.

Speaking of the Big Board, the most recent one I saw had all five QB’s ranked accordingly, Expected first and second picks Lawrence and Zach Wilson ranked first and fifth overall. Lance was at eight, Fields nine and Jones at 20.

2020 Hunches Not Based on Facts or Scouting Reports: I get a bad feeling when people have been calling a guy a “generational talent” for as long as they have been doing it for Lawrence because after that happens evaluators get lazy and don’t see any flaws that develop.

To those hanging to Jimmy G coming to the Patriots like a dog with a bone: If the Pats don’t go QB in Round 1, I think Cam Newton is more likely to be the QB in Foxborough in 2022 than Jimbo.

Rumor Mill: After moving from 3 to 12 and then back to 6,rumor has it Miami is trying to get a second pick in the Top 10 by trading up with the 18th pick. The likely trade partner is Denver at 9, which would be bad news, good news for the Patriots. Bad because no one wants a division rival getting a talent infusion from two Top 10 picks. Good because if they do have their eye on a QB, Denver dropping behind them in the order takes out a QB-needy competitor out of the running.

With QB’s and potentially elite receivers expected to dominate the first 10 picks, teams looking for defensive or offensive help, like Cincinnati (who could go for a receiver) at 5, need help everywhere. Detroit (7), Carolina (8), Dallas (10) and the G-Men (11) are possible landing spots if a QB they like slides to those spots and the Pats want to act.

Ancient Draft History:If one of the ballyhooed QB’s slides to them and they act, it won’t be the first time they’ve taken a QB at 15. The other time was 1983 for (gulp) Tony Eason. Not a horrible player, but soft as a grape and got famously yanked in SB 20 because he was terrified of the Bears defense. Worse still, they passed on Dan Marino, who went 12 picks later to Miami. What might have been comes to mind, especially since the invincible Da Bears’ only loss in 1985 was a 38-24 verdict when Marino threw for 27 and three TDs.

Speaking of ancient history, when the Pats took Richard Seymour sixth overall in 2001, Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson went next to San Diego. So here’s the question: If that draft were held today would you stick with Big Richard or go with the top playmaker of that era? As good as LT was, but with three SBs being won by a defense-first team and he was its best player, they made the right call.

And One More Thing: With Brady winning the Super Bowl in Year 1 after basically being allowed to leave/pushed out, if Coach B trades does trade out of Round 1 altogether again, Patriot Nation will go berserk giving “In Bill We Trust” its second major hit in a year.

Breaking ground

NH cemetery introduces a new kind of burial

Mel Bennett is the creator of Life Forest, a recently opened conservation cemetery in Hillsborough that provides burial plots for cremated remains, marked by memorial trees planted and maintained by staff tree experts.

What led you to create Life Forest?

My mom died [after] a long illness … and I had her cremains in my cabinet, like many people do. … I started reading about these burial pods where you could put cremains in a biodegradable container and plant a tree. … I loved the idea, but when I started doing more research I couldn’t find any cemeteries or places that would protect this tree. I felt like the responsibility of taking care of this tree was epic. What if I go on vacation? I’m going to have to hire someone to water my mom’s tree. What do I do if I want to move? … That’s when I started thinking, ‘I think people would want something like this.’

Is this a new idea?

We’re the first ones to do this anywhere. We’re the only legal cemetery that plants a tree above the cremains and legally protects both the tree and the legacy of the person. … This is a big shift in the death care industry. There’s always been this divide between traditional burial and green burial, but there are wonderful aspects of both, and we want to try to bridge that gap. We want to maintain the legal protection of legacy and ancestry and cemetery [land] that’s [associated with] traditional burial and incorporate the idea of environmental protection that’s [associated with] green burial.

How are the plots protected?

Headstones are protected under cemetery law. As we worked with our legal team, we realized that if we use a tree as a headstone, it’s a respected entity. It’s legally protected, meaning that nobody can ever cut it down or cut the branches, as long as it’s in a legal cemetery. … We also want to protect the legacy of the people who are buried there, so we record their vital statistics — full name, birth date and death date and latitude-longitude location of where they’re buried on the property — in the deed of the land. That’s really important, because that ensures that people will know where their loved ones are in future generations.

What’s the science behind this?

There’s a misconception being sold out there that cremains actually help plants grow, and that’s not true. … We’ve worked with quite a few environmental scientists to make sure that we’re doing this correctly … and in a way that’s not going to be detrimental to the tree. … You have to make sure there’s a buffer of at least 18 inches between the root ball of the tree and the cremains, and that you use a rich compost. After three years, the salty nature of the cremains will dissipate.

How are the plots marked?

We have a QR code placed at the base of the tree … and we help families create [virtual] memorial pages … with memories, pictures and video clips of their loved one. Then, you can scan that QR code, and it’ll bring up [the memorial page]. This gives people the opportunity to share an immense amount of personal things, ideas and representations of their loved one in the way that they would want to be remembered, without taking up a ton of space.

What kind of comfort does a memorial tree give people who have lost a loved one?

Instead of having a commemorative piece of granite that never changes, you have this tree that grows and changes and takes different forms every season. You can see its leaves and its flowers, and it’s a way of connecting with your loved one through a different type of life.

What’s the environmental benefit?

Instead of having these huge concrete vaults that are really not great for the environment, you’re planting a tree that is going to grow and give off quality air, and you’re creating a space with a more vivid [landscape].

What are your future plans for Life Forest?

We’re going to be working toward [forming] collaborations with conservation entities in order to expand our locations and availability to be accessible to more people, and so that people don’t have to travel too far to visit their loved ones.

Featured photo: Mel Bennett. Photo by Millyard Studios.

News & Notes 21/04/29

Covid-19 updateAs of April 19As of April 26
Total cases statewide91,78393,935
Total current infections statewide3,3292,717
Total deaths statewide1,2701,286
New cases2,554 (April 13 to April 19)2,152 (April 20 to April 26)
Current infections: Hillsborough County1,002806
Current infections: Merrimack County270225
Current infections: Rockingham County746477
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

During the state’s weekly public health update on April 22, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan reported that New Hampshire has averaged about 350 new infections of Covid-19 per day, while the test-positivity rate was at 4.5 percent.

Over the last several weeks, the number of active infections in the state has hovered around either side of 3,000, while the total number of positive cases since the start of the pandemic last year is creeping toward 100,000.

According to Dr. Beth Daly, Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control of the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services, roughly 47 percent of the state’s population (about 637,000 people) have received at least their first shot as of April 22, while 28 percent of the population (about 387,000 people) has been fully vaccinated. “We continue to receive around 50,000 first doses of vaccine each week, between the doses that are allocated to us at the state, as well as our pharmacy partners,” she said. “We still have thousands of open appointments available … at over 200 different locations where you can get vaccinated.”

Thousands more people received their shot at a mass vaccination site at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on April 24. Unlike previous sites at the Speedway, this one was only held by appointment for people to receive their second shot.

Later during the press conference, Gov. Chris Sununu said that the state would likely resume administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine “in a matter of days.”

The following day, April 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food & Drug Administration issued a joint statement lifting the recommended pause of the vaccine, saying that its “known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.” Federal health officials had recommended a pause of states’ usage of the vaccine on April 13 following six reports of a rare blood clot disorder, a condition the CDC is now calling “thrombosis involving the cerebral venous sinuses, or CVST (large blood vessels in the brain).”

Re-election campaign

On April 27, Mayor Joyce Craig announced that she will be running for re-election for mayor of Manchester. She is currently serving in her second term and is the first woman to serve as mayor in the Queen City, according to a press release. “Manchester is a city on the rise. When the pandemic hit, our progress was interrupted, and we focused our efforts at City Hall on keeping our community safe while still providing essential services,” Craig said in the release. “I’m running for Mayor in 2021 to ensure our city fully recovers from this pandemic, builds upon our progress and comes out of this stronger than before.” This announcement comes after Victoria Sullivan announced her run for mayor last week. According to a press release, Sullivan is a former New Hampshire state representative and assistant majority leader who served two terms on the House Education Committee.

Unemployment

The work search requirement for people getting unemployment benefits will be reinstated starting May 23, Gov. Chris Sununu said in a press conference on April 22, so anyone receiving benefits after that date will have to show proof that they are looking for work. The requirement has been waived during the pandemic, but Sununu said that the state now has a 3 percent unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the country. “Our economy is very, very strong,” he said during the conference. “And it also unfortunately means that we’re, if anything, facing a workforce shortage. … There are tens of thousands of high-paying jobs across the state available today.” The state has hosted 15 virtual job fairs since last summer to help employers find employees, he said, but there haven’t been nearly as many potential employees attending these fairs as there are jobs. Several more job fairs are planned, including one on Thursday, May 6, aimed toward veterans, and one Monday, May 10, for students and recent graduates, as well as one on Thursday, May 13, for those in the construction industry. Sununu encouraged anyone seeking employment to get details about those and other upcoming job fairs at unemploymentbenefits.nh.gov. Meanwhile, he said, all NH Works Centers will be back open to the public by May 10.

Virtual urgent care

Instead of traveling to an emergency room or urgent care clinic, people who need non-emergency care can now connect with a provider by phone or by video on their laptops or mobile devices with the new D-HH Virtual Urgent Care. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health’s Connected Care and Center for Telehealth has partnered with MDLIVE to launch the new service, which provides patients with 24/7 access to urgent care by fully licensed providers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock or MDLIVE-affiliated physicians who are board-certified, licensed, telehealth-trained and have an average of 15 years of experience, according to a press release. Once they sign on, patients can wait for an available provider — the wait time is usually less than 15 minutes — or schedule an appointment for later that day for common health concerns like cold, flu, and other upper respiratory illnesses, allergies, bug bites, rashes, gastrointestinal issues, urinary tract infection and more. They can get prescriptions sent to their pharmacy, if necessary, the release said. The cost is $59 per visit, and the service is currently available to those with private insurance or those who can self-pay. In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), patient and visit details are shared only with the patient’s primary care physician, the release said. Visit go.d-h.org/virtualurgentcare.

Stock your backyard ponds with rainbow and brook trout, available in 6- to 8-inch and 10- to 12-inch sizes from the Merrimack County Conservation District in Concord, according to a press release. The order deadline is Tuesday, May 11. Any trout sized 6 to 8 inches can be picked up on Sunday, May 16, from 1 to 1: 30 p.m. at 10 Ferry St. in Concord, while the larger trout will be directly delivered to your pond. Call 223-6023 or order at merrimackccd.org. Anyone from any county can participate.

The Manchester Board of School Committee has been named the 2021 School Board of the Year by the New Hampshire School Boards Association, according to a press release. “In addition to its response to the pandemic, the board has maintained its focus on implementing a long-term strategic plan,” the release said.

The Upper Room and the Marion Gerrish Community Center in Derry are relaunching the On My Own Series, a virtual way for teens to explore skills such as cooking, painting, drawing and yoga. According to a press release, the program will be offered Wednesdays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., and all classes are free. Visit urteachers.org to register.

The Friends of the Plaistow Public Library are asking gardeners to consider splitting some of their perennial plants and donating them to the library’s upcoming plant sale, proceeds of which will benefit the Friends of the Library. Donations should be in pots and labeled with the plant name; they will be accepted beginning Monday, May 3.

Staying the course

Even as I write these words, some professor at some college is planning a course for the fall semester that will deal with the pandemic. Virtually every academic discipline will have some segment or unit that addresses what we have been (and still are) going through. Literature classes will have their own version of A Journal of a Plague Year. From Art to Zoology, scholars will draw upon the events of these days to develop retrospectives on how the pandemic came about, how it has been handled, who it’s affected, what it’s cost, the statistics of infection, hospitalizations, recoveries and deaths, social, racial and economic injustices, political dimensions, military strategic implications, and economic, psychological and cultural impacts. The list is seemingly endless.

Whatever the courses or programs the professionals develop to parse the significance of this almost unprecedented event, each of us will have our own story. Perhaps, if any of us lives to be old enough, our grandchildren or even great-grandchildren may someday ask, “What was it like back then?” How will we answer? That question occupies me very much these days as I find my longtime practice of daily journal writing has nearly ground to a stop. Quite simply, I do not know what to write now, especially as I imagine one of my descendants someday thumbing through the stack of leather-bound books I’ve been filling up since the early ’60s, noting all my adventures and impressions, and then coming to a blank for most of this year. Will she or he wonder why the hiatus?

In truth, the isolation imposed by the pandemic has meant many of us have been alone with our own thoughts this last year more than ever before. While Zoom and FaceTime can close the loneliness gap somewhat, each of those is a really a kind of planned encounter, an “appointment.” What has been missing is that range of unexpected stimulation that comes from simply being in the presence of other people, whether at the workplace, grocery shopping, dining, or just being out and about. Social distancing has truly made us socially distant and as a result, as David Brooks recently noted, our “extroversion muscles have atrophied while [our] introversion muscles are bulging.”

Early on in the pandemic, there were signs everywhere proclaiming, “Together, we’ll get through this.” We are getting through it. My hope is that now, if we can do it safely, getting vaccinated and wearing our masks as appropriate, we can get back together. Perhaps my journaling will pick up again.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!