- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - A task force will work on a plan to gradually reopen New Hampshire’s economy, while another hospital is furloughing workers to stem financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Developments across New Hampshire:

REOPENING PLAN:

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Tuesday appointed a bipartisan group of lawmakers, business leaders and state officials to examine how the state can begin to re-open its economy.

The Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force will work collaboratively with public health experts and stakeholders, he said.



“This is not an open and closed situation, it just isn’t, nor should it be. We’ve always said public health has to be preeminent,” he said. “We stepped into a lot of the restrictions, and we’re going to step out of it very, very carefully.”

The state’s stay-at-home order expires May 4, but Sununu said there likely will be further extensions.

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THE NUMBERS

As of Tuesday, 1,491 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, and 42 had died.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

The daily count of hospitalized patients has been holding steady for the last two weeks, said Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist.

“While our numbers have been stable, we have not yet seen a decline in the overall spread of COVID-19 in our communities, so it is critically important for people to continue their social distancing efforts,” he said.

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UNEMPLOYMENT UPDATE

More than $88 million has been paid in unemployment benefits in New Hampshire in the weeks since the pandemic started, including more than $50 million paid out on Monday alone, Sununu said. More than 184,000 claims have been paid.

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HOSPITAL FURLOUGHS

Catholic Medical Center, one of New Hampshire’s largest hospitals, is furloughing hundreds of workers as it loses millions of dollars a month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hospital said Tuesday it will put 423 workers, or 13% of its workforce, on a 60-day furlough, starting Saturday. An additional 914 workers will have their hours reduced, leaders at the vice president level and above are taking a 15% pay cut, and executive directors are taking a 5% cut.

Like other facilities, the hospital has eliminated elective procedures and scaled back outpatient visits to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients, conserve protective equipment and to protect other patients and staff.

The hospital lost $11 million in March and expects to lose up to $70 million by July.

Last week, the company that runs Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center announced 650 workers would be furloughed.

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SIDEWALK CAFE LICENSES

In Portsmouth, city councilors have started approving sidewalk cafe licenses for restaurants, although there are no specified opening dates, the city manager said.

Dine-in food service is prohibited through at least May 4, under Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order on the coronavirus. Many restaurants have shifted to takeout service, including delivery and curbside pickup.

Seacoastonline.com reports that City Manager Karen Conard said city staff recommended that the council consider approvals subject to change in Sununu’s order that may allow such service to resume.

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CABLES-VENTILATORS

A New Hampshire company that makes cables for medical devices is seeing a lot of demand during the pandemic.

New England Wire Technologies in Lisbon is busy making a multi-conductor cable for ventilators.

The majority of the products are being shipped overseas, where a sub-contractor has geared up to finish assemblies, company spokeswoman Kelly MacKay told the Caledonian-Record.

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This story has been corrected to show that the last name of the Portsmouth city manager is Conard, not Conrad.

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