CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - When it comes to this fall’s elections, officials are worried about both safety and soggy ballots.
The secretary of state’s office hosted an online meeting Thursday for town moderators to discuss preparations for the Sept. 8 state primary and Nov. 3 general election. While voters will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot if they’re concerned about the coronavirus, the state also is making plans to ensure those who show up at the polls in person stay safe.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said the state will provide N95 masks for poll workers interacting with voters, face shields for moderators and others who may be walking around the site, disposable surgical masks to offer to voters and tall plastic sneeze guards to separate workers from voters.
Each voter will be given a pen and a paper pad to place under their ballot while marking it. That way, the table surfaces in the voting booths won’t have to be wiped down after each voter, which could create wet surfaces that mar the ballots, said Bud Fitch, attorney for the secretary of state’s office. Likewise, voters won’t be offered hand sanitizer until after they drop off their completed ballots because the moisture could jam the machines.
“Then you can drown your hands as much as you want,” he said. “But we don’t want them getting the ballots wet.”
Other coronavirus developments in New Hampshire:
WELCOME, NEW ENGLANDERS
Residents of other New England states can now stay in New Hampshire hotels, inns and other lodging properties without quarantining at home first.
Properties that had shut down in March because of the coronavirus were allowed to reopen June 5, but out-of-state guests have had to attest to having quarantined in their home states for 14 days before arriving. Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday removed that restriction for residents of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
“We’re just trying to open opportunities in a safe and sound way,” Sununu said. “If we see our numbers go up we can always pull back, but right now we’re in a good place.”
Other states have similar rules, though they differ on which states are exempt and where potential visitors must quarantine. For example, Maine exempts New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont from its requirement that visitors quarantine in Maine upon arrival.
HOSPITALS & NURSING HOMES
Hospitals can begin scheduling more routine surgeries and procedures, and some nursing home residents can resume eating and socializing together, the state health commissioner said Thursday.
Patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have dropped significantly in recent weeks, with only 34 statewide as of Thursday. Hospitals also report having reliable sources of personal protective equipment and the ability to quickly test patients for the virus before surgeries and other procedures, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.
“Right now, we feel like this is a safe step for us to take,” she said.
At nursing homes, where residents have largely been confined to their rooms during the pandemic, plans are in place to resume communal dining and activities, she said. That won’t be allowed, however, in the two hardest hit counties - Hillsborough and Rockingham - or in facilities that have outbreaks. Seven facilities currently have outbreaks, while the virus is no longer present in 23 that previously had outbreaks.
More than 4,800 initial unemployment claims were filed in New Hampshire last week, down by more than 500 from the previous week, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday.
The latest number covers new claims through June 27. The number of new claims in a week peaked at 39,000 in early April and has since been declining.
As of Thursday, 5,822 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 21 from the previous day. Two new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 375.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
Associated Press Writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.
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