CONCORD, NH – Gov. Chris Sununu will soon receive a memo of agreement for limited reopening of the ocean beaches between his task force and the communities with Seacoast beaches, including Rye and North Hampton.
The Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force voted unanimously Thursday to approve the agreement along with the one they previously approved for Hampton Beach.
Both will now be considered by public health officials and Sununu, who has indicated reopening would not be in time for Memorial Day weekend.
The pandemic caused by the highly contagious viral infection COVID-19 has killed almost 200 residents and the ocean beaches in New Hampshire have been closed since March.
The first phase of reopening would allow for only 50 percent of the parking spaces to be used along the beaches and would limit beach access to transitory uses like walking, running, and surfing. Sunbathing would not be allowed in the first phase at any of the beaches.
Inland state park beaches also remain closed.
Phil Bryce, parks director and a member of the task force, said the basis for the regional reopening guidance comes from the recommendations from Hampton Beach. No parking would be allowed on state or town roads near the beaches except by residents of each respective town.
A copy of the regional Seacoast beach plan is below:
The Hampton guidance includes a letter from the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce asking Sununu to consider allowing for the opening of the beach by June 1 but there are no dates in the regional beach plan.
The governor has been non-committal other than to say that health concerns will dictate his decision and that there will be no beach openings this Memorial Day weekend.
After a public input call-in session in the morning on Friday the reopening task force is expected to vote on guidance that would allow some to get a pedicure and a tattoo. And there may be a vote on retooling the guidance for daycare centers and allowing for the reopening of lodging to New Hampshire residents only.
Mike Somers of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, a member of the task force, said a subcommittee has been looking at what neighboring states are doing on request of the governor, and he wanted the task force to consider amending lodging guidance to limit lodging to New Hampshire residents only or having out-of-state visitors sign a document that they have quarantined at home before coming to the state for 14 days in the first phase.
Sununu has said he is concerned that opening up lodging and short-term rentals right now would entice out-of-state residents to New Hampshire which could increase the presence of COVID-19 and impact the state’s health-care system.
Sununu is also expected to make an announcement on some of his “Stay at Home 2.0” flex reopening of various aspects of the economy. That announcement is set for Friday at 3 p.m.
On Thursday, the task force received presentations on allowing for the return of drivers’ ed, road races, and aesthetic treatments like nail polishing, tanning, and specialized hair procedures not covered under the existing opening for cosmetologists and updates on changes to guidance for tattoos and childcare.
Lindsey B. Courtney, acting executive director for the New Hampshire Office of Professional Licensure, said the tattoo industry met Thursday and an advisory board merged its reopening document with one that the task force was considering.
Clients should wear cloth-based masks except in facial piercings, Courtney said, and all body artists need to wear face shields and protective eyewear to open.
The task force also heard from Courtney on behalf of the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. She outlined new suggested guidance from the board.
Courtney said the industry is not asking for a specific date for reopening but for a means by which they can resume more complex cosmetology services than the simple haircuts that are now allowed under Stay-at-Home 2.0
The proposed guidance is below:
The staff would have to wear cloth facemasks in the salon. With the exception of the tanning bed, customers would be urged to do the same.
There will be no walk-ins. It would be by appointment only and the maximum time in a salon is one hour. Clients would wait in the car until the staff is ready. There would be no double-dipping with the nail polish.
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, a member of the task force, said the one-hour time limit is problematic.
“They can’t do their job in an hour,” Carson said. “The Department of Public Health needs to know that.” She noted there are no time restrictions in other states.
“Maybe we can send a strong recommendation to (public health) to let them do their jobs and give them the time they need,” Carson said.
Currently, the state Department of Motor Vehicles is not offering the driving tests yet.
The task force heard from Sharon Cameron of the New Hampshire Driver Education Teachers Association. She offered potential guidance for reopening. She said before the pandemic, the state had about 60 schools training 15,000 a year to drive.
High Schools don’t offer it as a course, and schools are either contracted or independent. The course entails 30 hours of classroom time and 10 hours of instruction behind the wheel.
“Students are left hanging,” by the pandemic, she said, noting this has “thrown another wrench into what has already been a tough year.”
While some of the coursework has been able to be done online and will continue, she offered guidance that would allow 10 hours behind the wheel of instruction by controlling the environment of the vehicle and cleaning between student drivers. Both student and driver would wear face coverings.
A copy of the draft guidance is below:
Runners could get back to lacing-up for races under a plan offered by race organizer John Mortimer, owner of Millennium Running. His company manages 130 events in the state throughout the year. He said the average number of individuals in a race is about 350 and only two events in the state attract over 4,000 participants.
He offered the following guidance:
For starters, he said smaller races would be allowed and would begin with no mass starts allowed in the first phase. Starting could be done in smaller pods with information through the registration of what their pace is per mile. This would allow avoiding a lot of passing of athletes along the course.
There would be the elimination of a post-race atmosphere that has been standard, and the check-in process would likely be handled by mail. Water along the course would require bottles not cups and the organizers would have to clean them up. There would be limits on audience interaction.
“We’re looking for some guidelines,” he said, “so that we can have events in a responsible manner.”
The revised guidance is expected to be addressed Friday with many daycare providers expressing concern with the governor’s reopening guidance that now requires workers to wear masks at work. There are also some restrictions on density that are concerning.
The task force passed guidance that recommended but did not require face masks for daycare staff but it was changed by Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist and the governor agreed to Chan’s recommendation. Members expect there to be some revisions of the proposal perhaps in the governor’s remarks Friday.
Those who would like to address the task force on any issue can do so Friday morning from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. by calling 1-800-356-8278 or 1-857-444-0744 with pin code of 194499 or 600744.
The task force will reconvene to vote at that same number at noon Friday and hopes to be done in time to hear Sununu talk about other measures for reopening at 3 p.m.
The website for the task force, which includes draft reopening guidance for various sectors of the economy and their recommendations to the governor, can be found at https://www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce