Will health clubs, hotels, virtual shows be next to reopen in NH?

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Zoo Health Club in Manchester. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings, frameofmindphoto.com

CONCORD, NH – Daycare centers could reopen, the show could go on virtually and you could leave a light on at the hotel under a phase 1 reopening approved Tuesday by the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force.

The task force also recommended that health clubs could reopen at 50-percent capacity for state residents and members only and no new members and horseback riding lessons could resume with restrictions.

It will be up to Gov. Chris Sununu to decide.

Sununu’s spokesman Ben Vihstadt said the governor and public health officials need time to read the task force’s new guidelines.

“It is more likely that any significant new industry announcements will occur early next week, although some form of an announcement could be made on Friday,” Vihstadt said.

Sununu’s “Stay at Home 2.0” plan has already allowed for the limited reopening of retail, golf, camping and hair salons, and next week, outdoor dining. Non-essential businesses were closed along with schools two months ago due to COVID-19, which has caused the deaths of 133 residents as of Monday.

The task force sought initial guidance from the industries and considered them in subcommittee before voting Tuesday.

The separate guidance documents now go to the state Division of Public Health which will review and recommend based on health guidelines then send to Sununu for consideration.

At a news conference on Monday, Sununu said he has no plans “set in stone” for making more opening announcements this week, but he did not rule it out.

D.J. Bettencourt, chair of the task force, said the recommendations would be sent out immediately to Sununu. He said the governor might pick and choose aspects of plans to allow for partial openings.

“Eventually we will get everyone there when the time is appropriate,” Bettencourt said.

Youth Sports

Bettencourt said he expects more work immediately on amusement guidance, youth sports, adult daycare, tattoo, youth indoor arenas, and charitable gaming, and next week, movies, bowling and any other industry the task force believes it should hear from.

Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, a member of the task force, suggested businesses with little or no contact with the public should be allowed to open under some sort of proposal.

“Businesses are looking for a more universal statement rather than industry-by-industry,” Lang said.
Some may find that they are already under the “essential” list like law firms and real estate firms.

Not yet included in any opening guidance are ocean beach or summer camps.

Also not immediately being considered are guidance documents to help reopen churches, water parks, amusement parks, tourists, boat cruises, or indoor attractions. They will stay shuttered for now due to health challenges related to the highly contagious virus which has sickened 3,160, mostly in southern New Hampshire.

Moving Forward

But advancing toward the “OPEN” sign are the following business sectors under the guidance vote Tuesday:

  • Hotels, motels, and all rented short-term lodging accommodation
  • Health clubs
  • Performing arts (allowing those who want to, to offer streaming media services)
  • Childcare/daycare (it has been open for children of essential workers only)
  • Recreational businesses
  • Equestrian services
  • Attractions

All of the draft guidances were passed and can be found at this website https://www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce.

The only amendment approved was in the category of attractions where outdoor shooting ranges and golf driving ranges are included, with limitations.

Much of the guidance involves added sanitization and adoption of universal rules for employers and employees. CDC guidelines that are meant to protect the public in most cases for phase 1 reopening mean workers will wear cloth masks. Most allow capacity at 50 percent.

Other guidance is industry-specific and made in consultation with industry officials. Initial guidance came from the industry and the task force considered it in subcommittee before voting Tuesday.

Public Health

Patricia Tilley, deputy director of the Division of Public Health, and a member of the task force, agreed there are many aspects of business, particularly ones without a lot of public contacts.

She said ensuring a health screening, face coverings, social distancing, and advanced cleaning and disinfection are keys to the universal guidance.

“What we are concerned about is interactions with the public,” Tilley said.

Bettencourt said that can be considered and discussed further. The task force meets daily at 1:30 and will host a public input session on Friday from 9 to 11 a.m.

“We want to make as many businesses open as possible,” Bettencourt said, “while always relying on public health for their advice and guidance.”