Virus exposure at NH church; Vermont announces relief funds

BOSTON (AP) — A look at coronavirus news from around New England:

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MAINE

Masks and social distancing will be required when Maine holds its first murder trial since the coronavirus pandemic crippled much of the U.S. legal system this spring.

Carine Reeves, of New York City, is scheduled to go on trial next month in Bangor in the killing of Sally Shaw, 55, of New Gloucester.

The Bangor Daily News reports that jurors, lawyers and and the judge will all wear masks. Jurors will sit in the gallery instead of the jury box so they can sit 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Members of the public, including reporters and family members of the victim, will sit in a separate room to watch a live video stream of the trial.

Court officials are sending jury summonses to 500 people to ensure that they can find enough fair and impartial jurors who are willing to serve under the coronavirus rules, said Peter Schleck, manager of operations at the Bangor courthouse.

Maine public health authorities reported 12 new cases and one additional death from the virus on Saturday. There have been more than 4,000 confirmed cases and 125 deaths because of the virus.

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

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MASSACHUSETTS & RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Islanders can make quick trips across the border to Massachusetts for things like groceries without having to fill out a form or produce a coronavirus test result, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said.

Rhode Island was recently removed from the list of lower risk states that allowed residents there to be exempted from Massachusetts travel quarantine requirements.

Rhode Islanders coming to Massachusetts must now comply with a new executive order mandating they quarantine for 14 days or face a $500-per-day fine. Travelers who can produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours before their arrival in Massachusetts are exempt.

But Baker said Friday that people who live near the border can still come into Massachusetts for things grocery shopping or banking and won't be fined, as long as they wear a mask.

“Go to the store, do your shopping, wear your face mask, keep six feet apart from people, and go home,” Baker told reporters.

Massachusetts reported 320 new confirmed cases on Saturday and 12 additional deaths. There have been more than 8,700 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths and more than 120,000 confirmed and probable cases in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.

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RHODE ISLAND

A federal appeals court has rejected a bid by Rhode Island Republicans to reinstate the witness requirement for mail-in ballots.

A lower court recently suspended the requirement that those voting by mail have two witnesses or a notary sign their ballot envelope, a move that would require face-to-face and hand-to-hand interactions. Groups that sued over the rule said it unnecessarily puts people’s health at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. The court's ruling applies to the September primaries and November general elections.

Republicans urged the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the lower court's decision on hold, but the appeals court rejected their request on Friday.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea called it “another victory for voting rights and the safety of Rhode Islanders.”

“No one should have to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote,” she said in an emailed statement.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire health officials are investigating a potential coronavirus outbreak linked to a Windham church.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that 16 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have connections to the Windham Crossing Life Church.

Health officials say anyone who attended events associated with the church since July may have been exposed to the virus and should be tested. That includes a YouthStorm, Inc. camp event held on July 16 through 18, the department said.

“The public should not attend events related to the Windham Crossing Life Church over the next week while DHHS investigates these illnesses further,” it said in a statement.

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CONNECTICUT

Utility workers racing to help restore power to homes and businesses in Connecticut after Tropical Storm Isaias include crews from states whose visitors are supposed to quarantine.

The Hour Newspaper reports that workers have been brought in from states including Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi and Virginia to help restore power in the wake of the storm.

Under the governor’s order, people who come to Connecticut for “critical infrastructure” repairs are exempt from the quarantine rules.

Connecticut's travel advisory applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10% or higher positive rate over a seven-day rolling average. Anyone arriving in Connecticut from those states are directed to quarantine for 14 days.

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VERMONT

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation has announced a grant program to provide $5 million in coronavirus relief funds to eligible forest products businesses that have suffered economically during the coronavirus pandemic.

Grants ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 are available on a first-come, first-serve basis to replace lost revenue, the department said. Applicants must be a forest products business working in managing, harvesting, trucking, processing, manufacturing, crafting, or distributing forest or wood products, which must be sourced from Vermont forests, the department said. But businesses may not get Forest Economy Stabilization Grants for revenue losses if they have already been covered by a grant from another state agency or program.

“The diversity of businesses engaged in Vermont’s forest economy are critically important to so many dimensions of life in Vermont – our commerce, our culture, and our quality of life – and they have experienced significant harm during the coronavirus pandemic,” Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, said in a written statement on Friday.

Vermont reported six new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, for a total of 1,454 statewide since the pandemic began. The number of deaths remained at 58. One person was hospitalized with COVID-19.