Groups Ask Baker To Delay Next Phase Of Reopening

A look at pandemic-related news around New England on Saturday:

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MASSACHUSETTS

Twenty-nine organizations are asking Gov. Charlie Baker to delay the reopening steps taking effect Monday, by at least at month.

Massachusetts moves into the next phase of reopening starting Monday, with large sports venues allowed to open with 12% capacity. Gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors, the administration said.

“We constantly go back and look at what we’ve done and think about it as we look forward,” Baker told WBZ. “The idea that this process isn’t an iterative one, is just wrong. We’re constantly talking to people about this.”

Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, drafted the letter to Baker from the groups.

“We’re concerned that there’s the possibility of a fourth wave of the pandemic just as we’re about to see that light that we all need at the end of the tunnel,” said Pavlos.

The CDC this week urged states to reconsider rolling back restrictions, the news station reported.

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MAINE

Maine’s Republican senator has joined with a group of colleagues who want to make certain families of veterans who die due to coronavirus receive survivor benefits.

Sen. Susan Collins is working with a group of Democratic and Republican senators from around the country on the legislation. The act would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs take steps to provide dependent benefits when a veteran dies of COVID-19.

Specifically, the proposal would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “to secure medical opinions for veterans with service-connected disabilities who die from COVID-19 to determine whether their service-connected disabilities were the principal or contributory causes of death,” Collins’ office said.

Collins said the proposal would make sure veterans’ families get access to benefits they have earned.

Maine reported 220 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 165.71 on March 4 to 202 on March 18.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

More colleges and universities in New Hampshire are planning to fully reopen in the fall.

The University of New Hampshire joined Keene State College and Plymouth State University this week in announcing plans to fully resume in-person classes, athletic events and other activities in the fall.

“During the last year we have learned a lot about using technology to enhance education and student success, and we expect this coming academic year to be even better than the “normal” of the past,” UNH President James Dean said in a recent message to students.

Dean said that he doesn’t expect the virus to be eliminated, and that some precautions likely will remain in place.

New Hampshire reported 344 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. The results include 201 people who tested positive by PCR test and 143 who tested positive by antigen test, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 218.43 on March 4 to 274.57 on March 18.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services there was an average of 303 cases per day from March 14 to March 20, which is a 22% increase from the previous week.

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VERMONT

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the state is continuing to work to vaccinate people of color in Vermont.

People of color are more likely to become infected with COVID-19 and more likely to suffer severe consequences of the disease than are white, non-Hispanic Vermonters, Levine said.

To help alleviate that discrepancy, if one member of a family meets the state guidelines to be vaccinated, that person can bring along family members to also be vaccinated.

Levine says there is a clinic scheduled for Saturday in Burlington in which 262 people of color are due to be vaccinated. Another clinic for about 100 people is scheduled for Brattleboro next week. Both of those clinics are full.

The Health Department is continuing to arrange future clinics for people of color.

Vermont reported 148 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, for a statewide total since the pandemic began of over 17,500.

Two additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported, bringing the total to 219. A total of 21 people were hospitalized, with five in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 122.29 on March 4 to 110 on March 18.

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RHODE ISLAND

The VA Providence Healthcare System is holding a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for veterans on Monday.

The clinic, which will be open to all military veterans, will be held at the old Benny’s store in Middletown from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We are using this opportunity to bring more vaccination clinics to our veterans in the areas that they live,” Larry Connell, Medical Center Director of the VA Providence Healthcare System said in a statement. “As we have found with other local clinics, bringing vaccine to veterans makes it easier for them to get the vaccine timely and close to their home.”

Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA Healthcare System will need to bring a copy of their DD214 and a photo ID. They will also need to fill out a 1010EZ enrollment form.

The VA Providence Healthcare System continues to vaccinate veterans at its main campus in Providence from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Additional vaccination events are being planned.