NH ice rinks to reopen; Maine city getting mask dispensers

Here is a look at pandemic-related developments around New England:

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Hockey and other indoor ice arena activities can resume in New Hampshire starting Oct. 30 but participants and staff will have to be tested for COVID-19, Gov. Chris Sununu said.

The state paused all hockey activities at indoor rinks for two weeks following positive tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the last two months.

Guidance for re-opening rinks released Friday says all volunteers, coaches and staff, referees, and athletes in both youth and adult leagues must be tested at least once by Nov. 6 “to limit early re-introduction of COVID-19.”

State officials are calling for all staff, volunteers and athletes to wear face coverings at all times when indoors and not participating in sports. Parents and other spectators must also wear face coverings when inside a facility. When outside, face coverings should be worn when people cannot socially distance.

“This new guidance will safely get folks back on the ice utilizing flexible testing protocols like non-invasive antigen options with the goal of continuing a safe, fun and healthy season,” Sununu said in an emailed statement.

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VERMONT

The nonprofit organization that puts on an annual cow parade and festival in Brattleboro each summer has suspended all of its programs because of lost income from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our income depends on the parade and festival,” Orly Munzing, founder of Strolling of the Heifers, told the Brattleboro Reformer. “And clearly we couldn’t do it this year and it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to do it in June.”

The now-suspended programs include Windham Grows that the board said “supported many emerging agribusinesses,” a farm-to-table apprenticeship, and an annual Slow Living Summit.

“With a heavy heart, this action is taken due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on the financial operations of Strolling of the Heifers that is very dependent on the annual parade and associated events for its operation,” said Roger Allbee, the board of director’s interim chair in a written statement.

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MASSACHUSETTS

In Massachusetts, new coronavirus cases reported in a single day surpassed 1,000 for the first time since May on Saturday.

Health officials reported 1,128 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight additional deaths. It’s the highest number of new cases reported in a single day since May.

The state has reported nearly 150,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,600 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

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MAINE

A Maine city is installing mailboxes loaded with free face masks throughout the community.

The city of Lewiston says workers are installing 12 mailbox mask dispensers across the city. Six of them will be downtown. The mailboxes will have individually wrapped masks inside them.

The city says the masks are expected to be in the mailboxes starting Monday. Lewiston is using Keep Maine Healthy grant money for the effort.

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RHODE ISLAND

The class size for elementary school students in Providence's virtual learning program is being reduced from 52 students per teacher to 36.

The change comes after complaints from teachers working in the Virtual Learning Academy.

“This change, made possible by reassigning more than two dozen elementary literacy, math and reading coaches to serve as teachers in the Virtual Learning Academy, will allow students to have more personalized, small group work and less independent study throughout the day," the school district said.

About 6,500 students are enrolled in the online learning academy that was launched amid the coronavirus pandemic for parents uncomfortable with sending their children to school in person.

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CONNECTICUT

A Cheshire Police Department employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting a deep cleaning of the building, officials said Saturday.

Town police also canceled fingerprinting for jobs and pistol permits at the police station for the rest of the day.

Officials did not disclose whether the department employee is a police officer.

Connecticut on Friday reported a 2.9% positive test rate for the coronavirus, nearly as high as the 3% rate on Tuesday, the highest in four months. More than 230 people were hospitalized, also the highest number in four months. Since the pandemic began, more than 66,000 people in the state have tested positive and more than 4,500 have died.