State High Court Lifting Mask Requirement; Theater Reopening

BOSTON (AP) — A look at coronavirus-related developments around New England:

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MASSACHUSETTS

State health officials on Sunday reported four additional deaths and more than 100 new cases of COVID-19.

The Massachusetts Department of Health also said there are currently more than 4,000 active cases of the virus in the state, of which nearly 180 are in hospitals statewide

The state is averaging about 165 new cases a day, down from more than 470 new cases a day two weeks ago.

Massachusetts has recorded 17,548 deaths and more than 660,000 cases of the virus since the pandemic started.

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MAINE

Health officials in Maine reported nearly 80 new coronavirus cases and zero new deaths from the virus on Sunday.

The state Center for Disease Control and Prevention also said the statewide hospitalization rate was about 15 patients per 10,000 residents. A tally for how many patients are currently hospitalized with the virus wasn't available.

Maine is averaging roughly 70 new COVID-19 cases a day, down from more than 190 two weeks ago.

The state has reported 839 deaths and more than 68,000 cases of the virus since the pandemic started.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

The New Hampshire Supreme Court is allowing people to go without a mask in courts throughout the state as of Monday, with some exceptions.

The change revokes an order that was in place since July 2020.

People who are currently in a courtroom or jury room for trials or grand jury proceedings will still be required to wear masks through the month of June.

The court said the order doesn’t apply to common areas of a building used as a courthouse or a judicial branch workplace, if, and to the extent that, the building is owned by an independent organization that requires face coverings in common areas.

The court also revoked part of an order that had required people returning from international or cruise-ship travel to self-isolate for 14 days before entering state courthouses.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire House has rejected an attempt to make infectious diseases like COVID-19 a qualifying condition for absentee voting.

Lawmakers made temporary changes last year to allow voters to cite the coronavirus as a reason for casting absentee ballots only for the September 2020 primary and November general election.

This year, the Senate passed a bill that would have allowed someone to vote absentee due to “medical conditions that pose a risk of infection to others or where infection from others carries significant health risk.” But the House removed that language Thursday in passing the bill, which also makes other changes to absentee ballot envelopes.

The measure now goes back to the Senate.

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VERMONT

A beloved town-owned movie theater in southern Vermont is expected to reopen next weekend after being shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rockingham Town Manager Scott Pickup says a couple is managing the Bellows Falls Opera House and will be working part-time on a flexible schedule to get the theater running.

The town has applied for a $140,000 Small Business Administration grant focused on helping closed theaters and arts venues reopen and operate, the Bennington Banner reported.

There's no guarantee that the movie-going public will return to pre-pandemic levels, Pickup told the select board this week. The SBA grant would help the theater stay open and rebuild its clientele, he said.