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  • 06/01/2020 11:25 AM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    May 28, 2020

    Concord, NH – Today, Governor Chris Sununu established the Governor’s COVID-19 Equity Response Team to develop a recommended strategy and plan to address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The team, comprised of thought leaders in racial/ethnic disparities and health equity, will present recommendations within 30 days.

    “Ensuring equity in our response to COVID-19 is a priority for the state,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “I would like to thank the members of the COVID-19 Equity Response Team for taking on this important charge and I look forward to their recommendations.”

    The COVID-19 Equity Response Team members are as follows:

    • Chair: Trinidad Tellez, MD, Director, Office of Health Equity, DHHS
    • Bobbie Bagley, MS, MPH, RN, CPH, Director, Division of Public Health & Community Services, Nashua
    • Kirsten Durzy, MPH, Equity Council lead, public health evaluation and narrative/storytelling expert, Division of Public Health Services, DHHS
    • Rogers Johnson, President, Seacoast NAACP, Chair of Governors Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion
    • Dottie Morris, PhD, Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Keene State College

    Advisory team members representing needed additional voices/perspectives, constituencies, academic disciplines, and areas of specific expertise will be engaged as needed.

    Response Team’s charge and mission document PDF file

    PDF filePortable Document Format (.pdf) . Visit nh.gov for a list of free .pdf readers for a variety of operating systems.


  • 06/01/2020 11:24 AM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    May 28, 2020

    Concord, NH - Today, Governor Chris Sununu issued the following statement after President Trump announced that he will extend the National Guard's Title 32 status:

    “From PPE distribution to running testing sites, the men and women of our National Guard have helped the state respond to COVID-19 every step of the way,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “I commend the President for extending Title 32 status. This announcement will allow our National Guard to continue to provide critical services.”

     

    Note: Governor Sununu wrote to President Trump earlier this week requesting an extension of the National Guard's Title 32 status.


  • 05/28/2020 3:16 PM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    May 27, 2020

    Affirmation of Maine’s credit ratings come as other states see downgrades related to the COVID-19 pandemic

    Governor Janet Mills and State Treasurer Henry Beck announced today that Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poors Global Ratings (S&P), providers of global credit benchmarks, have affirmed their credit ratings and outlooks on the State of Maine's general obligation debt. Moody's affirmed both their 'Aa2 rating and stable outlook on Maine's debt. S&P affirmed their AA rating and stable outlook. The affirmation of Maine’s ratings comes as S&P and Moody’s downgrade other states’ ratings as a result of the economic turmoil precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “This is welcome news and a validation of our Administration’s bipartisan work with the Legislature to enact responsible budgets and manage State government in a fiscally sound manner,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Difficult decisions lie ahead, but these stable ratings demonstrate that Maine is a worthy investment as we prepare to advance bonds to fix our roads and expand broadband in rural Maine.”

    “Moody's and S&P affirming our stable credit rating during this economic crisis speaks to the strong fiscal management by Governor Mills and the Legislature,” said Treasurer Beck. “Seven states have seen downgrades recently, but not Maine. Bond rates have stabilized since March and yields for high grade 10-year bonds are near all-time lows. Funding these vital projects now makes sense for the market and for Maine.”

    The Senate and House Chairs of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) also issued the following statements in response:

    “On the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, my colleagues and I have consistently drafted strong, bipartisan budgets and made responsible spending decisions to meet the needs of our state and build up our savings. Our efforts continue to pay off,” said Senator Cathy Breen, Senate Chair of AFA. “I’m pleased that the bond rating agencies recognize the work that we’ve all done to keep our fiscal house in order. As we approach the sale of infrastructure bonds in June, this rating will attract investment in our improvements in roads, bridges, and internet access, and it will promote job growth.”

    “During these uncertain times, it is great to get some encouraging financial news,” said Representative Drew Gattine, House Chair of AFA. “These positive ratings will translate into favorable interest rates when Maine goes to market to fund highway and other infrastructure projects - including broadband for rural Maine, on the ballot this July. It is gratifying to see Maine achieve credit ratings that reflect the responsible stewardship that the Legislature, the State Treasurer and the Administration have worked in partnership to achieve.”

    Reflecting on Maine's credit strengths, Moody's specifically identified Maine's adherence to governance best practices. S&P Global wrote they believe “Maine’s active budget management and good reserve profile will help the state to navigate through the economic uncertainty and stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Under the Mills Administration, and with the bipartisan support of the Legislature, the Budget Stabilization Fund has grown by more than $50 million to a record high of nearly $258 million.

    Treasurer Beck and members of the Executive Branch presented to Moody's and S&P via telephone on May 11. State Treasurer Henry Beck intends to conduct a bond sale funding projects totaling $141 million in June of 2020. Initiatives benefiting from the bond sale include highways, bridges, senior housing and weatherization, upgrades at the Maine Community College System and the University of Maine System among several other initiatives.


  • 05/28/2020 3:14 PM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    May 27, 2020

    Administration restricts reopening of restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York Counties to outside service only

    Governor Janet Mills today announced an update to her Administration’s plan to restart Maine’s economy as the state approaches the scheduled June 1 start date for Stage 2 of the plan.

    The Mills Administration announced today that it is postponing the full reopening of restaurants for dine-in services in York, Cumberland, and Androscoggin counties. Restaurants in these counties were tentatively scheduled to reopen to dine-in services on June 1 (Stage 2) but are now restricted to reopening to outside dining service only beginning on that date in addition to continuing to provide take-away and delivery services. The decision to limit their reopening comes amidst an increase in hospitalizations as well as an increase in case counts in these three counties, both of which are metrics monitored by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). A date for the reopening of dine-in services in these counties is yet to be determined.

    “Given the trends we are seeing in certain parts of Maine, our Administration is revising the plan to align with what is in the best interest of public health. To that end, rather than permitting dine-in services in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York Counties as we had originally planned, we will be allowing outside dining only with precautions, a move we believe is safer for the health of Maine people and that balances the economic needs of these businesses,” said Governor Mills.

    In the wake of this change, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which have licensing authority, are streamlining and expediting approval of licenses to facilitate outside-only dining.

    Aside from this update, Stage 2 will move forward as planned. This means that on June 1 restaurants in Penobscot County will be allowed to voluntarily reopen for both indoor and outdoor dining services with strict health and safety precautions, joining the twelve other rural counties where such establishments have been permitted to reopen as part of the Governor’s rural reopening plan. Although Penobscot County has been identified as an area with community transmission, the decision to allow it to reopen as scheduled results in part because the county has not had more than three new cases a day since April.

    Additionally, on June 1, retail businesses in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, and Penobscot counties – counties where these businesses have been closed to indoor shopping – will also be permitted to voluntarily reopen, also with strict, sector-specific health and safety precautions. These businesses now join those in the other twelve counties permitted to reopen as part of the Governor’s rural reopening plan.

    The Administration continues to closely review the status of gyms, fitness centers, and nail salons, the reopening of which were paused last week as a result of concerns about the transmission of the virus in these settings. View a complete outline of Stage 2 with COVID-19 Prevention Checklist guidance.

    “We recognize this is an incredibly difficult time for the business community, and we will do all we can to work collaboratively to develop solutions that keep people safe and create opportunities for businesses,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “We believe that is what we have done here, and we will continue to examine similar opportunities moving forward.”

    Throughout the reopening process, Maine CDC has monitored epidemiological data, including case trends, hospitalization rates, and reports of COVID-like symptoms, as well as health care readiness and capacity. The Administration also continues to evaluate standards outlined in the Governor’s reopening vision statement, such as testing capacity and the State’s ability to conduct contact tracing. It is a review of these metrics in their totality and in context, as opposed to the daily change of a single metric, that informs decisions. Decisions also take into account the insight of Maine CDC epidemiologists; for example, whether an increase in cases is related to an outbreak in a congregate living facility or to spread among close contacts of a previous positive case.

    In the past two weeks, Maine’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased and there has been an uptick in hospitalizations. However, Maine’s hospital capacity and readiness – including the availability of ICU beds, non-ICU beds and ventilators – remains adequate.

    “Data and science continue to guide Maine’s public health response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Expanded testing capacity and enhanced contact tracing add to our analytical toolkit as we review daily fluctuations in metrics and longer-term trends.”

    Adjusted for population size, as of today, Maine ranked tenth lowest in the nation in terms of positive cases; 39th in the nation in terms of deaths; 30th in terms of patients ever-hospitalized out of the 35 states reporting; and 17th in the percentage of people who have recovered out of the 41 states reporting.

    Recently, the Mills Administration has more than tripled the State’s testing capacity through a partnership with IDEXX, eliminated its testing prioritization system to allow anyone suspected of having COVID-19 to be tested, recommendeduniversal testing in congregate living situations after a single confirmed case, expanded the State’s contact tracing system, and announced the deployment of Federal funds to expand the State’s lab capacity, bolster rural hospital lab capacity, and establish drive-through testing sites.


  • 05/28/2020 3:14 PM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    Concord, NH – Today, Governor Chris Sununu, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette and Adjutant General David Mikoliaties announced the state plans to break down most clinical surge flex facilities across New Hampshire starting next week.
     
    The State plans to keep four facilities operationalized in Manchester, Plymouth, Durham, and Littleton. The National Guard will help hospitals, towns, and the Department of Health and Human Services pack up the locations.
     
    “My job is to plan for the worst and hope for the best, and when we stood these surge sites up our hope was to never have to turn the lights on,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “Today’s announcement is welcome news for the state’s response to COVID19 and I would like to thank the National Guard and our local partners for their hard work in setting this network up.”
     
    “Our hospitals have successfully created surge space within their existing facilities should the demand for beds exceed the capacity in their facilities,” said Commissioner Shibinette. “We have ensured we have the ability to re-open four of the flexible surge sites within 48 hours if the need arises. However, the COVID-19 response in New Hampshire requires us to further prioritize resources on supporting the residents and staff in long-term care facilities, where the need is greatest. We want to thank the National Guard, hospitals and local officials for their rapid response in setting up these sites in order to serve our residents.”

    “Working with community leaders and state and local health care professionals, we fielded 14 flex sites in 14 days,” said NH Adjutant Gen. David Mikolaities. “It was truly a remarkable cooperative effort that thankfully ended up being a case of ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. If the need arises again, our citizen soldiers and airmen will be ready at a moment’s notice.”


  • 05/28/2020 3:13 PM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    Concord, NH - Today, Governor Chris Sununu issued Emergency Order #48 as part of the state's efforts to respond to COVID-19.

    PDF filePortable Document Format (.pdf) . Visit nh.gov for a list of free .pdf readers for a variety of operating systems.


  • 05/28/2020 12:23 PM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)


    May 28, 2020

    Dover, NH – Effective Monday, June 1, COAST will resume service on Route 41cc, and transition Route 40 and 41 from the current Saturday schedule to a new reduced weekday schedule. COAST is committed to continuing to increase services as capacity allows but, based on factors beyond their control, may have to continue a reduced schedule until the planned launch of an all new system on June 29th.

    According to COAST, the decision to resume more services on June 1 is consistent with the CDC’s latest decision matrix for public transit operators when considering reopening mass transit during the COVID19 pandemic.

    COAST Executive Director, Rad Nichols, commented, “We are increasing services consistent with applicable state orders. Recommended health and safety actions, and ongoing monitoring, are in place to the extent possible.” Nichols continued, “If necessary, due to changing conditions, we will continue to be as flexible as possible and make adjustments when and where needed. We are striving to do our very best to meet the essential transportation needs of our passengers, and the region, during very challenging times.”

    For additional updates on COAST operations resuming on June 1 visit www.coastbus.org. Please follow COAST on Facebook and Twitter (@COASTbus), and download the DoubleMap App, for periodic updates, information, and real-time bus locations.

    Face masks are strongly encouraged by COAST when riding public transit. Hand sanitizer is being made available for all passengers to use before moving back to their seat. COAST continues to sanitize all buses at a higher frequency and are beginning to regularly sterilize the insides of the buses with their new hydrogen peroxide foggers.

    COAST asks that individuals do not ride if they have any symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, and limit trips, for now, to only those that are essential.

    Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST) has provided public transit service to the Seacoast New Hampshire region since 1982. COAST is a non-profit agency, operating a regional public transit system that relies primarily on federal and local government support to operate. COAST is governed by a board of directors representing the communities served, two regional planning commissions, and many local and state agencies. COAST’s vision is to be an innovative leader in providing a broad range of public transportation services, connecting, and coordinating a robust network of transportation options for everyone. - 

  • 05/27/2020 9:37 AM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    The USDA is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, agricultural producers not eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under USDA Business & Industry CARES Act Program.

    The USDA  also will host webinars to provide an overview of program requirements. For more information, please visit the USDA news release

    The USDA also announced details on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities. More information is available in this news release

    USDA Rural Development Business and Industry (B&I) CARES Act Program Webinar

    Join Here

    Wednesday - June 3rd - 2PM



  • 05/27/2020 9:35 AM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    Join us for an overview of agricultural/farm assistance programs currently available with a focus on disaster recovery. USDA Programs and SBA Disaster Recovery Programs will be highlighted in this webinar. It’s NOT too late to apply for Paycheck Protection Program Funding!

    Thursday, 5/28/20 at 10am
    New England Agriculture Regional Recovery Programs Webinar

    Topics Include:

    USDA Programs

    SBA Disaster Recovery Programs

    Scheduling a Virtual Counseling Session

    REGISTER HERE

    SPEAKERS INCLUDE:

    • Wendell Davis, SBA New England Regional Administrator
    • Bob Nelson, SBA MA District Director
    • Oreste Varela, SBA Springfield Manager
    • Jennifer Sharrow, USDA                                                                      


  • 05/26/2020 2:56 PM | Bonnie McNair (Administrator)

    May 26, 2020

    DHHS is enlisting volunteers, hiring more personnel, and deploying new technology to expand contact tracing in Maine

    Governor Janet Mills announced today that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is significantly expanding contact tracing by increasing the number of skilled staff and volunteers, harnessing innovative technology, and securing social services to help people with COVID-19 maintain self-isolation.

    The State’s expanded contact tracing parallels its major increase in testing capacity. Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and protecting people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent their transmitting infection to others. Taken together, testing and contract tracing enable Maine to identify, investigate, and isolate individuals with COVID-19 to prevent its spread in the absence of effective treatment or a vaccine.

    “Expanded testing and contact tracing are critical to both identifying and limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Maine,” said Governor Janet Mills. “By increasing the number of people conducting contact tracing and by deploying the new Sara Alert system to assist us, we can improve our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, protect the health of Maine people, and support our goal of safely restarting Maine’s economy.”

    “Maine’s parallel advances in testing and contact tracing are key to protecting the health and wellbeing of Maine people in the face of this pandemic,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Some of our communities have more acutely experienced the impacts of COVID-19, and we are stepping up needed supports for people isolated or quarantined due to exposure to the virus.”

    “Contact tracing has been an important part of our response to COVID-19 since the first case was identified in Maine,” said Dr. Nirav. D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). “Enhancing our contact tracing technology and workforce now allows us to make best use of expanded testing capacity at our lab.”

    Maine’s contact tracing strategy has three components:

    1. Increasing Personnel

    The Maine CDC currently has a contact tracing and case investigation team of approximately 30 people. It expects to more than quadruple this team as needed through the following steps:

    Immediately enlisting the help of 50 trained volunteers, who have offered their skills through Maine Responds, a system to tap into health care, public health, and emergency volunteers to respond to emergency situations. These volunteers will assist for at least two months and will start training the week of June 1, 2020.

    Begin hiring up to 125 contracted staff over time for up to 12 months to supplement Maine CDC’s work. This hiring will be staggered based on COVID-19 trend data and will include those with proficiency in multiple languages.

    2. Deploying Sara Alert System

    Maine CDC has deployed a new tool called Sara Alert to support monitoring and reporting of COVID-19 in Maine. The Sara Alert system, which is also used by several other states, allows individuals who have been diagnosed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 to report daily symptoms through web, text, email, or calls. The tool provides real-time insights and increased reporting capability to support containment of the virus. It also enables hospitals and health systems to conduct contact tracing for their own employees. As it deploys the new system, Maine CDC is also working with partners to improve it, including implementing language translations for non-English speaking individuals. Maine CDC began using Sara Alert last week and already has logged 345 contacts in the system as of May 25.

    Sara Alert is free for use by federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local governments, and regional health organizations. It was developed by MITRE, a not-for-profit organization that works in the public interest, in close collaboration and partnership with national public health organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and other local and state health departments. Sara Alert has enabled public health workers to monitor and respond to the coronavirus pandemic and to coordinate and direct care where it is most needed.

    “We developed Sara Alert with public health for public health,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, Chief Medical Advisor of MITRE’s Health Transformation Technical Center, and former Vermont Commissioner of Health. “Sara Alert has the potential to modernize the public health management of individuals in quarantine and isolation to protect communities from further spread of disease in this and future pandemics. As the pandemic evolves and stay-at-home measures are relaxed, states and localities can use it to strengthen efforts to control outbreaks in less affected areas, and to mitigate future waves of illness and possible rebound effects.”

    3. Expanding Social Supports

    Staying apart from people for a period of time to protect the public health is a challenge for all, let alone for those who may have low incomes or struggle with housing, food security, transportation, mental or substance use disorders, or access to affordable healthcare and childcare. To address these challenges, DHHS is expanding its social supports for people isolated or quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19 by contracting with Community Action Programs (CAPs). Once finalized, these arrangements will offer individuals in isolation or quarantine social supports such as delivered meals, prescriptions, and behavioral health counselling. DHHS will also contract with Wabanaki Public Health for support for Native Americans. It will engage Catholic Charities, which operates the State’s refugee program, to help with language translation for non-English speakers. Maine DHHS will also assign a point person to coordinate this work statewide.

    The expansion of contact tracing parallels the Mills Administration’s expansion of COVID-19 testing for the State of Maine. The Administration has partnered with Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. to more than triple the State’s testing capacity, allowing anyone in Maine suspected of having COVID-19 to receive a test. The Mills Administration continues its efforts to secure more testing as part of its ongoing commitment to Maine’s public health and continues to press the Federal government to ensure that health care providers have a reliable and adequate supply of materials, such as personal protective equipment and swabs to collect samples from patients for testing.


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ABOUT THE FALLS CHAMBER

The Falls Chamber of Commerce is a professional association of businesses in  the falls area.  We are the catalyst that facilitates business growth , prosperity, partnership and success for our members. 

CONTACTS

Bonnie McNair, Executive Director

info@thefallschamber.com
603.749.7175
office hours by appointment: 472 High Street, Somersworth NH 03878

       

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