coronavirus

Mass. Fights Evictions, RI Shops Open: Today's Coronavirus Update in New England

Here's an update of Saturday's COVID-19 news from across New England

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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is warning landlords not to try to kick tenants out of their homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

Elsewhere in New England, shops in Rhode Island are slowly opening back up after being closed for weeks -- though they must limit the number of customers at any given time based on their store's size.

Maine and New Hampshire announced sizeable injections of federal funding that will help each state's virus response plan, while Vermont's reopening plan was hampered by the unseasonably late snowfall.

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Here's an update of Saturday's COVID-19 news from across New England:

MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is warning landlords not to try to kick tenants out of their homes during the outbreak.

The Democrat's office says that despite a new state law temporarily restriction evictions, there's been an uptick in reports of landlords trying to intimidate tenants into leaving.

The new law prohibits evictions during the ongoing public emergency unless a tenant has broken the terms of their lease or committed a crime that put other residents at risk.

If you can't afford rent right now, you won't have to worry about getting kicked out of your home.

According to Healey's office, there has been an increase in reports of landlords trying to circumvent the rules by intimidating or harassing tenants into leaving voluntarily.

"Families across our state have suffered enormous financial hardship during this public health crisis, and they need to know that they won't be kicked out of their homes," Healey said. 

Massachusetts recorded another 150 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, bringing to 4,702 the total number of deaths recorded in the state since the pandemic's start.

RHODE ISLAND

Non-essential businesses are reopening under Gov. Gina Raimondo's plan to gradually lift some restrictions imposed to slow the outbreak.

Businesses that choose to reopen starting Saturday must limit the number of customers allowed inside based on their square footage. In addition, face masks are now required for anyone in a public place.

Gatherings of more than five people remain prohibited, bars, salons and gyms remain closed, and restaurants remain limited to take out and delivery.

Shops in the state will be open for pickup, and elective medical procedures may resume, among other reopenings.

The state's Department of Health has the power to fine or close businesses that violate the rules. 

"We're not going to be out there trying to shut you down, we're going to be out there bending over backwards to help you stay open and to do it safely, but if you refuse and you're continually non-compliant, and you get fine after fine, we will have to shut you down," Raimondo said Friday.

The state reported 11 additional COVID-19 deaths and 249 new cases, which brings the state totals to 399 fatalities and nearly 10,800 cases. Of the 11 new deaths, nine were people in their 70s or older, Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease was 312, down from 318 the previous day.

MAINE

Maine will get more than $4.7 million in federal funds to expand COVID-19 testing.

The money, announced by U.S. senators Susan Collins and Angus King, will cover the purchase and use of test kits by 18 health care organizations around the state. Some of the money will be earmarked for walk-up and drive-up testing facilities, as well as for protective gear for health care workers administering the tests.

Hair salons and barbershops in Maine are now getting requests from out-of-state residents for services they aren't allowed to get at home.

Bangor-based Penobscot Community Health Center is the largest recipient of the funds for testing and will receive more than $1 million.

Maine has had more than 1,300 cases of the virus and 63 deaths through Friday. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. The state reported 44 new cases and one more death on Friday. 

VERMONT

Snow and unseasonably cold temperatures complicated the state's efforts to gradually reopen outdoor recreational activities this weekend.

Gov. Phil Scott sounded an optimistic note in a tweet offering his sympathies to residents who might have been looking forward to outdoor activities after weeks inside.

"This is just a snapshot in time," the Republican governor tweeted. "Just like better weather is ahead, better days will come, as well. We will get through this, together."

Some areas of the state reported several inches of snow Saturday morning, while colder-than-usual temperatures were expected to persist through the weekend.

On Friday, the Vermont Department of Health reported three new positive cases of the coronavirus, for a total of 919. The total number of deaths remained the same as Thursday at 53. 

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's message for schools is to play creatively while the ban on gatherings of 10 people or more remains in place. That message applies to graduations as well.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Help is on the way for households struggling to pay energy bills amid the outbreak, New Hampshire's congressional delegation announced Saturday.

The state will receive $6.7 million in federal funds to boost the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps elegible residents pay their energy bills. The additional money was approved as part of the federal coronavirus relief package 

"COVID-19 poses a long-term threat to the financial security of low-income families and seniors, and we need to make sure they have access to the support they need during this crisis," U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said in a statement announcing the funding.

The next phase of New Hampshire's re-opening begins Monday, when salons, barber shops and retail stores can open up at 50% capacity..

Nearly 30,000 residents received assistance through the program last year.

As of Friday, 2,947 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 104 from the previous day. There have been at least 121 coronavirus-related deaths in the state.

Associated Press/NBC
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