Some Massachusetts houses of worship reopen

  • Hazel Roberts walks in a field of flags ahead of Memorial Day, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Cohasset, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • A couple walks past a field of flags ahead of Memorial Day, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Cohasset, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • In this Friday, May 22, 2020 photo, portraits of graduating seniors at Telstar Regional High School are displayed near the school's athletic field in Bethel, Maine. Graduation week plans in early June include at town parade and commencement exercise at the Sunday River Ski Resort. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

Published: 5/24/2020 6:42:35 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Religious leaders are taking steps to protect their congregations as services resume in Massachusetts and Vermont. An iconic Connecticut pizza shop is adding outdoor dining as part of a plan to aid businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

Details on those and other coronavirus-related developments across New England:

Massachusetts

Some houses of worship in Massachusetts are welcoming people back for services this weekend after getting permission to reopen their doors.

Rev. Steve Warner told The Boston Herald they’re taking extra precaution as they allow parishioners back into the Brockton Assembly of God. People must wear masks and certain pews are roped off to allow for social distancing.

“We’re not going to be irresponsible and try to pack a pew here,” Warner told the newspaper. “We’ve vetted it carefully.”

Houses of worship were allowed to resume in-person services as part of the first phase of the state’s gradual reopening. State guidelines say they must limit occupancy to 40 percent of the building’s maximum capacity.

As of Sunday, there were more than 92,675 coronavirus cases reported in Massachusetts after the state added more than 1,000 new cases. There were 68 new deaths reported, bringing the state’s death toll to 6,372.

New Hampshire

Members of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation say the state’s nursing homes are getting critical financial help but they will continue to push for more.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas said nursing homes will get nearly $20 million in the federal coronavirus relief package.

All four Democrats said Congress should be even more aggressive in extending aid to nursing homes. Shaheen is cosponsoring legislation that provides $20 billion nationwide to help states implement strategies to contain the spread of the virus in congregate settings.

On Saturday, New Hampshire reported 77 new positive COVID-19 cases and four new deaths. That brings the total to 4,089 cases and 208 deaths.

Connecticut

An iconic Connecticut pizza shop is the first business to get a permit from the state allowing it to add outdoor seating as part of a plan to aid businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont said the Connecticut Department of Transportation has approved a permit allowing Mystic Pizza to add tables in the front of the building near the doorways and on the sidewalk.

Under the state’s first phase of reopening, restaurants that were previously limited to take-out and delivery only were permitted to begin serving diners outdoors.

Lamont recently signed an executive order to help businesses that don’t have outdoor space available by creating a process that allows them to get permission to use sidewalks and other areas in the state’s right-of-way.

Mystic Pizza has become a tourist attraction in Connecticut since Julia Roberts starred in the movie about the lives of three waitresses working at the small-town pizza parlor.

As of Sunday, there were 40,468 coronavirus cases in Connecticut. The state reported 3,693 deaths, up 18 from Saturday.

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MAINE

Three Maine cities are getting federal cash to help public safety officials in the fight against the coronavirus.

Portland was awarded $219,535, Biddeford was awarded $96,714 and Auburn was awarded $38,979 by the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, officials said.

The grants are designed to help cover public safety costs in the pandemic for things like overtime, personal protective equipment and distributing resources to hard-hit areas, officials said. The money can also help correctional facilities with costs for sanitation, contagion prevention and other things, they said.

On Sunday, Maine reported 42 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death. That brings the total number of deaths to 78 and the total number of people who have tested positive to 2,055, the Maine Center for Disease Control said.

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RHODE ISLAND

A firefighter tested positive for the coronavirus in the town of East Greenwich and eight of the force’s 33 firefighters are quarantined, officials said.

A union representing the firefighters said in a Facebook post that the “remaining limited staff will remain on duty 24/7” to cover for the quarantined firefighters and three other vacancies in the department.

A member of the town’s IT department is also quarantined because they had contact with the firefighter who tested positive, town manager Andrew Nota told The Providence Journal.

Rhode Island reported 11 new coronavirus deaths Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 608. The state also added 116 new positive cases, for a total of more than 14,000.

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VERMONT

Church leaders in Vermont are taking steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as in-person services resume in the state.

Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday that services at houses of worship could resume starting this weekend but only at 25% capacity.

Pastor Glen Russell of Faith Baptist Church in Winooski told WCAX-TV that they have removed hymnals from pews and are putting lyrics to songs on a big screen.

“My main focus is to keep folks safe because I don’t want to have any of our church members be sick, so we’re going to screen folks at the door and ask some of those questions that we need to ask and do all of those things and do our part to be good citizens,” he said.

Vermont reported two new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 956. The total number of deaths remained at 54 for the seventh day in a row.




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