NH country store, tavern fined for violating emergency orders

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A country store in Loudon and a tavern in Lincoln are the latest businesses to be penalized for violating emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The attorney general’s office on Wednesday fined the Loudon Country Store $2,000 and the White Mountain Tavern $1,000.

According to investigators, the store owner had been warned by local authorities more than 10 times that workers must wear masks. More recently, that requirement has been extended to include customers as well. But the store instead has refused and posted a sign explaining why:

“Please refer to the Constitution of the United States!” the sign reads. “We know how to wash our hands, clean surfaces and NOT cough or sneeze on people. If you can do that and stay six feet away like someone tooted, please come in!!”

The tavern was cited for a musical performance last weekend. Investigators said two guitarists were performing close together, customers were seated shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar and others were standing and mingling in the bar area. Photos also show the tavern owner’s, David Culhane, not wearing a mask.

Culhane said Wednesday he owns up to his actions, but said the musicians were a couple who live in the same household so he didn’t think them performing close together was a problem. Likewise, customers seen mingling were part of the same groups, he said.

“Nobody who didn’t come together was ever closer than six feet from each other,” said Culhane, who plans to appeal the fine.

“If you go into any restaurant, you can find something where someone is violating the guidelines. A lot of them are really unclear, and they keep changing constantly,” he said. “It’s really hard on top of managing a business to keep up with everything.”

The country store owner did not respond to a request for comment.

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VACCINE COSTS

New Hampshire legislators are working on a bill to offer price protections for adult vaccines, such as those pending for COVID-19.

Rep. Jerry Knirk, a Democrat from Freedom, tells WMUR-TV that by expanding a New Hampshire nonprofit association that pools insurance company money to buy vaccine doses in bulk, the savings to the state and patients could be immense.

The process is already done in New Hampshire for pediatric vaccines, he said. The bill would expand the New Hampshire Vaccine Association, which purchases vaccines for children under 19, to all adults.

“In the pediatric program, we purchase about $38 million worth of vaccines for about $28 million,” Knirk said. “The savings is roughly about 26%. For the adults, it is estimated it should be very similar in terms of the degree of savings.”

The state Health Department provides oversight to about 250 provider offices for the children’s program; an additional 350-400 would be enrolled to accommodate adults, according to a similar bill that passed the House this year, but didn’t go any further.

The federal government is expected to pay for a COVID-19 vaccination, but the bill could come in handy if gaps in funding arise next year or suddenly states find themselves in the position of trying to obtain more vaccine.

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THE NUMBERS

More than 18,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New Hampshire since the start of the pandemic, including 362 new cases announced Tuesday. There was one new death, for a total of 513.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 210 on Nov. 10 to 440 on Wednesday.

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