CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire is planning to go live with its new COVID-19 vaccine appointment system on March 17.
Before that day, instructional videos will be available for the state-created Vaccine & Immunization Network Interface — VINI for short. They will cover the main parts of the process: screening and registration, scheduling, receiving the vaccine, and a verification message.
VINI is replacing the CDC's Vaccine Administration Management System, or VAMS, which New Hampshire originally signed up to use. Thousands of people struggled to book their booster shots within the recommended time using that system.
Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday with the previous system, if you wanted to change your appointment, “you had to go in and cancel your original appointment, which could be kind of an anxiety-filled, risky thing. In this new system, you can pick a new appointment before anything automatically gets canceled for you."
The system is becoming available as New Hampshire moves into the next vaccine phase, 2A, for school, childcare, and youth camp staff. Starting Friday, 39 regional clinics are scheduled to start vaccinating 17,000 people.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday approved updated guidance to allow retail businesses to open at 100% capacity, salons and barbershops to have walk-in customers and use their waiting rooms, and bars and restaurants to hold karaoke, pool, and darts.
Sununu also approved new guidance for overnight and day camp operators that includes keeping children in small groups and more preparation for arrivals and pickups.
Also, he announced New Hampshire is lifting its mandatory quarantine for out-of-state, nonessential travel into New Hampshire.
“Things are going in a good direction," Sununu said. “We're not just going to rip the Band-Aid off and open everything up wide open, that would not be a very smart thing to do," he said. “We're just not there yet."
Earlier Thursday, the Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force recommended updated coronavirus-related guidance on performance arts venues, amusement parks and tourist trains.
Seating capacity at performance venues would allow at least 3 feet of distancing between associated groups, on the condition they wear masks. Audience members would not be able to face one another. Performers also would not be able to interact directly with the audience or go offstage unless a 3-foot distance could be maintained from audience members.
Game equipment, rafts, and tubes at amusement parks would have to be cleaned and disinfected between each use, and rides would have to be cleaned and disinfected at least every few hours and at the end of each shift.
On tourist trains, seating assignments would provide 6 feet of distancing within passenger cars, when possible, according to the recommended guidance. Family members and related parties could be seated together. Passengers would be required to wear cloth face coverings, except while consuming food or drinks, unless they are in compartmentalized seating.
The task force indicated it would address updated guidance for large outdoor performing arts venues soon.
All guidance is reviewed by the state Division of Public Health Services before it goes to Sununu for his decision.
There have been no reported COVID-19 cases from two in-person House sessions held last month, New Hampshire House Speaker Sherman Packard said.
“Careful and cautious management has led to good results, and that’s exactly what we have done with the legislature," Packard said in a statement Thursday. “We can lead in a responsible way, and we are getting our business done in a responsible way.”
Seven Democratic lawmakers sued Packard, a Republican, last month, arguing that holding in-person sessions without a remote option violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions, and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials.
They sought a preliminary order requiring remote access, but a federal judge denied their request. The Democrats have filed a notice of appeal to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the 400-member House has met several times at the University of New Hampshire ice arena, outside on a UNH athletic field, and — after former Speaker Dick Hinch died of COVID-19 — from their cars in a parking lot. They met last month in a Bedford sports complex.
Nearly 78,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 341 cases announced Thursday. Four additional deaths were announced, bringing the total to 1,191.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks, going from 331 on Feb. 23 to 210 on Tuesday.