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N.H. Reviewing Ventilation Systems of Long-Term Care Homes That Had COVID-19 Outbreaks

Josh Rogers / NHPR

The state of New Hampshire is analyzing the ventilation systems at its long-term care facilities that have seen coronavirus outbreaks.

State health and fire officials will conduct the two-week review, which was announced at a press conference Tuesday.

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Gov. Chris Sununu says the review stems from new research showing a greater potential risk of COVID-19 spreading through the air.

"That's not confirmed, not verified by any means,” he says. “But again, we're trying to stay ahead of these types of issues, and we see this review as a great tool to see how we can mitigate those potential links going forward."

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette says they're looking for patterns about types of ventilation systems and where outbreaks have occurred. They will apply that data to facilities that haven't had outbreaks.

"So we're really trying to figure out is there anything that relates,” Shibinette says. “We don't know but this is a great starting place for us."

She says the review will not focus on compliance, but rather on the particulars of systems that have already been deemed adequate. She said other influences on outbreaks, such as staffing and quarantine procedures, are also compliance issues and will not be part of the review.

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Four of the state's long-term care facilities have ongoing outbreaks right now. Twenty-eight have had outbreaks that have ended.

CLARIFICATION: The headline on this story has been updated to clarify that the state is reviewing the ventilation systems at affected facilities, not the facilities generally. 

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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