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As COVID Cases Rise, N.H. Officials Recalibrate Approach

Picture of vaccine vial
Wikimedia Commons

Daily new coronavirus cases in New Hampshire hit 310 Thursday, the highest single-day total the state has seen since April. As the delta variant becomes a larger share of cases, state officials say they are recalibrating their COVID-19 response.

“We’re not just putting in mitigation efforts for the next month or two; COVID is not going to be gone by Christmas,” Gov. Chris Sununu said at a press conference with state health officials Thursday. “We’ve got to plan for the long game.”

The state’s COVID-19 trends have been moving in the wrong direction for several weeks now. Active coronavirus infections in New Hampshire have risen to 1,513, the highest number since the beginning of May. Hospitalization numbers are climbing as well, with 58 people treated as of Thursday. The state is averaging between 160 and 170 new infections per day.

Sununu said he doesn't anticipate instituting another state of emergency should infections continue to rise, but he emphasized the importance of continued vaccination efforts as the new school year draws nearer and the state braces for a potential new surge of infections due to the delta variant in the fall.

New state guidance recommends using face masks widely in schools, and universal use of masks indoors in communities where COVID transmission is substantial.

Sununu emphasized the importance of vaccines on Thursday.

“Masks are not the solution; vaccines are the solution,” the governor said.

No vaccine has yet been authorized for children under the age of 12.

New Hampshire is one of the top ten states with the highest vaccination rates, with 752,000 Granite Staters who are fully vaccinated, although it has the lowest vaccination rate among the New England states.

There have been 1,394 deaths due to COVID-19 in the state.

Sununu also announced the rollout of a second mobile vaccine van that can be booked for any event. The first van has already distributed over 200 doses, with 75 more events on the books.

Sununu said the state is hoping to bolster hospital staffing and equipment and is planning to increase pro-vaccination signs at more bus stops and community hubs.

“Our fall surge, November and December timeframe, could be as bad as anything we’ve ever seen, so we are preparing for that,” Sununu said.

As New Hampshire schools get ready to re-open, federal funding is available for them to increase COVID-19 screening testing for staff and students.

New Hampshire has had access to around $40 million to bolster COVID-19 testing in schools and other institutions. The funding was announced in the spring, but Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the state's Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, says not many schools have applied for it.

“There are a lot of considerations,” Daly said. “it is a heavy lift for schools: You have to get consent from the parents, so we haven't gotten a lot of interest yet.”

In its COVID-19 guidance for schools, the state recommends a multi-layered approach to manage the virus, which includes things like testing, masking, social distancing, and vaccination.

Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.

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