Coronavirus Blog: Earlier Updates (Beginning April 1st)

Apr 11, 2020

This post gathers NHPR's past updates on coronavirus in New Hampshire with a date range beginning on April 1, 2020. 

NOTE: Some of the stories below may contained outdated guidance and stories that have since evolved. Please click the links below for the most up-to-date coverage and guidance. 

Earlier updates (Beginning April 1):

DHHS reports a new death due to COVID-19

Update: Saturday, April 11, 6:05 p.m.

Another New Hampshire resident has died from coronavirus. The state Department of Health and Human Services reported Saturday night that a woman from Rockingham County, who was older than 60, has died. She is the 23rd person in the state to die from COVID-19.

With another 45 new positive test results, the total number of confirmed cases rises to 929. 

Twelve of the new cases required hospital care.

Of the total known cases, 236 people have recovered.

The state says 2,275 people are currently being monitored, and nearly 10,000 people in New Hampshire have tested negative for coronavirus.

- NHPR Staff

Virtual New Hampshire

Update: Saturday, April 11, 5:45 p.m.

New Hampshire's Office of Travel and Tourism is retooling its outreach to reflect the new reality where people aren't able to visit many of the state's natural and cultural attractions in person due to the coronavirus.

VISITNH.gov now includes virtual experiences people can explore safely from home. They include videos exploring the lakes and mountains, online exhibits from local museums and live videos from the likes of the Seacoast Science Center, which chronicled its lobster feeding for fans on Facebook last week.

Tourism officials hope these online resources inspire people to plan future adventures in New Hampshire — once it becomes safer to visit in person.

- NHPR Staff 

Shaheen seeks task force to combat scams

Update: Saturday, April 11, 5:39 p.m.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen is asking the U.S. Department of Justice for a New England task force to combat scams and price gouging related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She made the request to U.S. Attorney General William Barr earlier this week. She says the group could include federal and state agencies, prosecutors and other enforcement officials.

The goal, she says, is to ensure that medical equipment and other supplies to fight COVID-19 can get to those who need them.

- NHPR Staff

State extending some DES permits

Update: Saturday, April 11, 5 p.m.

The state is extending some environmental permits and making other accommodations for towns and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new emergency order covers a range of temporary requirements for programs under the  New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

DES says facilities with air emissions will have until mid-May to submit certain required reports. Annual emission fees won't be due until mid June.

Some kinds of air permits that would expire during the state of emergency are extended six months. DES is also granting extensions for many licenses and certifications that require postponed trainings or are otherwise close to expiring.

These include the licenses for handling asbestos and hazardous waste, or for operating solid waste facilities and underground storage tanks. The agency also says it may delay its own processing of some permit applications on a case-by-case basis.

- Annie Ropeik

County Nursing Home worker tests positive

Update: Saturday, April 11, 11:33 a.m.

The Hillsborough County Nursing Home says a nursing assistant has tested positive for COVID-19, but does not appear to have spread the virus to any residents or other staff.

David J. Ross, the administrator of the 300-bed county facility located in Goffstown, says they are screening workers every day for coronavirus symptoms. Two weeks ago, they sent an employee home with the symptoms. She later tested positive for COVID-19.

"We do recognize that our employees, for us, generate the greatest risk to our residents because they are out in the active community," he said.

Ross says people who had contact with the worker were notified. But since then, he says, no other staff or residents have shown signs of infection. The facility had already been requiring employees to wear masks, which Ross thinks helped prevent transmission.

Half of the state's COVID-19 deaths so far have occurred at just three long-term care facilities.

- Annie Ropeik 

Seacoast towns: No parking along Route 1A

Update: Friday, April 10, 7:21 p.m.

State officials have temporarily banned parking along Route 1A, also known as Ocean Boulevard, in Rye, North Hampton and Seabrook.

The three towns requested the ban, which took effect Friday. They hope it will keep people from accessing closed beaches during the pandemic.

Rye Police Chief Kevin Walsh says the restriction also applies to parking lots and roadside parking spaces along Ocean Boulevard. Vehicles that stop on the road or in these parking areas may be towed or ticketed, even if not occupied.

N.H. DOT has installed signs along Ocean Boulevard to inform people about closed beaches and parking, and Hampton PD has deployed its mobile surveillance unit.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Walsh says the ban will stay in place until the Seacoast state beaches are fully reopened.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has installed several mobile roadside signs that highlight the parking restrictions and closures.

Ocean Boulevard along Hampton Beach is also temporarily closed - with barriers, cones and police tape closing off all the parking along the beach.

The Hampton police department has also deployed its mobile surveillance unit on Ocean Boulevard at North Beach.

- NHPR Staff

Guard setting up patient site at Dartmouth gym

Update: Friday, April 10, 6:19 p.m.

The New Hampshire National Guard is setting up an alternative care site Friday at West Gym on Dartmouth College in Hanover. The site will be able to accommodate about 125 patients needing low-intensity care.

That would create more room at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for critical care patients, in the event of a surge in COVID-19 patients.

There are 14 such "surge" sites in New Hampshire.

In a news conference Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu said that towns, cities or organizations providing services at these sites would not bear any costs. Instead, he said, FEMA, hospitals and insurance companies will pay the majority of the cost, with the state providing financial support as well.

-Daniela Allee

N.H. reports additional COVID-19 death

Update: Friday, April 10, 3:46 p.m.

The state today reported an additional COVID-19 death at Hanover Hill Health Care Center, a nursing home in Manchester. The woman is the 22nd death attributed to coronavirus in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire health officials announced 66 new positive test results, which brings the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 885. There were seven new hospitalizations.

Other case statistics released April 10: the state has had 134 people hospitalized, or 15 percent of those known positive tests. Approximately 9,600 people have tested negative at selected laboratories: New Hampshire Public Health Lab, LabCorp, Quest, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and those tests sent to the CDC prior to testing at the New Hampshire Public Health Lab.

The state says 3,350 people are being monitored. CLICK HERE to view a high-resolution town-by-town map of cases.

Nursing homes are bearing the worst of the virus to date, with more than half the deaths from three or four facilities.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said Thursday that four residents at Hanover Hill had died after having COVID-19. At that time, she said 37 residents and 13 staff members had tested positive.

Gov. Chris Sununu said he would propose a plan next week to direct financial support to help the nursing and long-term care facilities deal with coronavirus.

Read more here.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. voters may cast absentee ballots this fall

Update: Friday, April 10, 3:30 p.m.

Any New Hampshire voter who has concerns about showing up to vote in person due to COVID-19 will be able to request an absentee ballot in this year's elections, according to a memo released Friday by the Secretary of State and Attorney General. Read the memo

The voter can choose an absentee ballot even if they are not experiencing any symptoms.

Absentee voting in New Hampshire is limited to people who meet state-approved criteria, which includes work or caregiving obligations, as well as having a disability or illness that prevents you from making it to the polls. 

In this case, state election officials determined that because the general public is being advised to practice social distancing, that would qualify any eligible voter here for an absentee ballot. The state said they would be issuing more guidance in the months ahead to help local election officials deal with a potentially significant increase in absentee ballot usage.

- Casey McDermott

Lawmakers meet remotely, accept federal funds

Update: Friday, April 10, 2:27 p.m.

The New Hampshire Legislature's Fiscal Committee, meeting today by telephone, voted unanimously to accept $1.2 million in federal funds to pay for at-home meals for low-income seniors. 

State Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, chair of the committee, emphasized that lawmakers are ready to exercise their traditional role of approving the expenditure of federal aid.

Her remarks are in response to Gov. Chris Sununu saying that executive powers during the state of emergency grant him authority to spend funds without involving legislators. That position is backed by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.

The Fiscal Committee is scheduled to meet next on April 20.

New Hampshire is getting $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus response and recovery funds.

- Josh Rogers

Hundreds of state businesses seek emergency loans

Update: Friday, April 10, 12:10 p.m.

Nearly 2,000 small businesses, nonprofits and independent contractors in New Hampshire were approved for loans during the first week of the federal stimulus program aimed at propping up the economy.

According to the New Hampshire Bankers Association, which represents the three dozen community banks in the state participating in the program, the value of those loans tops $400 million.

Through the Paycheck Protection Program, a piece of the federal CARES Act, roughly $350 billion was set aside for low-interest emergency loans. If an entity uses a certain portion of the money received on salaries, the loan will be forgiven.

The N.H. Bankers Association says based on the applications received, the money will help fund 10,800 salaries across the state. Local banks were initially hindered by a lack of guidance from the federal government when the program went live late last week.

"It was a little rocky in the beginning," says Kristy Merrill, the association's president. "But I think the numbers prove out that the program is working. And that they are committed to helping people that need it right now."

Most businesses, charities and veterans organizations with fewer than 500 employees qualify for the loans.

-Todd Bookman

Signs point to coming slowdown in N.H. real estate market

Update: Friday April 10, 11:40 a.m.

While the housing market is likely to see the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic accelerate in coming months, new figures show limited impact during March.

The New Hampshire Association of Realtors says 1,068 single family homes changed hands last month, a dip of only 1.2 percent from the previous year. The median home price topped $311,000, a record for the month.

But the Association warns that April will likely see a slowdown, with some clear early signs of trouble.

The number of listings at the start of the month was down nearly 25 perfect compared to last year. Survey results show that realtors see both buyers and sellers delaying activity.

“It feels like more of a wait-and-see than an outright stop,” said Marc Drapeau, the association’s president. “The 64,000-dollar question, and one that we aren’t prepared to answer with any certainty at this point, is just how long a pause.”

One challenge is that some buyers are likely hesitant to head out in public at the moment.

Real estate is considered an essential business by the Sununu administration, meaning transactions can still take place, although open houses are currently prohibited.

“We’re doing everything in our power to put the health of buyers, sellers and our members first throughout the process,” said Drapeau. “We believe that it’s not either-or, that you can continue to do business and have everyone involved remain safe.

“But there’s also an appropriate level of caution out there, and caution naturally leads to less movement in the marketplace.”

--Todd Bookman

State lawmakers to meet for first time under state of emergency

Update: Thursday, April 9, 9:20 p.m.

In what will be the first official meeting of state lawmakers since New Hampshire entered a state of emergency last month, the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee will meet Friday by telephone.

The fiscal committee traditionally approves spending of any federal aid. Top Democrats in the State House say that should include the more than $1.25 billion in COVID-19 aid earmarked for New Hampshire.

But Gov. Chris Sununu says his emergency powers trump that prerogative.

During a meeting of the state Executive Council earlier this week, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald defended Sununu's claim the he can accept and spend federal aid without legislative approval during a state of emergency.

"The governor is exercising the authority delegated to him, by the Legislature,” MacDonald said, “to take such actions as are necessary to protect the public and the safety of the people of New Hampshire.”

Friday’s fiscal committee agenda includes $1.2 million in federal COVID-19. The money would pay for at-home meals for low-income seniors.

-Josh Rogers

 

State banking chief to oversee federal COVID aid fund

Update: Thursday, April 9, 8:55 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu has named the state's top bank regulator to lead his office for Emergency Recovery and Relief during the coronavirus pandemic. Jerry Little, who has served as New Hampshire's Banking Commissioner since 2016, will be Sununu's point person for monitoring the flow of more than $1.25 billion dollars in federal coronavirus aid.

At a press conference in Concord Thursday, Little pledged to carry out a transparent process is distributing the money, which has only just begun arriving in the state.

“We will have a lot of conversations with stakeholders and legislators to make sure that everybody understands where the money is going,” Little said. “We will put metrics in place to make sure we can prove to you that the money went for the purpose that it was intended for.”

Little lives in Weare and is well-known in state political circles. Before leading the banking department he served as a Republican state senator.

He's also been a lobbyist for the banking industry and in the 1980s served as spokesman for the governor's father, John H Sununu, when he held the corner office.

-Josh Rogers

COVID-19 deaths rise to 21

Update: Thursday, April 9, 6:10 p.m.

The latest on positive COVID-19 test results in New Hampshire.
Credit N.H. DHHS

New Hampshire deaths related to COVID-19 have risen to 21.

Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist, announced the state has had three additional deaths since Wednesday, a male resident from Cheshire County, a male resident of Hillsborough County, and a male resident of Merrimack County. All three patients were over 60-years-old.

The state reports 31 more confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total known caseload in New Hampshire to 819.

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Chan said 127 people have required hospitalization, and nine of the newly announced cases required hospital care. In a news conference with Gov. Chris Sununu in Concord, Chan presented a slideshow of statistical modeling for the possible path of the virus in the weeks ahead.

It's highly likely the state will experience a peak sometime in the next several weeks, he says. 

About half of the fatalities in the state are at nursing and assisted-living facilities, and individuals who are more at risk, according to Chan. "This is exactly the population that we're trying to protect," he said.

Chan says nearly 10,000 people have been tested, and the state has averaged about 400 tests a day over the past week. 

Sununu said social distancing and the state's stay-at-home order are working to contain the spread of COVID-19. He said the data right now indicates the peak for infections could be moved up in the timeline.

Read more here.

- NHPR Staff

Dartmouth project aims to measure COVID-19 outbreak

Update: Thursday, April 9, 5:25 p.m.

A new survey from Dartmouth College and UNH is trying to measure the scope of the coronavirus outbreak in the state by tracking symptoms. Researchers hope that in the absence of widespread testing, the survey can offer important public health information.

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The survey, which launched last Friday, is asking a representative group of more than 3,000 New Hampshire residents every day whether they're experiencing any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

Dartmouth epidemiologist Judy Rees is helping to run the project. She says they can't know for sure whether the symptoms are due to COVID-19 but by tracking responses over time they can watch for patterns in the number of people getting sick.

"If we're still seeing an increase in symptoms," she says, "then it might inform the decisions that the state leaders make about whether to relax or make more strict the stay-at-home regulations."

The researchers plan to release survey results on a weekly basis.

- Jason Moon

N.H. insurers waive out of pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment

Update: Thursday, April 9, 4:50 p.m.

Health insurance companies in New Hampshire are waiving out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries who receive treatment for COVID-19, including long stays in the ICU. The state insurance department says this applies to people on individual plans and many employer-based group plans.

New Hampshire residents on self-funded employer-based plans will need to check with their individual companies to see if they are covered. Self-funded group plans account for about half of the health insurance market in the state.

The state insurance department earlier issued an order requiring insurers to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing.

- Jason Moon

Areas with seasonal housing seeing higher rates of COVID-19

Update: Thursday, April 9, 1:45 p.m.

Rural areas with lots of seasonal housing are experiencing high rates of COVID-19, according to a new study out of the University of New Hampshire. The analysis looked at nearly 200 rural counties, nationwide, where at least a quarter of the housing stock is reported to the Census Bureau as seasonally vacant.

Coronavirus rates in these counties were more than twice as high as in other rural places, and 15 percent higher than in urban areas, as of earlier this week.

Research assistant professor Jess Carson says she's tracking this data for rural areas, in part, because of their limited hospital resources. She says the trend could be due to the early return of seasonal residents during the pandemic – something many residents of New Hampshire's tourist destinations have feared.

Carson says it could also stem from the higher median age in the affected counties, or the spotty availability of testing.

"It's very possible that several or all of these factors are all in the mix at once,” Carson says.

New Hampshire is urging new arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days. Other states, including Vermont, have made that mandatory.

- Annie Ropeik

Courts expedite emergency guardianship hearings

Update: Thursday, April 9, 12:15 p.m.

New Hampshire circuit courts are expediting emergency guardianship hearings as some Granite State families are facing tough medical and financial decisions.

A court-ordered guardianship could be the only option to get adults, who are unable to make decisions for themselves, to hospitals or rehabilitation facilities. Under the expedited process, people who file for a hearing could get one within 48 hours, a process that usually takes weeks or even months.

The faster turnaround time will only last while a state of emergency is in place. Courts will hold hearings online or by phone.

- Mary McIntyre

State will announce decision on school closures next week

Update: Thursday April 9, 10:55 a.m.

State officials say they will announce by the end of next week whether New Hampshire schools will remain closed until the end of the semester.

Governor Sununu has ordered public schools to offer instruction remotely until May 4th in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But the state Department of Education says schools should plan for this to continue until the end of the school year.

On a call Wednesday (April 8) with superintendents, New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the state is trying to coordinate responses among agencies before making a final decision, but it will announce an updated plan for school closure by Friday, April 17.

- Sarah Gibson

OSHA: Employers can't retaliate when workers complain about unsafe conditions related to COVID-19

Update: Thursday, April 9, 10:50 a.m.

Federal labor regulators are reminding employers that they can't retaliate against workers for reporting unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says workers have a right to complain to OSHA about unhealthful workplaces.

It's illegal for bosses to punish workers for this, whether through firing, denying overtime, docking pay or other means. Workers can also file protected whistleblower complaints about any retaliation they believe they've experienced.

- Annie Ropeik

N.H. reports 5 new COVID-19 deaths

Update: Wednesday, April 8, 5:05 p.m.

N.H. Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette today announced five additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the state's total number to 18. 

Another 41 positive test results, as of 9 a.m. on April 8, brings the total number of confirmed cases to 788. Hospitalizations number 118, and nearly 9,000 tests have come back negative.

During a news conference with Gov. Chris Sununu, Shibinette offered additional details about outbreaks at residential facilities and nursing homes.

  • At Hanover Hill, a Manchester nursing home, 37 residents and 13 staff members tested positive, and that facility had four confirmed deaths.
  • At The Huntington at Nashua, 19 residents and 11 staff members tested positive, and the facility had five confirmed deaths.
  • At Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, three residents and 11 staff members tested positive, with one death.

"Some of our toughest days are still ahead  of us," Sununu said.

Read the full story here.

How will N.H. ensure this fall's elections are safe?

Update: Wednesday, April 8, 5 :00 p.m.

New Hampshire Democrats are pushing for answers from Secretary of State Bill Gardner on how he plans to ensure elections can proceed this fall without putting voters' safety at risk, if COVID-19 remains a public health concern.

Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli asked Gardner to attend Wednesday's council meeting to discuss the issue, but that did not happen. Pignatelli said she wants to hear how the state will use the $3.2 million earmarked through the federal COVID-19 relief package for voting purposes, and whether there are plans to expand absentee or mail-in voting.

"My fear is that this September and November we are going to put people in an untenable situation of having to choose to vote in a very important election, and their health," she said. 

Gov. Chris Sununu said election law falls outside the purview of the Executive Council, but he said Pignatelli's questions were valid and state election officials would likely have more guidance on the issue later this week.

- Casey McDermott

Requests for help strain state unemployment office

Update: Wednesday, April 8, 4:50 p.m.

More than 100,000 new unemployment claims have been filed in New Hampshire since March 17. That exceeds the number of claims filed in the past three years as a whole, Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis told the Executive Council on Wednesday. 

“In this situation we’re the financial first responders for these people,” Copadis said. “They’ve got no money coming in. We’re basically the lifeline of support for them, and we’ve got to make sure we get these checks out as soon as possible.”

The record demand for unemployment assistance has strained the system and the staff manning the phones, Copadis said, with some callers experiencing delays of up to an hour. Some of that stems from the fact that staff are spending long periods of time on the phone assisting callers who don't have experience using computers. 

Copadis said his department is working with other state agencies to create more tutorials for the public, in hopes of alleviating some of the backups.

To date, more than 67,000 payments worth nearly $19 million in benefits have been distributed since the state expanded unemployment assistance, according to Gov. Chris Sununu.

 -NHPR staff

Sununu creates office to oversee federal relief

  Update: Wednesday, April 8, 10:57 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu is creating a new office to oversee the state's share of the federal relief and stimulus funds in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sununu says the office will be charged with the investment and oversight of COVID-19 funds to ensure transparency and accountability.

The announcement came as the state's congressional delegation said New Hampshire's community health centers have been awarded an additional $6.8 million to support their response. 

In a letter to the N.H. House and Senate leaders, Sununu says the office, the Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery, will be similar to what former Gov. John Lynch created to process and dispense federal funds from the 2009 stimulus in response to the great recession.

Given the urgency of responding to the pandemic, Sununu said this new office will not take the route of the state budget process, but will involve a bipartisan legislative advisory board to ensure transparency and  input.

- NHPR Staff

AG fields complaints about stay-at-home order

Update: Wednesday, April 8, 10:12 a.m.

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office will review allegations about non-essential businesses still operating under Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order.

The AG's office says the state's consumer protection hotline has received about 15 complaints related to the order so far.

The complaints generally refer to retail stores and health clubs.

The AG's office says it will determine what, if any, further action is required.

- Mary McIntyre

Four deaths; 32 positive test results in N.H.

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 7:40 p.m.

Positive coronavirus test results in New Hampshire as of April 7. Map via New Hampshire DHHS.

The state has reported four additional deaths related to COVID-19, raising the total deaths from the disease in New Hampshire to 13.

The total number of known cases is now 747.

Of the new cases announced today, eight are in Rockingham County, 16 in Hillsborough County (including Manchester and Nashua), four in Merrimack County, and three in Belknap County.

So far, 108 of the total cases, or 14 percent, have been hospitalized.  211, or 25 percent, have recovered. 

Of the four deaths announced, three were males and one was female.  All were 60 or older.  Two were residents of Hillsborough County, one was a resident of Cheshire County, and one was a resident of Rockingham County. Click here for a high-resolution map showing cases town by town.

Concord DMV closes after staff member tests positive

The Concord office of the state Division of Motor Vehicles will be closed on Wednesday, April 8, for cleaning, and to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a contact investigation after a Concord DMV staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

In a press release, the New Hampshire DMV said the Concord staff member did not have contact with the public during the business day.  Any person who is identified as a close contact of the staff member will be notified.

DMV phone services will not be available at any location on Wednesday, April 8. Phone services at all locations will resume on Thursday, April 9.

- NHPR Staff

National Guard deployment numbers way up in N.H.

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 5:35 p.m.  

The New Hampshire National Guard says it has more members deployed in the state now than at any time since the September 11th attacks.

More than 130 guard members have been helping the state with COVID-19 response efforts. This included setting up field hospitals that will take patients if the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases.

Adjutant General David Mikolaities said Guard members completed the final surge site in Colebrook on Friday. A handful of guard members will now go to the state Food Bank in Manchester to help with collection and distribution. Guard members are also helping staff the state's unemployment call center.

86 members of the guard in New Hampshire are still deployed overseas, in the Middle East.

- Annie Ropeik

Allstate customers to save money on car insurance during pandemic

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 5:10 p.m.

New Hampshire Allstate customers will pay less for car insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state announced Tuesday.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the plan - which the state approved in one day - will save Granite Staters about $2.3 million.

Allstate said it wants to lower rates because it's receiving fewer claims as people drive less during the state's staty-at-home order.

- Annie Ropeik

Nashua Chinese Cultural Society donates masks

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 4:30 p.m.

The Chinese Cultural Society of Greater Nashua has ordered more than 20,000 medical-grade masks to donate to New Hampshire hospitals and nursing homes. Their first shipment arrived from China earlier this week, and has already been distributed between Concord Hospital, Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Nashua.

The society’s president, Wei Lin, said they were able to place these orders through donations from community members and local small business owners.

“We also have, like, just ordinary, working-class people who donate 50 dollars, 100 dollars," Lin said. "A lot of them themselves are struggling because of the whole situation, but everyone just wants to chip in.”

Lin said more N95 and surgical masks should be arriving in the coming days, which will be sent to Elliot Hospital in Manchester and Southern New Hampshire Hospital in Nashua.

- Alex McOwen

Sununu urges fair playing field for Manchester airport

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 3:48 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu is raising concerns about how a federal aid plan for the airline industry could hurt facilities like Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

The airline industry will get $60 billion from the coronavirus aid package Congress passed last month. As part of that, they will be required to maintain as much service as possible.

To do this, air carriers have urged the Department of Transportation to let them consolidate service into fewer airports within their territories temporarily.

In a letter to the U.S. DOT, Sununu said this could have the unintended effect of funneling service away from smaller regional airports like Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease. He said it will be harder for these facilities to bounce back from the pandemic than the larger hubs like Boston-Logan International Airport.

Sununu asked the DOT to make sure any airline industry changes for coronavirus don't lead to permanent shifts in capacity.

- Annie Ropeik

Shipyard worker dies from COVID-19

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 11:09 a.m.

A civilian employee at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has died from COVID-19.

The Navy says the submarine maintenance worker died Sunday from complications due to the virus. More than 600 people across the Navy are now known to have the coronavirus. Thirty-three are hospitalized and two have died, both of them civilians.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employs nearly 8,000. About a fifth of them are currently working remotely, the Navy says.

- Annie Ropeik

COVID-19 cases at Manchester nursing home include staff and residents

Update: Monday, April 6, 9:00 p.m.

The COVID-19 cluster at Manchester nursing home Hanover Hill includes staff as well as patients, according to a notice sent by the facility’s administrator and shared with NHPR.

This news comes as state health authorities report that healthcare workers account for more than one quarter of New Hampshire’s diagnosed COVID-19 cases. People across the healthcare field — including at Hanover Hill and other long-term care facilities — have voiced concerns in recent weeks that they lack adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.

In a note sent April 3, and later forwarded to NHPR, Hanover Hill Administrator Lori McIntire told residents’ families, “although we have had every safety measure in place, we have positive cases involving both residents and staff.” 

“We are notifying you first of our decision to publicly ask for help to aid us in eradicating this virus,” McIntire continued. “Under our local and state agency recommendations, it is felt that with our openness to our community about our needs, we can best continue to care for your loved one during this time.”

It remains unclear how many patients or staff at Hanover Hill are affected by COVID-19, as the facility has not yet responded to multiple inquiries from NHPR seeking additional information. 

As of 8 p.m. Monday, neither Hanover Hill’s Facebook page nor its website explicitly stated that the facility was dealing with multiple cases of COVID-19. The only mention of COVID-19 on Hanover Hill’s website was a page outlining changes to its visitation policy

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Hanover Hill expressed gratitude for “a much needed delivery of [personal protective equipment] from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Emergency Services Unit.” 

“We are so thankful but we need more,” read the post, which was followed today by several notes thanking the Rockingham County Nursing Home and other community organizations for additional donations of food and protective gear.

State health officials have acknowledged that the state is providing support to “a number of facilities” experiencing COVID-19. At the same time, Gov. Chris Sununu and state health officials have declined to publicly confirm the existence of COVID-19 at Hanover Hill, or any healthcare facility, citing privacy concerns. In other states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, health officials have disclosed that information publicly as part of their overall response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

NHPR emailed the state with questions about the equipment delivery but has not yet received a response.

- Casey McDermott

PSU's ice area becomes COVID-19 ward

Update: Monday, April 6, 4:50 p.m.  

Plymouth State University and Speare Memorial Hospital have been working to convert the school’s ice arena into a supplementary COVID-19 ward.

The nets and the ice are gone from the rink - replaced with 40 oxygen-equipped beds in three rows. This ACS - or Alternative Care Site - is one of eight being developed across the state to deal with an anticipated surge in illnesses linked to coronavirus.

Erik Murdock, Director of Surgical Services at Speare, says retrofitting the arena for delivery of oxygen makes the Plymouth Site the only one in the state designed to handle COVID-19 patients.

"All the other sites in New Hampshire are using these as a step down out of the hospital - 'don't need much, we'd like to watch it for a day before you go home' - so this being the only oxygen providing facility makes us quite unique," he says.

While Murdock says use of the facility remains “theoretical,” he does expect to be working here soon as COVID cases continue to rise.

- Sean Hurley

46 new N.H. cases; local hotels to restrict reservations to discourage out-of-state visitors

Update: Monday, April 6, 3:50 p.m.

Positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire, as of April 6, 2020
Credit New Hampshire DHHS

Forty-six more people have tested positive for coronavirus in New Hampshire, the state announced Monday. That brings the total number of positive test results in New Hampshire to 715. Of those, 103 patients have been hospitalized, and nine people have died.

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Healthcare workers hardest hit

State Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said that of the state's positive cases, 192 - or about 27 percent - were healthcare workers. Shibinette also said the state expects to receive 15 medical devices that conduct COVID-19 tests within minutes. Last month, the FDA granted emergency approval of the Abbott ID NOW device which reportedly can provide results between five and 13 minutes.

"It's going to help us keep our citizens safe," Shibinette said. "It's going to help us keep our healthcare workers safe."

Recommendation on mask use

At a press conference in Concord Monday, state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan sought to clarify the CDC's recent recommendation on wearing cloth masks in public.

Chan stressed that cloth masks are not personal protective equipment. Instead, he said, the masks are intended to protect others from an infected person wearing the mask, and not the other way around. He said the primary way to protect oneself from contracting the virus is social distancing.

New Hampshire hotels restricted to "essential" bookings

In order to discourage out-of-state visitors from coming to New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday announced an order requiring hotels and Airbnbs in the state to suspend lodgings for non-essential reasons, like vacations. Sununu said the order was issued in response to growing concerns about out-of-state visitors coming to New Hampshire from more populated areas.

The governor explained that current guests in New Hampshire lodgings would be able to complete their reservations, but that going forward, lodgings would be restricted to booking essential stays, such as for victims of domestic violence, healthcare workers, or essential personnel needing a place to stay.

"People are healthier in their own home and their own state," Sununu said. He also said that the order does not apply to the state's campgrounds.

- NHPR staff

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Four Manchester police officers test positive for COVID-19

Update: Monday, April 6, 3:15 p.m.

Four Manchester police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus and an undisclosed number of officers are self-monitoring at home, the department announced Monday afternoon. No additional information was provided on the officers’ conditions.

The police department says it is practicing social distancing inside of its buildings and that officers have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for interactions with the public.

- Todd Bookman

Food banks see increase in demand

Update: Monday, April 6, 3:10 p.m.

The New Hampshire Food Bank says food pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations are seeing an increase in demand during COVID-19. Eileen Liponis, the food bank's executive director, said the organization plans on doing mobile food pantry drives around New Hampshire.

"As the funding comes in for the mobile food pantries, we're building the boxes and getting right back out there."

Those boxes will include enough shelf-stable food - plus donated items like eggs or yogurt - for a family of four for three to four days. People can drive up and volunteers place the box in the car trunk, minimizing any contact.

- Daniela Allee

New Hampshire grocers plan to provide masks to employees

Update: Monday, April 6, 2:55 p.m.

New Hampshire grocery stores say they are trying to get masks for their employees. This comes following the CDC’s revised guidelines that all Americans should wear a cloth face covering when they are in public places.

Market Basket says employees have been allowed to wear their own masks, and the company is working to order supplies. Hannaford says it also ordered masks for employees, and is allowing its workers to wear their own until additional ones arrive.

Both companies say they’ve provided gloves for in-store employees.

- NHPR Staff

State prison employee tests positive for COVID-19

Update: Monday, April 6, 10:45 a.m.

An employee at New Hampshire's state prison for men in Concord has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Department of Corrections said in a statement today (Monday, April 6) that the employee is now quarantined in their home.

State prisons have been screening all their employees before entering the facilities. This employee was denied entry to the prison on Wednesday based on the screening process.

- NHPR Staff

Amtrak again reduces Downeaster service

Update: Monday, April 6, 10:20 a.m.

Starting today (Monday, April 6), the Amtrak Downeaster is further reducing service.

The rail line will operate a southbound train during the morning rush hour, and a northbound train departing Boston's Sounth Station at 5 p.m.

The Downeaster will also only operate two trains on weekends.

Amtrak is waiving change fees through the end of May.

- Todd Bookman

48 new cases; community-based transmission continues to increase in New Hampshire

Update: Sunday, April 5, 2020  

New Hampshire DHHS is mapping positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire. This map reflects cases through Sunday, April 5th.

48 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing the state's total cases to 669.

In a press release issued Sunday (April 5), the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced the new cases.

"Of those with complete information," the release says, 40% of the new cases are female, and 60% are male. According to DHHS, 16 of the new cases have no identified risk factors, indicating a growth in community transmission of COVID-19 in the state. Six of the patients were reported to be hospitalized.

The regional breakdown of the new cases is: 16 in Rockingham County, 17 in Hillsborough County (including six in Nashua and four in Manchester), five in Merrimack County, one in Strafford County, two in Carroll County, and one in Cheshire County. 

According to DHHS, the county of residence is "being determined" for the six remaining cases.

- NHPR staff

Portsmouth lays off 87 employees

Update: Sunday, April 5, 1:25 p.m.

The city of Portsmouth has laid off half its part-time workforce, from positions in non-essential services.

The 87 short-term layoffs, which took effect Friday, apply mostly to staff at the city’s rec center and pools, as well as library workers and crossing guards.

“We ended up choosing to lay off, temporarily, those positions which cannot perform their duties at home or remotely,” says city manager Karen Conard, “or in those departments that are no longer open to business for the public, or no longer generating revenue.”

She says the workers were given details on applying for unemployment, and the city plans to hire back the laid-off workers once the stay-at-home order lifts.

The decision is less about lost revenue, Conard says, and more about focusing on essential services.

“This is not meant to feel like ‘when’s the other shoe going to drop,’” Conard says. “We don’t intend to comb through on a regular basis and make cuts. We think we’re in a good position right now.”

She says the city is mostly losing revenue from its recreation facilities, which remain closed.

The city has also suspended most parking fees, but with far fewer people driving downtown, Conard says they wouldn’t be losing much revenue there anyway. The city council will discuss next steps for the parking fees at their meeting Monday night.

- Annie Ropeik

81 more cases and 2 additional deaths

Update: Saturday, April 4, 7:42 p.m.

Two more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to nine in New Hampshire.

On Saturday night, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced 81 new positive test results. There are now 621 confirmed cases in the state. 

The two additional deaths were men from Hillsborough County, both over 60, according to DHHS.

Six of the new cases are hospitalized.

- NHPR Staff

A Market Basket customer with a face mask stops to buy some garden items before entering the store on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth on Saturday, April 4.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

In light of recent studies, the CDC is now recommending Americans wear face masks or "cloth face coverings" when in areas of high community-based transmission for the virus, as well as in public settings where social distancing can be challenging, like grocery stores. Read the CDC guidelines here.

Sununu extends 3 emergency orders until May 4

Update: Saturday, April 4, 5:09 p.m.

Governor Sununu has issued his 26th executive order that extends three earlier emergency orders until May 4. They were otherwise due to expire Monday, April 6. The orders continue the ban on gatherings of 10 or more and the prohibition of on-site, dine-in consumption of food and beverages. Restaurants are allowed to offer meals through take-out and deliveries. 

The governor also extends the order allowing restaurants to temporarily offer take-out and delivery of beer or wine during the state emergency.

- Dan Tuohy

Coos County has its first confirmed case

  Update: Saturday, April 4, 2:40 p.m.

The first case of the coronavirus in Coös County was confirmed Friday. The case is in Whitefield, but the nearby city of Berlin is urging caution among residents there.

Berlin Community Development Director Pam LaFlamme says people in the North Country should assume the coronavirus is more widespread than yet reported, given the still-limited number of tests.

She says residents should take the same precautions as they would in a larger city.

"Just really be aware of your surroundings," she says. "You can only control the 6 feet around you so if you do your part and everyone does their part then that will help flatten the curve."

Berlin is home to Coos County's largest hospital - it currently has 25 beds, but it has a plan to expand that number, if necessary.

- Sarah Gibson

Showing symptoms? EMS says call your doctor first

Update: Saturday, April 4, 1:25 p.m.

State emergency officials are asking people to think twice before calling for an ambulance.

People experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing, should first call their primary care physician. If a condition becomes life threatening, they should call 911, according to the public service announcement from N.H. EMS.

Officials say those who don't need to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance should find another way. This cuts down on time spent decontaminating ambulances, and keeps them available for serious conditions like cardiac arrest, suspected stroke, or traumatic injury.

- Cori Princell 

ACLU calls for release of ICE detainee in Dover

Update: Saturday, April 4, 12:17 p.m.

The ACLU of New Hampshire is pushing for the release of an immigrant detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Strafford County House of Correction in Dover.

The ACLU says they're asking the court to move quickly in light of the threat of COVID-19. The emergency federal lawsuit, which was filed Friday, demands the release of a Guatemalan immigrant who the ACLU says came to the U.S. seeking asylum. 

The ACLU has asked ICE to halt immigration enforcement operations and release immigration detainees currently at the Strafford County jail.

- Cori Princell 

N.H. closing highway rest stops Sunday

Update: Saturday, April 4, 11:32 a.m.

New Hampshire is closing its highway rest stops and welcome centers on Sunday as part of the state's efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Hooksett welcome center on I-93, which is operated by a private company, will remain open.

All the rest, those run by the state, will close Sunday at 4 p.m.

A spokesman for the N.H. Department of Business and Economic Affairs says the state is reassigning about 30 employees from the rest stops to temporarily work in the state's liquor and wine outlets.

- Sarah Gibson 

Portsmouth layoffs in response to COVID-19

Update: Saturday, April 4, 10:09 a.m.

Eighty-seven part-time employees of the city of Portsmouth have been laid off due to the coronavirus. All of them worked in public works, recreation, or at the city library.

Portsmouth officials remain concerned about a loss of revenue under the state's stay-at-home order.

The city is helping the affected workers apply for unemployment coverage.

- NHPR Staff

Two new COVID-19 deaths announced, as infections confirmed in every N.H. county

Update: Friday, April 3, 5:55 p.m.

State health officials announced two new deaths and 61 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire on Friday, bringing the statewide total of known coronavirus infections to 540. Among the new cases is the first known case in Coos County, meaning COVID-19 is present in every county in the state.

The Southern Tier continues to be the center of coronavirus activity in New Hampshire, with the bulk of cases located in Manchester, Nashua, and surrounding towns in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.

To date, 80 people in the state have been hospitalized for COVID-19, or roughly 15 percent of all known cases. The two deaths announced Friday were a man and a woman, each older than 60 and residents of Hillsborough County.

-NHPR staff

LRGH gets $5.2 million loan from state

Update: Friday, April 3, 5:30 p.m.

Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia is receiving a $5.2 million loan from the state to help it stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital is just one of more than 250 health care organizations to apply for an emergency loan from the state.

New Hampshire's emergency health care relief fund totals $50 million in state money. But that amount may not even come close to covering what's being asked for.

The fund was established a week and a half ago. The list of applicants obtained by NHPR includes some of the state's largest hospitals, as well as smaller facilities like community health centers, dentist offices, and physical therapy centers. Governor Sununu says federal money may be able to replenish the emergency fund if it runs out.

- Jason Moon

Sununu: Help for furloughed health care workers

Update: Friday, April 3, 5:25 p.m.

The state will begin helping furloughed health care workers find temporary jobs on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Sununu announced a new "Health Workforce Flex System" Friday to do just that.

Run by the N.H. Department of Employment Security, the program will send furloughed hospital workers to facilities in need of urgent help during the pandemic. "What we don't want is true layoffs to happen, doors to close, because then those frontline workers - you risk losing them out of the state altogether," Sununu said at his news conference. 

His announcement came as Lakes Region General Hospital said earlier it would furlough 500 employees.

- Sarah Gibson

14 sites in N.H. ready for surge in patients

Update: Friday, April 3, 3:43 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu announced today that 14 clinical surge centers are now ready to address a possible surge in COVID-19 patients in New Hampshire. There are 1,662 "surge" beds, bringing the total beds in the state to 5,291, he said during a news conference in Concord.

The governor says he is issuing another emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic, an order to empower towns and cities to offer blanket abatement of interest for late property tax payments. 

Sununu is re-issuing his state emergency order, which first took effect on March 13. And in related news, President Trump has approved New Hampshire's disaster declaration in connection with the coronavirus.

Sununu also announced the N.H. Grocers Association will be launching an emergency operations center to support grocery stores, including developing guidelines to encourage safe social distancing and recommending stores cap occupancy at 50 percent.

- NHPR Staff

This is developing, and this will be further updated Friday

N.H. Banks Scramble To Process Loans For Businesses Hurt By Pandemic

Update: Friday, April 3, 3:20 p.m.

Banks in New Hampshire and across the country began getting busy Friday, as businesses harmed by COVID-19 are lining up for a share of $350 billion worth of new federal loans.

Read more here.

Groups call for closure of Appalachian Trail

Update: Friday, April 3, 2:00 p.m.

Conservancy groups that manage the Appalachian Trail want federal regulators to consider closing the popular hiking route, which runs through New Hampshire's White Mountains, and has been crowded during the pandemic.

The Boston-based Appalachian Mountain Club and the Dartmouth Outing Club are among the groups that sent a letter this week to the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture, as well as the Forest Service and Park Service, which are under the USDA.

The conservancies say they and government partners have closed many service areas along the trail to encourage social distancing - but crowds have persisted. The groups are worried about the spread of coronavirus among hikers, rescuers, trail workers and nearby communities.

The letter asks the federal agencies to close the trail until at least April 30, meeting every two weeks after that to consider reopening it.

The AMC has already closed its shelters, visitor's center, and other services along the trail in the Whites, Many other recreation areas and facilities in the National Forest are also closed.

- Annie Ropeik

Schools mull ditching April vacation

Update: Friday, April 3, 1:44 p.m.

School districts are weighing whether to cancel April vacation in light of coronavirus-related closures. Some districts are sending out surveys to families and teachers before making a final call next week.

In Amherst, nearly 80% of parents responding to a survey said they want to cancel April break, and instead get out a week earlier in the summer. The Merrimack school board also voted this week to cancel April break.

Officials in Bedford, Milford, and Nashua are reviewing surveys this weekend before a likely decision early next week. Districts say they're developing a routine for remote learning and don't want to disrupt it.

Many families already had to cancel travel plans, so will be stuck home anyway.

"Canceling the vacation would end school a week earlier when hopefully people will be able to venture out," said Gorham Superintendent David Backler, who plans to make a decision about April vacation on Monday. "We are worried that by not having school that week more students and families will leave their houses and come in contact with other people."

He reasons, too, that keeping April vacation could boost people's mental health and give them a needed break from the stressful transition to remote learning.

The state Department of Education says it's up to districts to decide what works  best, and so far, most are continuing with April vacation as planned.

- Sarah Gibson

Sewer treatment plants still fighting clogs

Update: Friday, April 3, 12:11 p.m.

Wastewater treatment plants in New Hampshire are still struggling with massive clogs, despite repeated reminders that the public should not flush anything other than toilet paper.

Shortages of toilet paper, as well as extra home cleaning, are leading more people to flush wipes, paper towels, even rubber gloves, according to an industry group.

Those things don't break down in local pumping systems or septic tanks, even if they're labeled as flushable. They can take extra manpower to remove before the waste can be treated.

Workers say the clog issue is escalating at a time when sewage plants are already running skeleton crews for the sake of social distancing.

- Annie Ropeik

64 new cases bring state's total to 479; fifth person dies in New Hampshire
Positive tests for COVID-19 in New Hampshire as of April 2, 2020
Credit N.H. DHHS

Update: Thursday: April 2, 2020, 6:20 p.m.

A fifth person has died from coronavirus in New Hampshire. In a release issued Thursday (April 2), the state Department of Health and Human Services says the patient was a male resident of Hillsborough County and was younger than 60, with underlying medical conditions.

DHHS also announced 64 new positive test results for COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 479.

The new cases are all adults, 42 females and 22 males. Ten of the new cases resulted in hospitalization.

So far, approximately 15% of the people diagnosed in New Hampshire have been hospitalized, according to DHHS.

37 of the new cases have no identified risk factors, which indicates community transmission of the virus. 

DHHS released this table of coronavirus cases by county (plus Manchester and Nashua) on April 2.

According to DHHS, the regional breakdown of the new cases is: 17 in Rockingham County, 34 in Hillsborough County (including 19 in Manchester and three in Nashua), six in Strafford County, four in Merrimack County, and one each in Cheshire, Grafton, and Sullivan Counties.

- NHPR Staff

Hanover Hill nursing home dealing with coronavirus

Update: Thursday, April 2, 5:15 p.m.  

At a press conference Wednesday, state officials acknowledged that they’re aware of cases of COVID-19 at a number of New Hampshire health facilities serving the elderly or medically fragile, but they have declined to identify those facilities, citing privacy concerns.

NHPR has learned that Hanover Hill, a nursing home and skilled rehab facility in Manchester, is among the health facilities in the state dealing with COVID-19. It is unclear how many patients or staff at the facility are affected.

Hanover Hill has not returned repeated inquiries from NHPR seeking additional information.

Click here for more on this story.

State revenues not hit by coronavirus...yet

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:50 p.m.

The state took in $667 million in tax revenue during the month of March...that’s only 1.5 percent less than officials forecast.

Because of the normal lag in processing, tax collections from restaurants and hotels remained strong last month.

Charlie Arlinghaus, the commissioner of administrative services, says the numbers aren’t yet showing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it is the last monthly report before the storm, so to speak. A lot of the numbers in it refer to activity that happened before states of emergency,” he says.

The Liquor Commission enjoyed a strong month of sales in March, beating its target by 45 percent.

- Todd Bookman

Manchester VA will provide beds for non-coronavirus patients

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:25 p.m. 

The Manchester VA is planning to set up a 20-bed unit for patients other than those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The VA can't support patients on ventilators, so it's preparing to take veteran patients who need basic care from CMC, the Elliot, and other VA hospitals to help those hospitals open space for COVID-19 patients.

In a statement, the VA says during emergencies, hospitals routinely shift resources, staff, and supplies as needed to meet demands wherever they arise.

It's unclear when the 20 beds will be ready.

- Peter Biello

Sununu calls for expedited federal aid

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:01 p.m.

Governor Sununu wants the U.S. Treasury Department to expedite federal coronavirus aid and give states better guidance on how it can be spent.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sununu said New Hampshire is trying to move fast to use the funding allocated for the state under the federal act recently passed in Washington. He says a lack of clear federal guidelines adds to the challenge.

"It is difficult to move forward when subsequent guidance could unravel those plans," Sununu wrote.

The governor noted that New Hampshire acted to boost unemployment benefits and child protection, and provided money to help local hospitals on "the expectation that the federal government will now assume these costs, but it is unclear when this funding is accessible." 

"What this epidemic has demonstrated is that any delay or failure to take quick action can result in consequences," Sununu said.

New Hampshire is set to receive more than $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus aid.

- Josh Rogers

Tuckerman Ravine, other backcountry areas closed

Update: Thursday, April 2, 3:44 p.m.

Forest Service map of the temporary closure.

The Forest Service is shutting down some high traffic recreation areas on Mount Washington. Tuckerman Ravine, Huntington Ravine and the Gulf of Slides will be temporarily closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The order also closes the facilities and grounds around the Appalachian Mountain Club's visitor's center at Pinkham Notch. The area sits on the southeast side of the summit of the mountain, opposite the Mount Washington Auto Road.

It contains popular, high-risk hiking trails that have been packed with visitors in recent weeks.

Officials say the closure is part of their efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus to rescuers, as well as hikers.

- Annie Ropeik

UNH converts rec center to surge site

Update: Thursday, April 2, 2:49 p.m.

UNH Hamel Recreation Center is now a temporary medical surge center to help with a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.
Credit Courtesy of Todd Selig / Durham

The University of New Hampshire has converted its recreation center into a medical site to free up more hospital space for COVID-19 patients. UNH is also using 3D printers to help create medical face shields.

The gym at the Hamel Recreation Center now contains 250 beds. It's one of several overflow sites the state is setting up to boost capacity to treat coronavirus patients. The overflow sites are intended to house patients who have already been treated in hospitals but who need a few more days of care before heading home.

UNH is also deploying a dozen 3D printers to make plastic headbands.

Workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are attaching the headbands - UNH has made 300 so far - to clear plastic masks. And the masks are going to medical workers in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

- Josh Rogers

Golfers issue plea to Sununu

Update:Thursday, April 2, 2:10 p.m.

Governor Sununu says he's looking at ways to allow New Hampshire golf courses to reopen. But Sununu says any relaxation of the policy keeping courses closed in New Hampshire would have to involve other states.

In a video posted to Twitter, Sununu says he's looking at ways to reopen golf courses ordered closed by one of his executive orders. He indicated it will take time:

"We're going to explore that in the coming weeks, but please understand it has to be a regional approach. Because if Mass., and Maine and Vermont, don't take the same approach, then everybody from those states, with sometimes higher instances of COVID and the pandemic, are going to be rushing into New Hampshire."

An online petition launched this week urging Sununu to reopen local courses - called Let NH Golf - has collected more than 8,000 signatures. Thirteen governors have explicitly banned golf in COVID-19 executive orders.

- Josh Rogers

Census touts importance of 2020 head count

Update: Thursday, April 2, 12:46 p.m.

The U.S. Census Bureau says the coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for an accurate population count this year.

Regional Census Director Jeff Bahler says the 2020 Census count will inform federal decisions on how to fund health care and emergency systems in each state.

"The way those decisions are made - how many hospitals or ambulances, how many vaccines a community needs - those decisions are made upon Census data," he says.

Over a third of New Hampshire households have filled out the U.S. Census so far - mostly online. The bureau is urging residents to complete the survey online if possible, to avoid getting mailers or a visit from a census worker in the months ahead. [See the Census response rate by state]

- Sarah Gibson

Market Basket changes shopping rules

Update: Thursday, April 2, 12:00 p.m. 

Sign outside the Market Basket in downtown Concord: Emphasizes customers should stay at least six tiles apart.
Credit Dan Barrick / NHPR

Market Basket is changing store protocols to increase social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Starting today (Thursday, April 2), the grocery store chain will limit the number of customers allowed into its stores at one time.

The store will also designate a single entrances and exit for customers.

Market Basket says its heightened disinfection program continues, focusing on high-touch surfaces including cash registers, countertops and shopping carriages.

- Mary McIntyre

4th death in New Hampshire, 48 new cases bring state's total to 415

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 9:00 p.m.

A fourth person has died of COVID-19 in New Hampshire. That news came on the day that 48 additional cases of the illness were identified in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 415.

Credit NH DHHS

At a press conference Wednesday, state epidemiologist Ben Chan said the fourth person to die was an adult, but declined to provide further information about them. 

Fifty-nine of the patients in New Hampshire - or roughly 15 percent - have required hospitalization. 

The vast bulk of the state's cases are concentrated in the Manchester-Nashua region, and in towns along the south-east border with Massachusetts (see map, left).

But Chan cautioned that COVID-19 remains “widespread and present in our whole state.” He said the virus may be in New Hampshire for many more months and warned against becoming complacent.

Less than a week since the state's stay-at-home order took effect, Chan said he understands people might be getting restless. But, he said, it's difficult to predict how a pandemic will proceed, and that the coronavirus could be with us for weeks or months to come.

"We understand the difficulties that this outbreak is causing people and families," Chan said, "But it is important not to become complacent in our measures around social distancing.

Sununu orders emergency funding for victims of sexual and domestic violence, child abuse

Governor Chris Sununu announced two new orders to support some of the state's most vulnerable residents at Wednesday's press conference, victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse. 

As families are staying home as part of the state's effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, officials fear incidents of abuse are going unreported.

"We know that calls to law enforcement are down, we know that reporting of child abuse is down," Sununu said at Wednesday's press conference. "What is not down is the actual instance of occurrence."

Sununu has ordered $600,000 in emergency funding to support sexual and domestic violence crisis centers, as well as $2 million in funding to boost protections for children in the state. Sununu said that some part-time staff members at DCYF will be made full time, and that the age cap for children served by the state's "Strength to Succeed" program will be increased from 6-years-old to 10-years-old.

Sununu encouraged all residents of the state to act as "mandatory reporters" for domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. domestic violence hotline: 1 (800) 277-5570

N.H. child abuse hotline: 1 (800) 894-5533 or knowandtell.org

Three hospitals requiring staff to wear masks at all times

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 4:10 p.m.

Three New Hampshire hospitals are now requiring all staff who work in patient care areas to wear a mask at all times.

The decision by the Hospital Corporation of America affects Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, and Parkland Medical Center in New Hampshire.

Dr. David Itkin is Chief of Infectious Disease at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He says the decision was driven in part by emerging evidence that suggests some people with COVID-19 are spreading the virus before they begin to show symptoms.

"If somebody is incubating the virus and not yet symptomatic and working, the presence of the mask will limit the amount of virus that they shed into the environment," Itkin says.

The move comes as the CDC is reportedly considering changing its recommendations over whether the general public should use masks.

- Jason Moon

Coronavirus outbreak at Crotched Mountain School

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 3:20 p.m.

The Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield is battling an outbreak of COVID-19 on its campus that has killed one resident and infected five others. The facility, which offers residential and day programs for people living with disabilities, says the outbreak is traced to a group home on its campus.

So far, three residents and three staff members have tested positive.

The resident who died on March 29 was a 46-year old male with significant disabilities and a history of respiratory problems, according to the school.

“The Crotched Mountain family mourns the loss of one of our residents,” said Ned Olney, president and CEO of Crotched Mountain Foundation in a statement. “As an individual with a challenging medical profile he was particularly susceptible to the insidiousness of this virus. Together we grieve and remain vigilant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

State health officials are working with the facility as it implements a quarantine on the residence hall.

Visitation is currently prohibited, and meals are being served in rooms, rather than the cafeteria. It isn’t clear why the Department of Health and Human Service’s town-by-town map of coronavirus cases shows zero for Greenfield.

Crotched Mountain says it is facing a dwindling supply of personal protective equipment, and is requesting donations from the public.

The picturesque mountain-top school opened in 1953. It currently serves 66 residents on its campus and employs approximately 200 people.

In 2017, Crotched Mountain shuttered its medical facility citing financial strain.

(This story will be updates as more information is made available.)

- Todd Bookman

Drive-through test site opens at Pease Tradeport

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 2:05 p.m.  

The ConvenientMD site at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth
Credit Courtesy of ConvenientMD

A new drive-through testing site for COVID-19 opens today (Wednesday, April 1) at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.

Right now, the site will only take patients referred by a telehealth provider with the urgent care chain Convenient MD. The company worked with the state and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to set up the testing facility.

Anthem is currently covering all coronavirus testing costs for its members.

A Convenient MD spokesman says the testing site could expand to take referrals from outside the company if more testing supplies and protective gear become available.

- Annie Ropeik

Shaheen asks for expedited test results for first responders

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 1:50 p.m.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen says she's asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to expedite COVID-19 test results for first responders.

Police, firefighters or emergency medical technicians who come into contact with potential cases have to quarantine for 14 days. Senator Shaheen says this has been a huge challenge for emergency workers across New Hampshire.

"Prioritize those tests, let’s get those tests back and find out if those people really tested positive. If they did, then we know we have to quarantine the first responders. But if they didn’t then we don’t need to take first responders off the job for that long a period of time," she said.

Nine firefighters in Concord were placed under quarantine earlier this week after coming into contact with a potential case of COVID-19. The firefighters were released Wednesday after the patient received a negative test result.

- Alex McOwen

Dartmouth-Hitchcock to test COVID-19 treatment

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 11:50 a.m.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is set to begin testing a potential treatment for COVID-19. The hospital is one of nearly hundred sites involved in the clinical trials worldwide.

Researchers are testing an intravenous anti-viral medication that was used during the West African Ebola outbreak several years ago. The drug has also shown promise in treating diseases caused by other coronaviruses, such as SARS.

The medication will be tested in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Researchers will test 5- and 10-day courses of the medication in people with severe and moderate infections.

Across the globe, about a thousand patients are participating in the study. Researchers say this kind of trial typically takes weeks to organize. Dartmouth-Hitchcock got ready for theirs in six days, including by fitting personal protective equipment for around two dozen nurses who’ll administer the drug to patients.

- Annie Ropeik

N.H. jails release inmates to help prevent coronavirus spread

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 11:45 a.m.

Correctional facilities across the state are releasing some inmates accused or convicted of non-violent crimes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing is nearly impossible to maintain in jails or prisons, and some inmates could be at risk for serious or life-threatening symptoms from the coronavirus.

On NHPR's The Exchange this morning (Wednesday, April 1), Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Grey said his jail population is the lowest it's been in 20 years after releasing inmates. Grey says his officers are still monitoring many of those who have been released, sometimes electronically.

Read more on this story here

-Mary McIntyre

48 new cases; community-based transmission continues to increase in New Hampshire

Update: Sunday, April 5, 2020  

New Hampshire DHHS is mapping positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire. This map reflects cases through Sunday, April 5th.

48 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing the state's total cases to 669.

In a press release issued Sunday (April 5), the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced the new cases.

"Of those with complete information," the release says, 40% of the new cases are female, and 60% are male. According to DHHS, 16 of the new cases have no identified risk factors, indicating a growth in community transmission of COVID-19 in the state. Six of the patients were reported to be hospitalized.

The regional breakdown of the new cases is: 16 in Rockingham County, 17 in Hillsborough County (including six in Nashua and four in Manchester), five in Merrimack County, one in Strafford County, two in Carroll County, and one in Cheshire County. 

According to DHHS, the county of residence is "being determined" for the six remaining cases.

- NHPR staff

Portsmouth lays off 87 employees

Update: Sunday, April 5, 1:25 p.m.

The city of Portsmouth has laid off half its part-time workforce, from positions in non-essential services.

The 87 short-term layoffs, which took effect Friday, apply mostly to staff at the city’s rec center and pools, as well as library workers and crossing guards.

“We ended up choosing to lay off, temporarily, those positions which cannot perform their duties at home or remotely,” says city manager Karen Conard, “or in those departments that are no longer open to business for the public, or no longer generating revenue.”

She says the workers were given details on applying for unemployment, and the city plans to hire back the laid-off workers once the stay-at-home order lifts.

The decision is less about lost revenue, Conard says, and more about focusing on essential services.

“This is not meant to feel like ‘when’s the other shoe going to drop,’” Conard says. “We don’t intend to comb through on a regular basis and make cuts. We think we’re in a good position right now.”

She says the city is mostly losing revenue from its recreation facilities, which remain closed.

The city has also suspended most parking fees, but with far fewer people driving downtown, Conard says they wouldn’t be losing much revenue there anyway. The city council will discuss next steps for the parking fees at their meeting Monday night.

- Annie Ropeik

81 more cases and 2 additional deaths

Update: Saturday, April 4, 7:42 p.m.

Two more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to nine in New Hampshire.

On Saturday night, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced 81 new positive test results. There are now 621 confirmed cases in the state. 

The two additional deaths were men from Hillsborough County, both over 60, according to DHHS.

Six of the new cases are hospitalized.

- NHPR Staff

A Market Basket customer with a face mask stops to buy some garden items before entering the store on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth on Saturday, April 4.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

In light of recent studies, the CDC is now recommending Americans wear face masks or "cloth face coverings" when in areas of high community-based transmission for the virus, as well as in public settings where social distancing can be challenging, like grocery stores. Read the CDC guidelines here.

Sununu extends 3 emergency orders until May 4

Update: Saturday, April 4, 5:09 p.m.

Governor Sununu has issued his 26th executive order that extends three earlier emergency orders until May 4. They were otherwise due to expire Monday, April 6. The orders continue the ban on gatherings of 10 or more and the prohibition of on-site, dine-in consumption of food and beverages. Restaurants are allowed to offer meals through take-out and deliveries. 

The governor also extends the order allowing restaurants to temporarily offer take-out and delivery of beer or wine during the state emergency.

- Dan Tuohy

Coos County has its first confirmed case

  Update: Saturday, April 4, 2:40 p.m.

The first case of the coronavirus in Coös County was confirmed Friday. The case is in Whitefield, but the nearby city of Berlin is urging caution among residents there.

Berlin Community Development Director Pam LaFlamme says people in the North Country should assume the coronavirus is more widespread than yet reported, given the still-limited number of tests.

She says residents should take the same precautions as they would in a larger city.

"Just really be aware of your surroundings," she says. "You can only control the 6 feet around you so if you do your part and everyone does their part then that will help flatten the curve."

Berlin is home to Coos County's largest hospital - it currently has 25 beds, but it has a plan to expand that number, if necessary.

- Sarah Gibson

Showing symptoms? EMS says call your doctor first

Update: Saturday, April 4, 1:25 p.m.

State emergency officials are asking people to think twice before calling for an ambulance.

People experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing, should first call their primary care physician. If a condition becomes life threatening, they should call 911, according to the public service announcement from N.H. EMS.

Officials say those who don't need to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance should find another way. This cuts down on time spent decontaminating ambulances, and keeps them available for serious conditions like cardiac arrest, suspected stroke, or traumatic injury.

- Cori Princell 

ACLU calls for release of ICE detainee in Dover

Update: Saturday, April 4, 12:17 p.m.

The ACLU of New Hampshire is pushing for the release of an immigrant detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Strafford County House of Correction in Dover.

The ACLU says they're asking the court to move quickly in light of the threat of COVID-19. The emergency federal lawsuit, which was filed Friday, demands the release of a Guatemalan immigrant who the ACLU says came to the U.S. seeking asylum. 

The ACLU has asked ICE to halt immigration enforcement operations and release immigration detainees currently at the Strafford County jail.

- Cori Princell 

N.H. closing highway rest stops Sunday

Update: Saturday, April 4, 11:32 a.m.

New Hampshire is closing its highway rest stops and welcome centers on Sunday as part of the state's efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Hooksett welcome center on I-93, which is operated by a private company, will remain open.

All the rest, those run by the state, will close Sunday at 4 p.m.

A spokesman for the N.H. Department of Business and Economic Affairs says the state is reassigning about 30 employees from the rest stops to temporarily work in the state's liquor and wine outlets.

- Sarah Gibson 

Portsmouth layoffs in response to COVID-19

Update: Saturday, April 4, 10:09 a.m.

Eighty-seven part-time employees of the city of Portsmouth have been laid off due to the coronavirus. All of them worked in public works, recreation, or at the city library.

Portsmouth officials remain concerned about a loss of revenue under the state's stay-at-home order.

The city is helping the affected workers apply for unemployment coverage.

- NHPR Staff

Two new COVID-19 deaths announced, as infections confirmed in every N.H. county

Update: Friday, April 3, 5:55 p.m.

State health officials announced two new deaths and 61 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire on Friday, bringing the statewide total of known coronavirus infections to 540. Among the new cases is the first known case in Coos County, meaning COVID-19 is present in every county in the state.

The Southern Tier continues to be the center of coronavirus activity in New Hampshire, with the bulk of cases located in Manchester, Nashua, and surrounding towns in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.

To date, 80 people in the state have been hospitalized for COVID-19, or roughly 15 percent of all known cases. The two deaths announced Friday were a man and a woman, each older than 60 and residents of Hillsborough County.

-NHPR staff

LRGH gets $5.2 million loan from state

Update: Friday, April 3, 5:30 p.m.

Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia is receiving a $5.2 million loan from the state to help it stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital is just one of more than 250 health care organizations to apply for an emergency loan from the state.

New Hampshire's emergency health care relief fund totals $50 million in state money. But that amount may not even come close to covering what's being asked for.

The fund was established a week and a half ago. The list of applicants obtained by NHPR includes some of the state's largest hospitals, as well as smaller facilities like community health centers, dentist offices, and physical therapy centers. Governor Sununu says federal money may be able to replenish the emergency fund if it runs out.

- Jason Moon

Sununu: Help for furloughed health care workers

Update: Friday, April 3, 5:25 p.m.

The state will begin helping furloughed health care workers find temporary jobs on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Sununu announced a new "Health Workforce Flex System" Friday to do just that.

Run by the N.H. Department of Employment Security, the program will send furloughed hospital workers to facilities in need of urgent help during the pandemic. "What we don't want is true layoffs to happen, doors to close, because then those frontline workers - you risk losing them out of the state altogether," Sununu said at his news conference. 

His announcement came as Lakes Region General Hospital said earlier it would furlough 500 employees.

- Sarah Gibson

14 sites in N.H. ready for surge in patients

Update: Friday, April 3, 3:43 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu announced today that 14 clinical surge centers are now ready to address a possible surge in COVID-19 patients in New Hampshire. There are 1,662 "surge" beds, bringing the total beds in the state to 5,291, he said during a news conference in Concord.

The governor says he is issuing another emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic, an order to empower towns and cities to offer blanket abatement of interest for late property tax payments. 

Sununu is re-issuing his state emergency order, which first took effect on March 13. And in related news, President Trump has approved New Hampshire's disaster declaration in connection with the coronavirus.

Sununu also announced the N.H. Grocers Association will be launching an emergency operations center to support grocery stores, including developing guidelines to encourage safe social distancing and recommending stores cap occupancy at 50 percent.

- NHPR Staff

This is developing, and this will be further updated Friday

N.H. Banks Scramble To Process Loans For Businesses Hurt By Pandemic

Update: Friday, April 3, 3:20 p.m.

Banks in New Hampshire and across the country began getting busy Friday, as businesses harmed by COVID-19 are lining up for a share of $350 billion worth of new federal loans.

Read more here.

Groups call for closure of Appalachian Trail

Update: Friday, April 3, 2:00 p.m.

Conservancy groups that manage the Appalachian Trail want federal regulators to consider closing the popular hiking route, which runs through New Hampshire's White Mountains, and has been crowded during the pandemic.

The Boston-based Appalachian Mountain Club and the Dartmouth Outing Club are among the groups that sent a letter this week to the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture, as well as the Forest Service and Park Service, which are under the USDA.

The conservancies say they and government partners have closed many service areas along the trail to encourage social distancing - but crowds have persisted. The groups are worried about the spread of coronavirus among hikers, rescuers, trail workers and nearby communities.

The letter asks the federal agencies to close the trail until at least April 30, meeting every two weeks after that to consider reopening it.

The AMC has already closed its shelters, visitor's center, and other services along the trail in the Whites, Many other recreation areas and facilities in the National Forest are also closed.

- Annie Ropeik

Schools mull ditching April vacation

Update: Friday, April 3, 1:44 p.m.

School districts are weighing whether to cancel April vacation in light of coronavirus-related closures. Some districts are sending out surveys to families and teachers before making a final call next week.

In Amherst, nearly 80% of parents responding to a survey said they want to cancel April break, and instead get out a week earlier in the summer. The Merrimack school board also voted this week to cancel April break.

Officials in Bedford, Milford, and Nashua are reviewing surveys this weekend before a likely decision early next week. Districts say they're developing a routine for remote learning and don't want to disrupt it.

Many families already had to cancel travel plans, so will be stuck home anyway.

"Canceling the vacation would end school a week earlier when hopefully people will be able to venture out," said Gorham Superintendent David Backler, who plans to make a decision about April vacation on Monday. "We are worried that by not having school that week more students and families will leave their houses and come in contact with other people."

He reasons, too, that keeping April vacation could boost people's mental health and give them a needed break from the stressful transition to remote learning.

The state Department of Education says it's up to districts to decide what works  best, and so far, most are continuing with April vacation as planned.

- Sarah Gibson

Sewer treatment plants still fighting clogs

Update: Friday, April 3, 12:11 p.m.

Wastewater treatment plants in New Hampshire are still struggling with massive clogs, despite repeated reminders that the public should not flush anything other than toilet paper.

Shortages of toilet paper, as well as extra home cleaning, are leading more people to flush wipes, paper towels, even rubber gloves, according to an industry group.

Those things don't break down in local pumping systems or septic tanks, even if they're labeled as flushable. They can take extra manpower to remove before the waste can be treated.

Workers say the clog issue is escalating at a time when sewage plants are already running skeleton crews for the sake of social distancing.

- Annie Ropeik

64 new cases bring state's total to 479; fifth person dies in New Hampshire
Positive tests for COVID-19 in New Hampshire as of April 2, 2020
Credit N.H. DHHS

Update: Thursday: April 2, 2020, 6:20 p.m.

A fifth person has died from coronavirus in New Hampshire. In a release issued Thursday (April 2), the state Department of Health and Human Services says the patient was a male resident of Hillsborough County and was younger than 60, with underlying medical conditions.

DHHS also announced 64 new positive test results for COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 479.

The new cases are all adults, 42 females and 22 males. Ten of the new cases resulted in hospitalization.

So far, approximately 15% of the people diagnosed in New Hampshire have been hospitalized, according to DHHS.

37 of the new cases have no identified risk factors, which indicates community transmission of the virus. 

DHHS released this table of coronavirus cases by county (plus Manchester and Nashua) on April 2.

According to DHHS, the regional breakdown of the new cases is: 17 in Rockingham County, 34 in Hillsborough County (including 19 in Manchester and three in Nashua), six in Strafford County, four in Merrimack County, and one each in Cheshire, Grafton, and Sullivan Counties.

- NHPR Staff

Hanover Hill nursing home dealing with coronavirus

Update: Thursday, April 2, 5:15 p.m.  

At a press conference Wednesday, state officials acknowledged that they’re aware of cases of COVID-19 at a number of New Hampshire health facilities serving the elderly or medically fragile, but they have declined to identify those facilities, citing privacy concerns.

NHPR has learned that Hanover Hill, a nursing home and skilled rehab facility in Manchester, is among the health facilities in the state dealing with COVID-19. It is unclear how many patients or staff at the facility are affected.

Hanover Hill has not returned repeated inquiries from NHPR seeking additional information.

Click here for more on this story.

State revenues not hit by coronavirus...yet

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:50 p.m.

The state took in $667 million in tax revenue during the month of March...that’s only 1.5 percent less than officials forecast.

Because of the normal lag in processing, tax collections from restaurants and hotels remained strong last month.

Charlie Arlinghaus, the commissioner of administrative services, says the numbers aren’t yet showing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it is the last monthly report before the storm, so to speak. A lot of the numbers in it refer to activity that happened before states of emergency,” he says.

The Liquor Commission enjoyed a strong month of sales in March, beating its target by 45 percent.

- Todd Bookman

Manchester VA will provide beds for non-coronavirus patients

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:25 p.m. 

The Manchester VA is planning to set up a 20-bed unit for patients other than those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The VA can't support patients on ventilators, so it's preparing to take veteran patients who need basic care from CMC, the Elliot, and other VA hospitals to help those hospitals open space for COVID-19 patients.

In a statement, the VA says during emergencies, hospitals routinely shift resources, staff, and supplies as needed to meet demands wherever they arise.

It's unclear when the 20 beds will be ready.

- Peter Biello

Sununu calls for expedited federal aid

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:01 p.m.

Governor Sununu wants the U.S. Treasury Department to expedite federal coronavirus aid and give states better guidance on how it can be spent.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sununu said New Hampshire is trying to move fast to use the funding allocated for the state under the federal act recently passed in Washington. He says a lack of clear federal guidelines adds to the challenge.

"It is difficult to move forward when subsequent guidance could unravel those plans," Sununu wrote.

The governor noted that New Hampshire acted to boost unemployment benefits and child protection, and provided money to help local hospitals on "the expectation that the federal government will now assume these costs, but it is unclear when this funding is accessible." 

"What this epidemic has demonstrated is that any delay or failure to take quick action can result in consequences," Sununu said.

New Hampshire is set to receive more than $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus aid.

- Josh Rogers

Tuckerman Ravine, other backcountry areas closed

Update: Thursday, April 2, 3:44 p.m.

Forest Service map of the temporary closure.

The Forest Service is shutting down some high traffic recreation areas on Mount Washington. Tuckerman Ravine, Huntington Ravine and the Gulf of Slides will be temporarily closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The order also closes the facilities and grounds around the Appalachian Mountain Club's visitor's center at Pinkham Notch. The area sits on the southeast side of the summit of the mountain, opposite the Mount Washington Auto Road.

It contains popular, high-risk hiking trails that have been packed with visitors in recent weeks.

Officials say the closure is part of their efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus to rescuers, as well as hikers.

- Annie Ropeik

UNH converts rec center to surge site

Update: Thursday, April 2, 2:49 p.m.

UNH Hamel Recreation Center is now a temporary medical surge center to help with a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.
Credit Courtesy of Todd Selig / Durham

The University of New Hampshire has converted its recreation center into a medical site to free up more hospital space for COVID-19 patients. UNH is also using 3D printers to help create medical face shields.

The gym at the Hamel Recreation Center now contains 250 beds. It's one of several overflow sites the state is setting up to boost capacity to treat coronavirus patients. The overflow sites are intended to house patients who have already been treated in hospitals but who need a few more days of care before heading home.

UNH is also deploying a dozen 3D printers to make plastic headbands.

Workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are attaching the headbands - UNH has made 300 so far - to clear plastic masks. And the masks are going to medical workers in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

- Josh Rogers

Golfers issue plea to Sununu

Update:Thursday, April 2, 2:10 p.m.

Governor Sununu says he's looking at ways to allow New Hampshire golf courses to reopen. But Sununu says any relaxation of the policy keeping courses closed in New Hampshire would have to involve other states.

In a video posted to Twitter, Sununu says he's looking at ways to reopen golf courses ordered closed by one of his executive orders. He indicated it will take time:

"We're going to explore that in the coming weeks, but please understand it has to be a regional approach. Because if Mass., and Maine and Vermont, don't take the same approach, then everybody from those states, with sometimes higher instances of COVID and the pandemic, are going to be rushing into New Hampshire."

An online petition launched this week urging Sununu to reopen local courses - called Let NH Golf - has collected more than 8,000 signatures. Thirteen governors have explicitly banned golf in COVID-19 executive orders.

- Josh Rogers

Census touts importance of 2020 head count

Update: Thursday, April 2, 12:46 p.m.

The U.S. Census Bureau says the coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for an accurate population count this year.

Regional Census Director Jeff Bahler says the 2020 Census count will inform federal decisions on how to fund health care and emergency systems in each state.

"The way those decisions are made - how many hospitals or ambulances, how many vaccines a community needs - those decisions are made upon Census data," he says.

Over a third of New Hampshire households have filled out the U.S. Census so far - mostly online. The bureau is urging residents to complete the survey online if possible, to avoid getting mailers or a visit from a census worker in the months ahead. [See the Census response rate by state]

- Sarah Gibson

Market Basket changes shopping rules

Update: Thursday, April 2, 12:00 p.m. 

Sign outside the Market Basket in downtown Concord: Emphasizes customers should stay at least six tiles apart.
Credit Dan Barrick / NHPR

Market Basket is changing store protocols to increase social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Starting today (Thursday, April 2), the grocery store chain will limit the number of customers allowed into its stores at one time.

The store will also designate a single entrances and exit for customers.

Market Basket says its heightened disinfection program continues, focusing on high-touch surfaces including cash registers, countertops and shopping carriages.

- Mary McIntyre

4th death in New Hampshire, 48 new cases bring state's total to 415

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 9:00 p.m.

A fourth person has died of COVID-19 in New Hampshire. That news came on the day that 48 additional cases of the illness were identified in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 415.

Credit NH DHHS

At a press conference Wednesday, state epidemiologist Ben Chan said the fourth person to die was an adult, but declined to provide further information about them. 

Fifty-nine of the patients in New Hampshire - or roughly 15 percent - have required hospitalization. 

The vast bulk of the state's cases are concentrated in the Manchester-Nashua region, and in towns along the south-east border with Massachusetts (see map, left).

But Chan cautioned that COVID-19 remains “widespread and present in our whole state.” He said the virus may be in New Hampshire for many more months and warned against becoming complacent.

Less than a week since the state's stay-at-home order took effect, Chan said he understands people might be getting restless. But, he said, it's difficult to predict how a pandemic will proceed, and that the coronavirus could be with us for weeks or months to come.

"We understand the difficulties that this outbreak is causing people and families," Chan said, "But it is important not to become complacent in our measures around social distancing.

Sununu orders emergency funding for victims of sexual and domestic violence, child abuse

Governor Chris Sununu announced two new orders to support some of the state's most vulnerable residents at Wednesday's press conference, victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse. 

As families are staying home as part of the state's effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, officials fear incidents of abuse are going unreported.

"We know that calls to law enforcement are down, we know that reporting of child abuse is down," Sununu said at Wednesday's press conference. "What is not down is the actual instance of occurrence."

Sununu has ordered $600,000 in emergency funding to support sexual and domestic violence crisis centers, as well as $2 million in funding to boost protections for children in the state. Sununu said that some part-time staff members at DCYF will be made full time, and that the age cap for children served by the state's "Strength to Succeed" program will be increased from 6-years-old to 10-years-old.

Sununu encouraged all residents of the state to act as "mandatory reporters" for domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. domestic violence hotline: 1 (800) 277-5570

N.H. child abuse hotline: 1 (800) 894-5533 or knowandtell.org

Three hospitals requiring staff to wear masks at all times

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 4:10 p.m.

Three New Hampshire hospitals are now requiring all staff who work in patient care areas to wear a mask at all times.

The decision by the Hospital Corporation of America affects Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, and Parkland Medical Center in New Hampshire.

Dr. David Itkin is Chief of Infectious Disease at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He says the decision was driven in part by emerging evidence that suggests some people with COVID-19 are spreading the virus before they begin to show symptoms.

"If somebody is incubating the virus and not yet symptomatic and working, the presence of the mask will limit the amount of virus that they shed into the environment," Itkin says.

The move comes as the CDC is reportedly considering changing its recommendations over whether the general public should use masks.

- Jason Moon

Coronavirus outbreak at Crotched Mountain School

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 3:20 p.m.

The Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield is battling an outbreak of COVID-19 on its campus that has killed one resident and infected five others. The facility, which offers residential and day programs for people living with disabilities, says the outbreak is traced to a group home on its campus.

So far, three residents and three staff members have tested positive.

The resident who died on March 29 was a 46-year old male with significant disabilities and a history of respiratory problems, according to the school.

“The Crotched Mountain family mourns the loss of one of our residents,” said Ned Olney, president and CEO of Crotched Mountain Foundation in a statement. “As an individual with a challenging medical profile he was particularly susceptible to the insidiousness of this virus. Together we grieve and remain vigilant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

State health officials are working with the facility as it implements a quarantine on the residence hall.

Visitation is currently prohibited, and meals are being served in rooms, rather than the cafeteria. It isn’t clear why the Department of Health and Human Service’s town-by-town map of coronavirus cases shows zero for Greenfield.

Crotched Mountain says it is facing a dwindling supply of personal protective equipment, and is requesting donations from the public.

The picturesque mountain-top school opened in 1953. It currently serves 66 residents on its campus and employs approximately 200 people.

In 2017, Crotched Mountain shuttered its medical facility citing financial strain.

(This story will be updates as more information is made available.)

- Todd Bookman

Drive-through test site opens at Pease Tradeport

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 2:05 p.m.  

The ConvenientMD site at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth
Credit Courtesy of ConvenientMD

A new drive-through testing site for COVID-19 opens today (Wednesday, April 1) at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.

Right now, the site will only take patients referred by a telehealth provider with the urgent care chain Convenient MD. The company worked with the state and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to set up the testing facility.

Anthem is currently covering all coronavirus testing costs for its members.

A Convenient MD spokesman says the testing site could expand to take referrals from outside the company if more testing supplies and protective gear become available.

- Annie Ropeik

Shaheen asks for expedited test results for first responders

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 1:50 p.m.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen says she's asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to expedite COVID-19 test results for first responders.

Police, firefighters or emergency medical technicians who come into contact with potential cases have to quarantine for 14 days. Senator Shaheen says this has been a huge challenge for emergency workers across New Hampshire.

"Prioritize those tests, let’s get those tests back and find out if those people really tested positive. If they did, then we know we have to quarantine the first responders. But if they didn’t then we don’t need to take first responders off the job for that long a period of time," she said.

Nine firefighters in Concord were placed under quarantine earlier this week after coming into contact with a potential case of COVID-19. The firefighters were released Wednesday after the patient received a negative test result.

- Alex McOwen

Dartmouth-Hitchcock to test COVID-19 treatment

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 11:50 a.m.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is set to begin testing a potential treatment for COVID-19. The hospital is one of nearly hundred sites involved in the clinical trials worldwide.

Researchers are testing an intravenous anti-viral medication that was used during the West African Ebola outbreak several years ago. The drug has also shown promise in treating diseases caused by other coronaviruses, such as SARS.

The medication will be tested in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Researchers will test 5- and 10-day courses of the medication in people with severe and moderate infections.

Across the globe, about a thousand patients are participating in the study. Researchers say this kind of trial typically takes weeks to organize. Dartmouth-Hitchcock got ready for theirs in six days, including by fitting personal protective equipment for around two dozen nurses who’ll administer the drug to patients.

- Annie Ropeik

N.H. jails release inmates to help prevent coronavirus spread

Update: Wednesday, April 1, 11:45 a.m.

Correctional facilities across the state are releasing some inmates accused or convicted of non-violent crimes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing is nearly impossible to maintain in jails or prisons, and some inmates could be at risk for serious or life-threatening symptoms from the coronavirus.

On NHPR's The Exchange this morning (Wednesday, April 1), Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Grey said his jail population is the lowest it's been in 20 years after releasing inmates. Grey says his officers are still monitoring many of those who have been released, sometimes electronically.

Read more on this story here

-Mary McIntyre

Earlier updates

CLICK HERE FOR EARLIER UPDATES FROM MARCH 20-31

CLICK HERE FOR EARLIER UPDATES FROM MARCH 3-19