Coronavirus Blog: Earlier Updates (May 1 through May 20) | New Hampshire Public Radio

Coronavirus Blog: Earlier Updates (May 1 through May 20)

May 20, 2020

This post gathers NHPR's past updates on coronavirus in New Hampshire with a date range beginning May 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NOTE: Some of the stories below may contained outdated guidance and stories that have since evolved.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:

N.H. commits COVID-19 relief funds statewide

Update: Friday, May 15, 5:30 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced the state is committing $595 million in COVID-19 funding to several sectors across New Hampshire, including an additional infusion of relief aid to health care and long-term care facilities.

The governor announced a new $400 million Main Street Relief Fund for small businesses and organizations. He says they hope to cover everyone who qualifies, instead of giving the aid on a first-come, first-served basis.

An existing $50 million emergency fund in the state for hospitals and health care providers will get another $50 million, with $30 million of that set aside for long-term care facilities, Sununu said.

Credit Governor's Office

The remaining $20 million will be directed to hospitals and other health care needs.

Sununu said New Hampshire hospitals have received $225 million to date from CARES Act funding that is outside of the $1.25 billion the state is getting. The funding recommendations come from a bipartisan legislative advisory committee that identifies immediate needs during the public health and fiscal crisis, though the amount Sununu allocated for hospitals was significantly less than what lawmakers suggested.

Lawmakers had recommended $100 million for hospitals, but Sununu said Friday he’s confident hospitals can get by on far less.

“There is a lot of hospital and healthcare relief out there,” he said. “It is not enough to fill every hole. Hospitals are not going to be made whole, per se, everybody is. But nobody is going to be shutting their doors. That’s our job: we are going to make sure nobody has to shut their doors.”

Senate President Donna Soucy said Sununu’s plan “guts” support for hospitals, who told the legislative committee advising Sununu on COVID spending that aid to date has offset less than a third of their overall loses due to the coronavirus.

The governor says it’s important to administer funds quickly with so many businesses and organizations with urgent needs. Even with the millions being disbursed, Sununu says the state will have $405 million in reserve for additional COVID-19-related expenses in the months ahead.

“The apex of need is today,” he said.

New funding commitments outlined Friday include:

  • $25 million in emergency funds for early childhood care and education to support urgent child care and family support needs.
  • $5 million for the New Hampshire Food Bank
  • $15 million to higher education, with $10 million to the University System of New Hampshire and $5 million to the community college system
  • $10 million to the Department of Agriculture to support farms, with $4.5 million for dairy farmers in the state

8 Additional Deaths Reported

An additional eight residents have died from COVID-19, according to Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Seven of those residents were in long-term care facilities.

The number of residents who have died from COVID-19 is now at 159.

Shibinette says the state identified a new outbreak - at Villa Crest Nursing and Retirement Center in Manchester, where 10 residents and one staff member tested positive for coronavirus.

New Hampshire has also boosted its daily coronavirus testing rate. On Thursday, officials say they administered nearly 2,900 tests, along with about 800 antibody tests.

More than 330 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

Of the eight additional deaths, one resident, a man from Hillsborough County, was younger than 60.

- NHPR Staff

Annual Craftsmen Fair at Mount Sunapee canceled

The League of NH Craftsmen announced it will cancel its 87th annual League of NH Craftsmen Fair at Mount Sunapee Resort due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event was scheduled for Aug. 1-9. The League has decided instead to shift the annual event to an interactive, online fair during the same timeframe.

"The show must go on, but we are bringing out show into peoples' homes," Executive Director Miriam Carter says in a press release.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. has new data on positive antibody tests

  Update: Friday, May 15, 1:32 p.m.

Public health officials are now releasing data on the number of COVID-19 antibody tests conducted in New Hampshire.

Antibody tests look for evidence in a patient's blood that they've been exposed to the virus in the past.

According to the state, just under 5 percent of antibody tests in New Hampshire so far have come back positive.

The tests can give public health officials important information about the spread of the virus. But there's no solid evidence yet that having antibodies means you are immune to COVID-19.

The American Medical Association issued a statement on Thursday warning people not to abandon social distancing if they test positive for antibodies.

- Jason Moon

Liquor Commission Getting Money For Protective Gear

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is getting nearly $100,000 from a federal grant to cover the purchase of about a year’s worth of PPE for its employees.

That included 70,000 face masks, 950 face shields, gowns and gloves, as well as hand sanitizer.

A spokesman said the commission's enforcement division uses those gowns and face shields when doing checks at restaurants, bars and doing crowd control at state liquor stores.

There are 1,400 people who work full or part-time for the commission, including at the liquor outlets, as investigators and those at its headquarters. New Hampshire's liquor outlets have remained open through the state's stay at home order.

-Daniela Allee

1 additional death, 84 new cases

  Update: Thursday, May 14, 8:15 p.m.

State health officials on Thursday announced an additional death and 84 new coronavirus cases.

A woman from Hillsborough County, who was 60 or older, is the 151st resident to die from COVID-19, according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The state has now identified 3,382 coronavirus cases. 

Of the newly confirmed cases, four patients are hospitalized. Three of the new cases are individuals under the age of 18.

Of the total known cases in New Hampshire, 1,247, or 37 percent, have recovered. Other statistics from the public health update:

  • current cases: 1,984
  • current hospitalizations: 115
  • People who have tested negative: 39,148
  • People being monitored in N.H.: 3,425

Explore the Data: Tracking COVID-19 Cases and Testing in New Hampshire

- NHPR Staff

20 cases at Manchester facility

  Update: Thursday, May 14, 3:49 p.m.

A residential facility in Manchester for formerly incarcerated people now has 20 positive cases of COVID-19.

Hampshire House is for men and women who are transitioning from federal incarceration back into New Hampshire communities.

Community Resources for Justice is the contract provider that runs the facility.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons first reported four positive cases at the Hampshire House on Monday -- all among former inmates. No employees have tested positive.

- Mary McIntyre

Manchester announces free tests for residents

  Update: Thursday, May 14, 1:01 p.m.

New Hampshire's largest city is offering greater Manchester residents COVID-19 testing through May 20. The free tests are available to residents who have symptoms or are in a high-risk group, according to the city's Emergency Operations Center.

High-risk groups include people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, those who have weak immune systems, those 60 or older, and people who are primary caregivers of high-risk individuals.

Greater Manchester residents interested in the testing should call the city's COVID-19 hotine at 603-668-1547, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Residents who do not live in greater Manchester should call 2-1-1 for testing inquiries.

- NHPR Staff

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House Democrats call for temporary mask requirement

  Update: Thursday, May 14, 12:50 p.m.

Democrats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are calling for the state's stay-at-home order to include a temporary requirement for people to wear face masks in public when they are unable to maintain social distancing.

A letter signed by 178 House Democrats, or roughly three-quarters of the Democratic caucus, was sent Thursday to Gov. Chris Sununu. It cites the CDC's recommendation for cloth face coverings to be worn when people are in public settings and cannot maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and asks Sununu to add the mask requirement to his stay-at-home order.

The letter says the temporary requirement would help the state safely reopen parts of the economy. 

- NHPR Staff

N.H. expands testing as 8 more deaths reported

Update: Wednesday, May 13, 3:16 p.m.

As the state further expands coronavirus testing, New Hampshire's nursing homes continue to bear the brunt of the outbreak.

Of eight additional deaths announced Wednesday, seven are from long-term care facilities, said Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Shibinette says the state has tested 30 to 40 percent of residents at long-term care homes, and all will be tested within about two weeks. She adds that new data about the nursing homes and long-term care centers will be released Wednesday.

Gov. Chris Sununu said testing at nursing homes is part of a statewide boost in testing, including at a new fixed site on Stickney Avenue in Concord. The data from testing will drive decisions, he says.

The state has conducted around 38,000 tests to date, with roughly 3,300 positive cases identified. DHHS reported 63 new positive test results Wednesday.

State officials say New Hampshire is doing a good job ramping up coronavirus testing. But the overall numbers are still falling short of the state’s own declared goals.

Last week, Shibinette said she expected New Hampshire to be testing well over 2,000 people per day by the end of this week. Right now, the state’s averaging about 1,600 tests per day. But, according to Shibinette, the public can expect those numbers to rise.

“This day would typically be a low day for us,” she said at a Concord press conference Wednesday. “I do believe that 1,912 by the time we get our hospital data tonight, will be over 2,000, and I do expect to be over 2,000 a couple of days this week.”

Nursing homes continue to be a major focus of New Hampshire’s testing efforts. The facilities continue to be hit hard by COVID-19. Shibinette said the state now has 16 outbreaks at long-term care settings. And seven of the eight local coronavirus deaths announced Wednesday are tied to nursing homes.

Sununu told reporters he anticipates New Hampshire seeing a potential surge in positive tests over the next couple of months, and possibly into the fall.

"If this were a marathon, we're at about mile 4," he said. "You don't start sprinting."

- NHPR Staff

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MTA plans to resume fixed route bus service June 1

Update: Wednesday, May 13, 2:00 p.m.

The Manchester Transit Authority is expanding its on-demand service for people returning to work in the city as New Hampshire reopens parts of its economy.

MTA will still prioritize rides for those traveling for grocery shopping, pharmacy and medical trips.

During this time, vehicle capacity will be capped at 50 percent and all drivers will be required to wear face masks. Passengers are encouraged to do the same.

The transit authority says it will reopen five of its fixed bus routes on June 1, if COVID-19 metrics in the state continue to improve.

- Daniela Allee 

N.H. to get $61 million for testing, contact tracing

Update: Wednesday, May 13, 1:41 p.m.

The latest federal coronavirus relief package will direct $61 million to New Hampshire for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, New Hampshire's congressional delegation announced today. 

In a joint statement, the delegation said the funding is a critical component for helping the Granite State identify cases and allow for a gradual reopening of the economy. "As New Hampshire gradually reopens, many sectors of our economy need access to testing quickly in addition to our frontline workers and vulnerable Granite Staters," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said.

The delegation said ramped up testing and contact tracing is needed in New Hampshire and as part of a national public health strategy. The $61 million coming to New Hampshire is part of $25 billion targeted for expanded testing nationwide, based on the latest response bill signed last month.

- NHPR Staff

Local officials looking ahead to fall elections

Update: Wednesday, May 13, 1:09 p.m.

Some towns and school districts, including Bow and Conway, have held drive-through voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. While some local officials consider options for the fall elections, state law is silent on such drive-through procedures, according to Brad Cook, chairman of the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission.

"It doesn't provide any place for drive-through voting," Cook said of New Hampshire election statutes. He was speaking May 13 on NHPR's The Exchange about elections during the pandemic. 

Cook is leading the New Hampshire Secretary of State's committee on 2020 emergency election support. The panel was recently created to address needs amid the pandemic. The Secretary of State's office has also received $3.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds to respond to challenges and ensure public health and safe elections.

- NHPR Staff

Task Force Proposes Plans For Further Economic Reopening

Update: Wednesday, May 13, 8:30 a.m.  

A panel tasked with reopening New Hampshire’s economy amid the threat from the pandemic have agreed on proposals for several sectors, including hotel, outdoor attractions and gyms. The recommendations won’t be final until public health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu give their OK.

The task force recommended that most hotels be limited to half their capacity.

Face masks would be required for staffers and are recommended for guests, who would be asked at check-in about any possible exposure to the coronavirus.

A reopening date of May 22nd is recommended for lodging, but target dates for other sectors were not included. Outdoor attractions would be limited to half their capacity. The requirement would be the same for gyms and fitness clubs.

-The Associated Press

Nursing home outbreak worse than previously reported

Update: Tuesday, May 12, 4:50 p.m.  

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home is much larger than was previously known. As of Tuesday afternoon, 29 residents and 5 staff at the facility in Goffstown had tested positive. That's more than double the number of cases that were known when the state announced the outbreak on Monday.

Sign up for NHPR's coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates. 

According to nursing home administrator David Ross, 31 of the 34 people who tested positive did not show any symptoms. State public health workers and the National Guard are on site conducting tests of all residents and staff today. No deaths have been associated with this outbreak so far.

- Jason Moon

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Hospitals say losses far exceed federal aid

Update: Tuesday, May 12, 4:30 p.m.

New Hampshire hospital administrators say they are glad to be getting millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid, but are stressing that so far, it’s falling far short of their losses.

“We are well over $300 million dollars in losses as of the end of April," says Steve Ahnen, head of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. "We’ve received about a hundred and ten million in funds, emergency relief funds, from the CARES Act - so that offsets less than a third.”

Ahnen was addressing one of the panels Governor Chris Sununu appointed to help him make decisions on coronavirus aid spending.

Lawmakers advising Sununu have proposed sending hospitals another $100 million dollars. A separate chunk of federal money - $112 million - earmarked for rural hospitals arrived earlier this month. Ahnen said that money will help, but he still expects overall hospital losses for May to come in at around $200 million.

- Josh Rogers

New testing site in Concord

Update: Tuesday, May 12, 1:45 p.m.

The state is establishing a new testing site in Concord starting Wednesday, May 13. The site is located at 28 Stickney Avenue, which is near the bus terminal and not far from Loudon Road.

Residents can sign up and reserve a test via the state's online registration, emailing covidtesting@DHHS.nh.gov, calling (603) 271-5980, or by contacting a health care provider. 

The site will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Gov. Chris Sununu's office announced.

Under procedures updated last week, residents with symptoms, an underlying health condition, a person 60 or older, and health care workers can request and reserve a test at the site. Residents with questions about COVID-19 may also call 2-1-1.

- NHPR Staff

Lawmakers Outline New Pandemic Relief Spending Priorities to Sununu

Update: Monday, May 11, 9:25 p.m.

Top lawmakers are asking Gov. Chris Sununu to spend more federal coronavirus aid on hospitals, nursing homes, small businesses, nonprofits and colleges. The recommendations account for about a quarter of the $1.25 billion New Hampshire received under the federal cares act.

Sign up for NHPR's coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates.

Sununu will have final say over the spending decisions, but the bipartisan panel he tapped to advise him is so far unanimously backing $345 million in proposed spending. That includes $100 million for hospitals, $30 million for non-profits and $20 million for nursing homes. 

The panel will formally outline those requests in a letter to Sununu Tuesday morning.

“I think we can send a strong message with the document and the letter, that that’s what we see at this point,” said Sen. Chuck Morse, the state Senate’s ranking Republican.

Other spending recommended by the panel includes $100 million to help small businesses; $25 million for child care providers; and $5 million dollars each for New Hampshire’s food bank and for local farmers.

-Josh Rogers

89 new cases; two new residential outbreaks in New Hampshire

Update: Monday, May 11, 6:00 p.m.

The state has announced 89 newly identified cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire, bringing the state's total cases to 3,160. Of the patients with complete information, four of the new cases are patients under the age of 18, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

State epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan said at a press conference Monday that while no new deaths related to coronavirus are being reported, a number of deaths are currently under investigation that will likely increase the death toll in the coming days.

So far, 133 New Hampshire residents have died as a result of the coronavirus.

Sign up for NHPR's coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates.

Chan reiterated the continuing need for social distancing, even as the state begins to allow businesses to reopen with new restrictions. 

In addition to a newly identified outbreak at Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown where 12 patients and two staff tested positive (scroll down for NHPR's earlier reporting), Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced a second institutional outbreak at Community Resources for Justice, a residential program for adults transitioning out of incarceration. Eleven residents and three staff members at CRJ tested positive for the virus, Shibinette said.

- NHPR Staff

Goffstown nursing home latest to report COVID-19 outbreak

Update: Monday, May 11, 1:10 p.m.  

Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown is the latest long term care facility in New Hampshire to be hit by an outbreak of COVID-19. According to the New Hampshire Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes in the state, employees and residents are being tested today.

Hillsborough County Nursing Home has 300 beds. According to data provided by the state, it is the seventeenth long term care facility in the state to experience a coronavirus outbreak. Outbreaks at similar facilities are responsible for roughly three out of every four coronavirus deaths in New Hampshire.

- Jason Moon

Two New Deaths Reported In State From COVID-19

Update: Sunday, May 10, 7:35 p.m.

State officials say two additional New Hampshire residents have died from COVID-19.  That brings the total deaths from the illness in New Hampshire to 133.

The two deaths announced Sunday were both 60 years old or older.

The Department of Health and Human Services reported 61 new positive test results in the state, which increases the total number of confirmed cases to 3,071. 

Five of the new cases are residents under the age of 18.

-NHPR staff

Southern N.H. Malls To Reopen Monday, With New Precautions

Update: Sunday, May 10, 7:05 p.m.

New Hampshire's largest shopping malls, located just over the border from Massachusetts, are re-opening on Monday, as the state slowly reopens for business.

The Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, Merrimack Premium Outlets in Merrimack, and Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua will all open with new safety protocols from their manager, Simon Property Group.

The new protocol requires Simon employees to wear face masks and get screened for fever and flu-like symptoms before each shift. It says retailers will be asked to follow those same screening and PPE guidelines with employees.

According to the new guidelines, counters, transaction registers, and computer touchscreens will be disinfected regularly. Malls will make masks available to customers for free at the entrance and will put 6-foot dividers in lines, escalators, and food courts to encourage social distancing.

The malls draw large numbers of shoppers from nearby Massachusetts, where officials say infection rates are rising and the COVID-19 surge is far from over.

In an effort to reduce the density of shoppers at its New Hampshire malls, Simon says it is reducing occupancy of its facilities to 50 square feet per person and, if a mall reaches capacity, customers will be asked to wait in their cars outside.

Read more on the state's reopening here.

-Sarah Gibson

N.H. reports 10 more deaths from COVID-19

Update: Saturday, May 9, 6:15 p.m.

Ten additional residents have died from COVID-19, state officials announced Saturday.

The updated numbers bring the total deaths in New Hampshire to 131. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 71 new positive test results, which increases the total number of confirmed cases to 3,011.

Four of the new cases are hospitalizations. A total of 313 Granite Staters have now required hospital care at some point after their infections, which is 10 percent of the overall known cases. DHHS says 1,228 people, or 41 percent of the total caseload, have recovered from the virus. 

Five of the new cases are residents under the age of 18.

The total current case number is 1, 652. 

The 10 announced deaths Saturday were all 60 years old or older. Six of the fatalities, three women and three men, were residents of Rockingham County. Three women were from Hillsborough County, and a man from Merrimack County also died.

Several cases remain under investigation, but known cases indicate community-based transmission continues to occur across the state, according to DHHS.

- NHPR Staff

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Week in review in 24 photos

NHPR photos by: Annie Ropeik, Cori Princell, Josh Rogers, Genevieve Andress, Sean Hurley, and Dan Tuohy

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Shaheen says Americans should get vaccine for free

Update: Saturday, May 9, 11:30 a.m.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is calling on the White House to ensure all Americans can have free access to a COVID-19 vaccine, when it becomes available. 

Shaheen joined a group of 22 U.S. senators that is asking the Trump administration to outline the federal government's strategy for production and distribution of the vaccine. The letter was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"A vaccine for COVID-19 is critical to protect the public health and truly get our country back up and running at full capacity once again," the letter reads.

- NHPR Staff

7 new deaths, 104 new cases announced

Update: Friday, May 8, 3:15 p.m.

State health officials announced seven additional deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, with five of them from long-term care facilities. New Hampshire has now had 121 deaths related to coronavirus.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette reported 104 new positive test results, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,947.

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She said there have been 309 hospitalizations, which is 10 percent of the overall case numbers to date, and indicates a gradual decrease in the hospitalization rate.

Credit Governor's Office

At a news conference in Concord, Shibinette and Gov. Chris Sununu discussed state efforts to expand testing.

Sununu noted ClearChoiceMD has announced it is now offering antibody testing at nine centers in the state, and accommodating telehealth appointments.

The state reports that approximately 32,000 tests have been conducted in New Hampshire and it is averaging about 1,500 tests a day this week, on pace to surpass 2,000 a day sometime next week.

The state also issued new guidance for dentists who choose to reopen their offices on May 11.

- NHPR Staff

Digital divide remains obstacle for remote learners

  Update: Friday, May 8, 2:55 p.m.

A third of school districts surveyed by the New Hampshire Department of Education say Internet availability remains a limiting factor in providing remote instruction online.

The survey released this week says around 10 percent of students in New Hampshire still don't have Internet at home. This comes after many weeks of trouble-shooting by districts, the state DOE, and Internet companies to increase access during the school closure.

The survey results are based on responses from about 80 percent of New Hampshire schools and account for 90 percent of students. Of those that responded, about 40 percent of schools have offered to pay for students' home Internet.

The majority are supplying devices, such as laptops or tablets, to students, and the majority, 68 percent, say that instruction is fully digital.

-Sarah Gibson

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USNH to let students return to campus in the fall

Update: Friday, May 8, 2:45 p.m.

New Hampshire's public colleges and universities announced today they plan to let students return to campus for the fall semester.

But officials said they are considering a range of scenarios in case some remote learning needs to continue.

The University of New Hampshire says it will seek more public health guidance this summer. And it plans to work on upgrades to classroom technologies that could allow for a combination of virtual and in-person learning, potentially with some social distancing measures as needed.

State officials say community college students may be able to return to complete some in-person requirements this spring and summer.

- Annie Ropeik

Survey: fewer residents are experiencing potential symptoms

Update: Friday, May 8, 1:17 p.m.

New survey results from Dartmouth College and UNH show fewer people in New Hampshire are experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers started the survey in early April, when there was still a shortage of coronavirus tests. Back then, about 10% of the representative group of over 1,000 residents said they experienced symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 in the past seven days.

Now, that number has dropped to under 5%. The researchers say the decline to under 5% is a promising sign that suggests social distancing efforts have been effective.

The study will continue tracking symptoms as the state begins to relax certain restrictions.

- Jason Moon

N.H. fishing fleet to get stimulus funds

Update: Friday, May 8, 12:30 p.m.

New Hampshire’s small fishing industry will get $2.7 million from the federal coronavirus aid package, officials announced Friday.

The stimulus will provide $300 million for fisheries nationwide, with more than $56 million of that coming to New England states – mostly Massachusetts and Maine, which are receiving some of the highest shares of the money after Alaska and Washington.

States will develop individual spending plans for the aid. It can go to support any impacted fishing business, including commercial or charter boats and aquaculture or processing businesses.

Federal officials say that supply-chain businesses, such as vessel repair shops, restaurants and seafood retailers, will not be eligible for these funds.

- Annie Ropeik

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Task force on reopening economy to meet

  Update: Friday, May 8, 10:51 a.m.

Petey's Seafood in Rye, N.H.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. today, May 8, for public comment and review of beaches. 

The Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery plans to meet with its legislative advisory board at 1 p.m. today.

And Gov. Chris Sununu will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. for an update on coronavirus response in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Public Radio will air the governor's news conference live at 3 p.m., and streaming online at NHPR.org and NHPR's mobile apps.

3 additional deaths, 104 new positive results

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 6:20 p.m.

Three additional residents have died from COVID-19, state health officials announced Thursday. The public health update brings the total number of New Hampshire deaths to 114. 

The Department of Health and Human Services reports 104 new positive test results, for a total of 2,843 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. There are 1,564 current cases in the state. Click here for a high-resolution map of active cases, as of May 7.

The three deaths announced were a woman from Hillsborough County, a man from Rockingham County, and a man from Strafford County. All were 60 and older.

Only one of the newly identified cases required hospitalization. To date, 308 people, or 11 percent, of the overall coronavirus cases required hospital care at some point.

This week, testing in New Hampshire opened up to anyone who has a symptom of coronavirus, or is over 60, or has an underlying health issue - along with health care workers. 

The state says more than 2,200 residents signed up for a test on the first day of the new expansion. Reservations can be made online at NH.gov/covid19. No health insurance is required.

- NHPR Staff

Traffic deaths increase, while traffic counts plummet

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 2:50 p.m.

Despite a drop in the number of cars on the road, the number of traffic-related fatalities is spiking in New Hampshire. The Office of Highway Safety reports that 34 people have been killed in automobile-involved accidents this year, which represents a 75% increase from the same period a year ago.

There has also been a spike in the number of pedestrians struck by cars as more people head outside for exercise during the state's stay-at-home order.

Officials are urging motorists not to speed on the unusually empty roads. The number of cars on the state's highways is down about 50%, according to toll collection statistics.

-Todd Bookman

DOE offers guidance for schools planning graduation

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 12:01 p.m.

School districts planning for graduation ceremonies during the pandemic have new guidance from the New Hampshire Department of Education.

The DOE says in-person gatherings are only allowed if everyone can easily social distance. In a memo sent out Wednesday, the state suggests hosting graduations outside, with attendees remaining in their cars. Another option suggested: groups of 10 or fewer gathering in classrooms spread throughout a school to watch a live broadcast of a ceremony.

In both cases, students would receive their diplomas one-by-one or in small groups. Some districts plan to forgo in-person ceremonies altogether and will host one when the pandemic subsides, as late as a year from now.

- Sarah Gibson

Economic Reopening Task Force Meets Today

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force is scheduled to convene at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The agenda calls for a public health update, and presentations on performing arts and massage therapy.

The group also plans to meet Friday, May 8, from 9-11 a.m. for public comment and for a review of beaches, in terms of reopening.

['The Queen of Hanover Hill': The Human Toll of N.H.'s Nursing Home Outbreaks]

Thousands more in N.H. file for unemployment for the first time

  Update: Thursday, May 7, 10:31 a.m.

Nearly 12,000 more residents filed first-time unemployment claims last week.

That's according to data released this morning from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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New Hampshire's overall number of new unemployment applications peaked at nearly 40,000 weekly filings in early April.

It's fallen steadily since then. Nationwide, 3.2 million more workers filed for benefits last week.

- Todd Bookman

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19 additional deaths; N.H. seeks to bolster testing

Update: Wednesday, May 6, 7:45 p.m.

Positive tests for coronavirus in New Hampshire as of May 6, 2020.
Credit N.H. DHHS

New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette today announced 19 additional deaths due to COVID-19, the highest number of deaths the state has reported since the pandemic began.

All of the 19 deaths are connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

Related: More Than Three In Four N.H. COVID Deaths in Long-Term Care Homes

The state has now had 111 residents die from COVID-19.

Shibinette said the state health lab identified 108 new cases, which brings the total number of confirmed cases in New Hampshire to 2,740. 

The latest statistics were provided after Shibinette and Gov. Chris Sununu announced efforts to further expand testing.

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Sununu said the state is launching an online portal that will allow residents to sign up and reserve a test for coronavirus at one of five fixed sites in Claremont, Lancaster, Plymouth, Rochester and Tamworth.

The residents may self-attest they have one of the symptoms, such as chills, loss of smell or taste. Residents who are over 60, and with underlying conditions, do not have to have symptoms to request and receive a test, the governor said.

Residents also no longer need their primary care provider or doctor to order a test, according to DHHS.

Sununu said expanding the state's testing capacity in this way is critical to containing the spread of coronavirus as the state reopens parts of its economy. 

Shibinette says the additional testing is part of a scaled-up approach to containing and identifying cases.

"The next phase is not just mild symptoms, but people who have underlying conditions that put them at risk," she said.

Read more here.

- NHPR Staff

DHHS to further expand testing at nursing homes

  Update: Wednesday, May 6, 1:50 p.m.

The state's top health official told the New Hampshire Executive Council that the state will redouble efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus at long-term care facilities.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette says the state will increase testing, including of people without COVID-19 symptoms.

"And I think we are going to be ramping that up in the next couple of weeks, to surveillance testing, sentinel testing, which is hopefully going to identify people quicker," she says.

The state had previously said testing nursing home residents who didn't have symptoms would put them at needless risk of exposure.

Shibinette told councilors Wednesday the state previously lacked the supplies needed to test asymptomatic residents at long-term care homes. 

- Josh Rogers

AMC huts to remain closed this year

  Update: Wednesday, May 6, 1:31 p.m.

The Appalachian Mountain Club's iconic high mountain huts will remain closed for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The AMC runs lodges and huts throughout the White Mountain National Forest and in Maine. It announced most facilities will reopen no sooner than July 1, with new safety protocols.

However, the eight high mountain huts, most located near 4,000-footers and miles from the nearest road, are a different story. The AMC says reopening those would be too difficult given heightened concerns about health and safety during the pandemic.

- Sarah Gibson

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Medicaid to cover test costs for residents without insurance

  Update: Wednesday, May 6, 1:20 p.m.

Coronavirus tests for people in New Hampshire without insurance will soon be covered by Medicaid, thanks to federal legislation and an emergency order from Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu issued an order that waives the requirement for the state Legislature to approve changes to Medicaid eligibility. Those changes are needed to take advantage of the federal program.

Sununu says the move will allow the state to offer the new benefits sooner. Under the change, Medicaid will only cover testing for COVID-19, not treatment.

- Jason Moon

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Total COVID-19 deaths rise to 92

  Update: Tuesday, May 5, 8:07 p.m.

New Hampshire health officials announced six additional deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday. The total number of deaths is now 92. 

The Department of Health and Human Services reports 50 new positive test results, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 2,636. 

Of the newly identified cases, four individuals are under the age of 18.

Nine of the new cases required hospitalization. The current number of hospitalizations is 115. To date, 295 patients, or 11 percent of known cases, have required hospital care at some point.

DHHS said five of the six deaths were residents 60 or older; the state did not identify the age of a female resident of Strafford County who died. The five others were a man and a woman from Hillsborough County, and two women and one man from Rockingham County.

- NHPR Staff

Special Report: More Than Three In Four N.H. COVID Deaths Occurred in Long-Term Care Homes

Merrimack school custodian tests positive

  Update: Tuesday, May 5, 5:16 p.m.

The Merrimack School District has suspended its remote school lunch program after a custodian tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Mark McLaughlin made the decision, though the custodian was not directly involved with the school lunch program.

"We made this decision not because we have reason to suspect transmission," he says. "We don't. It's almost a patented phrase now, you know, abundance of caution, but in this case, it really is."

The district's food service workers have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Starting Thursday, school lunches will be provided by a local catering company.

- Alex McOwen

SEIU union asks state to provide PPE, tests for employees

Update: Tuesday, May 5, 3:19 p.m.

A union representing about 10,000 state and municipal workers in New Hampshire is asking the state to improve working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The local of the Service Employees International Union issued a list of demands today, including free protective gear and COVID-19 tests for all public employees. The union is also asking for more consistent guidelines on teleworking.

Workers in the employment security offices say they are not allowed to work remotely, even though staff from other agencies are.

The union says that contradicts Gov. Chris Sununu's guidance in March for all state agencies to help employees work from home when possible.

- Sarah Gibson

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Going to court? You'll need a mask.

 Update: Tuesday, May 5, 12:25 p.m. 

All people entering a court in New Hampshire must now wear a face mask. The order from the state's supreme court begins today and will last until May 25th, or until the end of the declared state of emergency.

Click or tap here to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on coronavirus in New Hampshire

Most court hearings are being held over video conference or telephone during the pandemic, but some are still held in person. The judicial branch is encouraging people to bring their own masks to court, but will provide masks to those who need them.

- Sarah Gibson

State announces 72 new positive test results for COVID-19; additional pay for first responders

Update: Monday, May 4, 6:15 p.m.

Positive tests for coronavirus in New Hampshire, as of May 4, 2020.
Credit N.H. DHHS

The state announced 72 newly identified cases of COVID-19 Monday (May 4), bringing New Hampshire's case total to 2,588. So far, 86 residents have died from the virus.

Related: Click here for our tracker of cases and testing in New Hampshire

At a press conference, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said the state will be dealing with coronavirus for several months or longer, stressing that residents should maintain social distancing guidelines as the weather gets warmer.

Chan said those heading outside to exercise should be mindful of maintaining six feet between themselves and others, and that dog owners should keep their pets leashed to avoid contact with other people.

"The risk that animals pose to other people in terms of spreading COVID-19 is considered low," Chan said. "But as you may be aware, there have been a small number of reports of animals worldwide becoming infected with COVID-19, from people."

Additional pay for first responders, money for communities

Gov. Chris Sununu announced that $40 million in federal funding will be allocated to help New Hampshire cities and towns cover expenses related to the pandemic. He said the money will cover costs incurred between March 1 and August 31, including cleaning, social services, telework, and child care for first responders.

"These funds will help bridge the gap between what towns have incurred and what FEMA will ultimately cover," Sununu said. "Every town, from Pittsburg to Portsmouth, will be able to be reimbursed for COVID-19 costs."

Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted this graphic breaking down additional pay for New Hampshire first responders, funded through federal CARES Act funds.

Sununu said that the state's first responders will receive additional pay funded through the CARES Act, the federal relief package passed in March.

Sununu tweeted details of the "front line stipend," which includes pay enhancements for firefighters, EMS workers, law enforcement, and corrections personnel through the end of June.

- NHPR Staff

State tax receipts foreshadow big hit to N.H. budget

Update: Monday, May 4, 5:10 p.m.

New Hampshire's tax receipts tumbled in April, providing a glimpse at how severe the pandemic’s impact will be on the state budget. The state collected $76 million less in taxes than it targeted for April. That’s a shortfall of 22 percent.

Business tax receipts, the state’s single largest source of revenue, were down about 40 percent, although some of that is due to filing extensions.

The shuttering of hotels and many restaurants put a big dent in the Meals and Rooms tax. Those collections were down 43 percent.

Real estate taxes held largely steady, though that’s likely because of the lag time in transactions. The state's tobacco tax was the only bright spot, though not from a public health standpoint. Sales were up 30% from the same month last year.

- Todd Bookman

PPP loans granted to 9,000 more New Hampshire businesses

Update: Monday, May 4, 3:35 p.m.

Nearly 9,000 more New Hampshire small businesses and non-profits were approved for emergency loans last week through the Paycheck Protection Program. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office says those loans total more than half-a-billion dollars.

Under the PPP, businesses with under 500 employees can apply. If the money is spent on payroll or other approved expenses, the loans will be forgiven.

In the first round of the program, which ran out of money in April, more than 11,000 New Hampshire entities received more than 2-billion dollars.

NHPR is among the companies that have received a loan through the PPP.

- Todd Bookman

State to receive money for affordable housing, rural healthcare

Update: Monday, May 4, 2:40 p.m.

New Hampshire will receive another round of federal coronavirus aid for affordable housing and rural healthcare providers. The state’s Congressional delegation announced the new disbursements of funds from the federal stimulus package Monday.

Passed last month, that package includes more than $1.25 billion for New Hampshire. In the next round of allocations, the delegation says the state’s rural hospitals and health care providers will receive another $115 million. They’re also expecting $3.6 million dollars in aid for local public housing and vouchers used by low-income tenants.

- Annie Ropeik

Seacoast bus system to reopen with new protections in place

Update: Monday, May 4, 12:00 p.m.

The Seacoast public transit service will reopen on May 11 with new health protections in place. Unlike other municipal bus routes in the state, the COAST service shut down at the end of March, citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Now, COAST says they’ll resume some bus service next Monday (May 11) as staffing allows. They're asking passengers to only ride for essential reasons such as for work, groceries or medical needs.

Passengers are also encouraged to wear face masks. Drivers will sit behind clear barriers and have their own protective gear.

COAST is discounting its monthly passes for May by about 60 percent.

- Annie Ropeik

2 deaths, 90 new coronavirus cases in New Hampshire

Update: Sunday, May 3, 7:00 p.m.

The state released this map showing positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire as of May 3, 2020.
Credit N.H. DHHS

The state has announced two more deaths related to COVID-19 in New Hampshire. Both patients were over 60 years old, one a female resident of Hillsborough County and one a male resident of Rockingham County.

Related: Click here for our tracker of cases and testing in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services also announced 90 new positive test results for coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 2,518. 

Of the cases with complete information, the regional breakdown is: 32 in Rockingham County; 43 in Hillsborough County (including 18 in Manchester and 12 in Nashua); six in Strafford County; three in Merrimack County; and one in Belknap County. The counties of residence are still being determined for five of the new cases. 

DHHS says that community transmission continues to increase in the state. 

- NHPR Staff

N.H. reports 3 additional deaths, 121 new cases

Update: Saturday, May 2, 7:17 p.m.

State health officials announced three additional deaths and 121 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday. The three new deaths, all of whom were 60 or older: a woman from Hillsborough County and a man and a woman from Rockingham County. There have now been 84 deaths due to COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

Of the new cases identified Saturday, there are four individuals under the age of 18.

Seven of the new cases were hospitalized. At some point, 277 of the total confirmed cases in the state required hospital care.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services also announced more than 1,500 people were tested for coronavirus on May 1, the highest one-day total since the state began ramping up testing.

Nearly 26,000 Granite Staters have tested negative for the virus.

Of the 2,429 people identified with COVID-19 to date, 1,017 have recovered, according to DHHS.

- NHPR Staff

State providing free masks for business employees and customers

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 3:12 p.m.

With the partial reopening of some businesses set to begin in the next few weeks, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Saturday that the state is providing free disposable face masks for those business employees and customers.

Businesses can fill out a form online and pick up the masks at any New Hampshire DMV next week.

The form says businesses will need to reorder masks as needed. Retailers, barbershops, hair salons and restaurants can reopen, under various new restrictions, later this month.

Daniela Allee

Surrogates get OK to consent to treatments

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 2:39 p.m.

A new emergency order allows agents or surrogates to give consent to experimental treatments on behalf of COVID-19 patients in certain situations.

If a patient experiencing severe symptoms or complications doesn't have the capacity to consent to experimental treatment, the person designated under an advance directive can provide the consent. 

And in the case there is not an advance directive, a surrogate, or an adult who has health care decision-making capacity, can also consent to the treatment for the patient. 

But the order says that consent by another person can only be given in three situations: If it's life threatening, if informed consent from the patient cannot be obtained due to an inability to communicate, or if there's no alternate therapy method that provides an equal or greater likelihood of saving the patient's life.

- Daniela Allee

WMNF to open some trailheads

Update: Saturday, May 1, 9:29 a.m.

The White Mountain National Forest has reopened several trailheads that were closed a week ago due to concerns about crowding and hikers not maintaining social distancing. WMNF officials said the decision was also made due to illegal parking while trailheads were closed.

The WMNF is implementing a phased-in approach to reopening trailheads and sites. A limited number of sites, including Tuckerman Ravine, will remain closed. Here is a list of what is open and closed at this time.

Trailheads reopening include Alpine Garden, Great Gulf Wildnerness, Lincoln Woods, Osceola, and Welch-Dickey, according to the list updated Friday.

- NHPR Staff

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Dairy farmers feel economic squeeze

  Update: Saturday, May 2, 8:59 a.m.

Two-thirds of New Hampshire's dairy farmers are at risk of closure, says Shawn Jasper, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food.

Jasper mentioned the economic impact due to the coronavirus pandemic while on a conference call Friday.  Although there have been milk shortages in grocery stores, he says the closure of schools and restaurants forced many farms to dump their product.

"We expect some balancing to take place," he said. "However, prices are falling and farms are being asked to cut production by up to 15 percent."

Jasper is asking the state to allocate $5 million from the $1.25 billion in CARES Act money the state has received to support dairy farms.

-Alex McOwen

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Sununu amends stay-at-home order

Update: Friday, May 1, 6:08 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced an amended stay-at-home order today that will remain in effect until May 31. The previous order was due to expire May 4.   

Starting May 11, golf courses, hair salons, drive-in movies, and retail operations may reopen, but with certain restrictions. Golf courses will be limited to residents and club members. Barbers and hair salons will have to limit occupancy to no more than 10 people at the business. Campgrounds may continue to remain open, but access will be limited to residents and members, Sununu says in his presentation of what he's calling Stay At Home 2.0.

Retail stores will be limited to 50 percent occupancy, staff must wear cloth face coverings and maintain social distancing, and workers will be either screened or questioned about possible symptoms at the start of every shift. Below are links to read the full guidance documents Sununu discussed Friday:

Sununu says Seacoast beaches and parks will remain closed. Restaurants will continue under the state's ban on indoor dining. Sununu says take-out and delivery only service will continue until May 18, at which time the order will transition to allow for outdoor food service.

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The governor said steps to reopen parts of the economy are supported by data and state health officials. Sununu encouraged residents to continue with social distancing and wearing cloth face coverings when in public.

"We're not taking giant leaps forward. We're just not at that point yet," Sununu said.

Nine new deaths; 164 new cases

The announcement comes as state epidemiologist Ben Chan reported nine additional deaths from COVID-19, and 164 new positive test results on Friday.

There have now been 81 deaths and a total of 2,310 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Hampshire. Chan said the nine additional deaths were associated with long-term care centers or nursing homes.

Chan provided the update at a news conference in Concord with Sununu. See a high-resolution map of town-by-town coronavirus cases here.

Chan said the state's health care system remains stable, and the state is not near requiring the use of "surge" capacity centers that have been established to handle a potential major increase in patients.

DHHS reports 980 people have recovered from coronavirus. The current coronavirus cases, as of May 1, was 1,249. Current hospitalizations numbered 103. To date, 12 percent of the total confirmed cases have required hospital care at some point.

The state says more than 22,000 residents have tested negative for COVID-19.

- NHPR Staff

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Lonza making potential vaccine

Update: Friday, May 1, 1:56 p.m.

A Portsmouth company will help make a potential new vaccine for COVID-19 beginning this summer.

The Lonza Biologics manufacturing facility at Pease International Tradeport is teaming up with Massachusetts-based Moderna on the project.

Moderna is one of many companies worldwide working on vaccines and other treatments for the new coronavirus. The Moderna vaccine is currently undergoing government-led clinical trials.

Lonza has agreed to make up to a billion doses a year of the medication.

The Swiss company has around a thousand workers in Portsmouth, making it one of the city's top employers.

- Annie Ropeik

Food Bank mobile pantry coming to Berlin

  Update: Friday, May 1, 1:30 p.m.

The New Hampshire Food Bank is bringing its mobile food pantry to Berlin on Saturday, for only the second time since the coronavirus pandemic.

Christy Langlois, the pantry's food system coordinator, says demand for food was nearly double what they expected the last time they visited Berlin over a month ago.

"We kind of did a rough intake of how many we were short and we estimated approximately 250 households had showed up that we weren't able to service," she says.

This time, they are prepared to distribute dry goods, produce, meat, and dairy products to around a thousand families. The following weekend, the mobile food pantry plans to travel to the racetrack in Loudon.

- Alex McOwen

Mobile testing sites in Laconia, Sunapee and Keene

  Update: Friday, May 1, 12:02 p.m.

The state is launching three temporary mobile COVID-19 testing sites this weekend. 

The one-day locations will be in Laconia on Friday, Sunapee on Saturday, and Keene on Sunday. These sites are in addition to the five fixed drive-through locations announced earlier this week, as part of the state's community-based testing program for coronavirus.

The Department of Health and Human Services encourages anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to contact their health care provider to discuss testing. Residents without a doctor or provider can call the state's hotline at 2-1-1.

- NHPR Staff

Related story: Tracking COVID-19 Cases and Testing in New Hampshire

Task force forwarding ideas to Governor Sununu

Update: Friday, May 1, 11:31 a.m.

A task force on reopening New Hampshire's economy has made its first set of recommendations without waiting for the public to weigh in.

The Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force hosted a public input session Thursday, and it has another Friday morning. Meanwhile, it approved draft plans for restaurants, retail stores, hair salons, campgrounds and drive-in movies.

The plans will be reviewed by state health officials and Gov. Chris Sununu. The governor plans to announce steps to reopen parts of the economy during a news conference in Concord on Friday at 3 p.m.

Listen live to the conference on NHPR and streaming online at NHPR.org

"We do want to try ways to phase in and flex open parts of our economy," Sununu said earlier this week about his presentation about modifying his stay-at-home order, which is currently due to expire May 4.

- NHPR Staff

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Prescott Park cancels summer season

  Update: Friday, May 1, 8:50 a.m.

The Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth will not have its summer season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The safety of our audience is our primary concern, and unfortunately there is simply no safe way to gather a crowd of people in a summer setting without risk of infection," John Tabor, chair of the festival's board of directors, says in a statement. "So, we will be dark this summer but look forward to a rejuvenated 2021 season."

The festival is one of several traditional summer events in New Hampshire that have been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. Others include the Cheshire Fair, Lancaster Fair, Sandwich Fair, and the Stratham Fair.

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