Coronavirus Live Blog: Earlier Updates (March 3 - March 19) | New Hampshire Public Radio

Coronavirus Live Blog: Earlier Updates (March 3 - March 19)

Mar 19, 2020

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 NOTE: Some of the stories below may contained outdated guidance and stories that have since evolved.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

State to Offer $50 Million in Short Term Loans to Hospitals; COVID-19 Cases Increase to 44

Update: Thursday, March 19, 5:10 p.m.  

Governor Chris Sununu and other state officials announced sweeping new steps in the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak at a press conference Thursday afternoon (March 19).

To shore up the finances of the state’s system of medical providers, Sununu says the state will offer $50 million in short-term, interest free loans to hospitals and other providers who are bracing for a surge in coronavirus patients. Those funds will come from the state’s general fund, said Sununu.

Taylor Caswell, Commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said federal loans from the Small Business Administration of up to $2 million are now available to small businesses in New Hampshire at sba.gov.

Sununu also highlighted expanded unemployment benefits available to affected workers in New Hampshire, though he said a surge in new claims has been taxing the state’s website.

“The unemployment insurance website is receiving three times more volume than it has ever received in its history -- and that includes through the recession,” said Sununu. He added that state IT employees are working to upgrade the website’s ability to handle the increased traffic.

State epidemiologist Ben Chan also gave an update on the number of COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire. Chan announced five new cases, bringing the total of known cases in the state to 44.

Chan also highlighted the state’s increasing testing capacity. He announced the state has now tested more than 1400 people, with 800 more tests currently pending.

Still, Chan acknowledged barriers remain to widespread access to testing in New Hampshire, most notably because of a lack of special equipment needed to take patients’ samples.

- Jason Moon

___________

Mancheter VA curtails "non-elective procedures"

The Manchester VA says it is curtailing "non-urgent elective surgical procedures" in response to the coronavirus.

That includes some orthopedic and urology surgeries, but some colonoscopies and two bladder cystoscopies were still being performed as recently as today [THURS] and primary care clinic patients still received routine vaccinations.

Some VA employees tell NHPR they're concerned seeing patients for these reasons has created unnecessary risk of exposure.

The VA says in a statement it's asking that veterans who have symptoms such as fever or cough that could be consistent with COVID-19 to call the VA before coming to the medical center.

The Manchester VA has not announced any COVID-19 so far. Officials there declined NHPR's multiple requests for interviews.

- Peter Biello

UNH, other state schools end in-person classes for the rest of the semester

Update: Thursday, March 19, 2:30 p.m.  

The University of New Hampshire and other state schools are ending in-person classes for the rest of this semester. 

The state university system made the decision Wednesday night due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

Click here for more on this story

Second Dartmouth Student Tests Positive

Update: Thursday, March 19, 2:00 p.m.

A second Dartmouth College student has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The new case is an undergraduate living off-campus. That person has been self-isolating while waiting for the test results. The first student who tested positive was a graduate student living off campus.

Students who had close contact with this person are self-quarantining off-campus.

Dartmouth says it is also receiving reports of undergraduates in other states who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Sewer Plant Managers Say Be Careful Flushing Wipes

Update: Thursday, March 19, 1:45 p.m.

The state’s wastewater treatment workers are urging people not to flush wipes, paper towels, or anything other than toilet paper down the drain.

Leo Gaudette runs the Merrimack wastewater treatment plant. He says wipes have always been a problem for them, but they're now seeing an uptick due to toilet paper shortages related to COVID-19.

“Any time you’re flushing wipers and things like that,I mean if enough people are doing it, and there’s maybe already a partial clog there. I mean these certainly have the ability to really clog a sewer line, and then you know then sewage will back into people’s homes obviously.”

Gaudette says his crews have had to remove clogs from treatment pumps more often than normal in recent days. They're also running skeleton crews due to coronavirus.

- Annie Ropeik 

 

Ski areas close in New Hampshire

Update: Thursday, March 19, 11:20 a.m.

A statement post on Waterville Valley's website on Wednesday, March 18

Several New Hampshire ski resorts have closed, citing safety concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Chris Sununu ordered the closing of the state-owned  Cannon Mountain ski area on Wednesday. Bretton Woods and Gunstock closed soon after.

Waterville Valley, the ski resort owned by Sununu's family, also closed Wednesday, but appeared to do so after some public pressure. A statement on the resort's website says that despite implementing several precautions, "our continuing operations have been met with outcry by many who choose to misrepresent our efforts and has created an environment that has incited people to act irresponsibly to the point of becoming abusive and threatening to our staff."

Click here to read the statement posted on Waterville Valley's website. 

Click here for more on this story from NHPR's Annie Ropeik

State university system to restrict access to campuses throughout spring semester

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 10:00 p.m.

Responding to what it calls "the anxiety and uncertainty" of COVID-19 in the state, the University System of New Hampshire has moved to suspend on campus classes and restrict campus access at UNH, Keene State, and Plymouth State through the end of the current spring semester.

The schools will conduct all classes through a "remote teaching model" and will prorate the room and board costs for affected students. The colleges will continue to provide housing only for students "who do not have a secure or safe place to be and have been granted an explicit exception," according to a press release Wednesday night from the University System of New Hampshire. 

Individual schools within the system will post campus-specific information about the new move on their websites. No decisions about graduation ceremonies have been reached, according to the press release. 

"We ask for your understanding as we encounter new questions and work to provide solutions," the release states. "Our leaders do not want to prematurely make some decisions that might be better informed with more time and data."

Dartmouth College announced Tuesday that it would move the remainder of it spring term to remote instruction.

13 more cases identified in New Hampshire, community transmission indicated

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 5:20 p.m. 

The number of people with positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire has risen to 39.

Credit CDC

Four of the 13 new cases announced today are in Hillsborough County, three are in Rockingham County, three are in Carroll County, two are in Belknap County and one is in Merrimack County.

In a press release, DHHS said the individuals in Carroll and Merrimack counties have no identified risk factors, indicating community-based transmission in new areas.

Two of the patients are hospitalized and in stable condition, and the remaining people are isolating at home.

- Alex McOwen

Dartmouth-Hitchcock asks for protective equipment donations

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 5:10 p.m. 

In the latest sign of the dire situation facing medical providers in New Hampshire, Dartmouth-Hitchcock is now asking for donations of personal protective equipment for its workers.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is asking its contractors and the general public for donations of masks, face shields, isolation gowns, gloves, and hand sanitizer.

The extraordinary step from one of the state's largest health system comes as medical providers everywhere brace for a surge in the number of coronavirus patients.

Meanwhile, the city of Manchester is also asking for donations of hand sanitizers and cleaning wipes for essential city employees, including garbage crews, fire fighters, and police.

__________

Manchester collaborates with hospitals on drive-thru testing

The city of Manchester and two local hospitals are collaborating to operate a drive-through coronavirus testing site in the city. The testing site will only accept patients who are referred there by a doctor in the Manchester area. Anyone else will be turned away.

For Manchester residents for who don't have a primary care doctor the city is offering a hotline: 603-668-1547.

The testing site was originally set up by the state last weekend. They trained local staff to take it over.

Meanwhile some doctors in other parts of the state are beginning to offer commercially available coronavirus tests from their practice.

- Jason Moon

Sununu issues new emergency orders on alcohol take-out, telemedicine, online ed tools

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 2:30 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu has issued new emergency orders aimed at helping businesses and residents adapt to the state’s response to COVID-19.

The state will temporarily let restaurants and bars sell beer and wine for takeout and delivery – while in-person dining is prohibited through April 7.

The order applies to any business that carries a liquor license, and lets them distribute sealed containers only – up to 192 ounces of malt beverage, equal to 12 standard bottles or cans of beer, or 1.5 liters of wine, equal to two standard bottles. 

Beer and wine delivery will not be permitted on any college or school campuses.  

Sununu is also issuing guidelines for telemedicine services – including requiring they be covered by insurance providers.

A third order will expedite state approvals of digital education tools for remote classroom instruction. Schools are required to begin remote learning by March 23. 

Other orders from the governor in recent days have expanded eligibility for unemployment to people affected by coronavirus, and temporarily barred evictions, utility shut-offs and foreclosures. (Scroll down for those updates.)

- Annie Ropeik

_____________

Sununu joins New Hampshire's senators in push to reopen ACA enrollment

Governor Chris Sununu is joining with Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan in asking the Trump administration to re-open the open enrollment period for health insurance plans on healthcare.gov.

In a letter to the Trump administration sent today (Wednesday, March 18), Sununu says getting more people signed up for the plans would ensure better access to testing and treatment related to the coronavirus.

Sununu asks that the enrollment be re-opened for between 60 and 90 days.

- Jason Moon

U.S. - Canada border closes to all non-essential travelers

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 12:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump announced the border closure in a tweet Wednesday morning

The U.S. - Canadian border will close to all non-essential travelers as officials try to contain the spread of coronavirus. President Trump made the announcement in a tweet Wednesday morning. He says trade will not be affected.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed that,  saying supply chains and trucking across the border will continue.

At a press conference this morning, Trudeau said, “Travelers will no longer be permitted to cross the border for recreation and tourism. In both our countries, we're encouraging people to stay home.”

Canada is requiring two weeks of self isolation for anyone who does enter the country - and they're limiting entry only to Canadians or Americans. More details on the new border restrictions have not been released.

- Annie Ropeik

Keene State College faculty member tests positive for COVID-19

Update: Wednesday, March 18, 10:45 am

A faculty member at Keene State College has tested positive for COVID-19 and is being treated at a hospital in Massachusetts, where she is a resident. In a video statement released Tuesday (March 17), college president Melinda Treadwell said the administration is working to reach out to people the faculty member may have had contact with on campus, and is coordinating with state health officials on a further response.

The college has alerted 66 people who have had potential contact with the patient, who was on the school's campus when she started to display symptoms. The faculty member had previously traveled to an area at higher risk for COVID-19.

Treadwell also announced that the college will enter into an "extended curtailment," with students being told not to return to campus on April 5th as planned. The school's board of trustees is meeting today (Wednesday, March 18) to discuss longer-term decisions.

Watch Treadwell's full statement:

President Treadwell Address from Keene State College on Vimeo.

- Daniela Allee

Dartmouth announces spring term will be taught remotely

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 9:30 pm

Dartmouth College has announced that its spring term will be entirely remote for undergraduate and graduate students. 

Earlier, the college had planned for the first five weeks to be remote. 

In a message to the Dartmouth community on Tuesday, the College’s provost also announced that Dartmouth will ramp down and pause research activities on campus. Research staff and students will have to do that work remotely, unless granted an exception by the college

Clinical rotations for medical students have been suspended too.

Of New Hampshire’s 26 coronavirus cases, seven are in Grafton County. One Dartmouth graduate student who lives off campus has tested positive for COVID-19. Two other students have also been tested.

The college will use one of its dormitories as a space for students who have remained on campus and who may need to self-quarantine.  Professional packers and college staff have started to pack students’ belongings from that dorm and are placing them into storage.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health has also announced it will no longer allow visitors at any of its facilities starting Wednesday, as a precautionary step to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Exceptions will be made for the neonatal ICU, the partners or spouses of patients in Dartmouth Hitchcock's birthing pavilion, or those receiving end-of-life care.

-Daniela Allee

Latest batch of COVID-19 cases hints at "community transmission" in N.H.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 5:25 p.m.

State health officials announced nine new positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire this afternoon, bringing the total number of known infections in the state to 26. 

The new cases are all in adults: five males and four females. Four live in Rockingham County, three in Hillsborough County, and two in Grafton County. Health officials said several of the newly identified cases are in people who were not known to have contact with an already identified case, indicating that New Hampshire is now seeing community-based transmission of COVID-19.

“The increasing number of cases and new evidence of community-based transmission raises concern that the COVID-19 outbreak is intensifying in New Hampshire,” said Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist. “The state has put into place measures to help prevent larger scale transmission at schools and larger gatherings; however, it is critical for everybody to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and practice social distancing. We know that this novel coronavirus can be spread very easily through close contact, and the virus can be spread even when people are only having very mild early symptoms of illness.”

Districts begin delivering meals to students amid school closures

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 5:05 p.m.

School districts across New Hampshire are preparing for remote learning classes to begin by next Monday, in response to the statewide school closure to stem the rise of COVID-19 transmission. But today, many started remote meal services.

Some districts are implementing curbside-pickup at school. Others are dropping off breakfasts and lunches prepared at school to students at home.

Manchester launched its meal delivery program to thousands of students earlier today. Laconia says it served around 800 lunches and plans to double that on Wednesday. Claremont is starting its meal pickup services on Wednesday.

In some districts with high poverty rates, the district can offer free meals to all students under the age of 18 and get reimbursed with federal funds.

Families should contact their school district for more information.

-Sarah Gibson

N.H. hospitals concerned about coronavirus impact to their balance sheets

Update, Tuesday, March 17, 4:40 p.m.

As hospitals take steps to prepare for an outbreak of coronavirus in New Hampshire, industry experts say the virus will take a toll on their balance sheets.

 

Facilities around the state are taking drastic steps to ensure they have the capacity to treat patients. That includes cancelling elective and non-emergency procedures, as well as ramping up ways to potentially treat or test patients in unique settings, such as outdoor tents. 

 

“I think this is going to have a significant impact on all hospitals,” Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, told NHPR. “We are at a point where hospitals are spending significant amounts of resources to stand up new capacities, new processes in their organizations, and they are also announcing that they are going to be suspending services that they would normally be providing.”

 

Ahnen said in the short term, facilities will likely see a “significant impact” to their cash flows. The Hospital Association says it is in contact with the state’s federal delegation as well as state-level officials to ensure resources will be made available, if needed. 

 

-Todd Bookman

Governor orders ban on evictions, foreclosures to soften blow of COVID-19 response

Update Tuesday, March 17, 10:20 a.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu issued a series of orders Tuesday morning aimed at softening the financial blow for New Hampshire residents dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Chris Sununu and legislative leaders announce more steps meant to soften the financial blow of the coronavirus pandemic on New Hampshire residents, including a ban on foreclosures and evictions.
Credit Michael Brindley | NHPR

At a press conference with legislative leaders, Sununu banned all landlords from starting eviction proceedings and prohibited all foreclosures during the state of emergency initiated last week in response to COVID-19. He also barred utilities - including electric, gas, water, telephone, cable, fuel and internet providers - from disconnecting service for non-payment.

Sununu also expanded eligibility for state unemployment benefits to residents who lose work due to COVID-19; for people who are under quarantine or caring for a family member under quarantine; and for people whose employment is interrupted due to the statewide school closure that began this week.

"We're in uncharted territory," Sununu said. "So we have to make some bold decisions."

Read full story here.

State bans all large gatherings, orders restaurants to end on-site dining

Update, March 16, 4:55 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu is banning public gatherings of groups larger than 50 people through the state and forcing restaurants to go take-out, delivery or drive-thru only starting tomorrow, steps he said are necessary to help contain spread of the coronavirus.

The move follows new CDC guidelines on public gatherings and comes a day after Sununu said he did not think New Hampshire needed "a government mandate" to limit public gathering.

In a statement Sununu said, "knowing neighboring states have closed restaurants and bars has caused New Hampshire to evaluate those states' actions and their impact on New Hampshire's population risk profile."

Sununu's order came on the same day that state health officials announced four additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire, bringing the statewide total to 17 cases. The new cases include three adult males and a female under the age of 18.

-Josh Rogers

Click here for more on the new restaurant rules ordered by Gov. Sununu

_______

WATCH: Governor Chris Sununu held a press conference along with state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan and education commissioner Frank Edelblut on Sunday, March 15. The governor announced a sweeping reponse to coronavirus, including school closures across the state, as well as the new number of identified cases in the state: 13.

New Hampshire utilities, public transit providers respond to growing coronavirus concerns

Updated Monday, March 16, 5:00 p.m.

New Hampshire’s electric utilities say they’re halting disconnections for customers who are late on their bills, as coronavirus concerns escalate. 

The four companies – Unitil, Eversource, Liberty Utilities and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative – say they hope the change will reduce financial strain on people who are sick, working less or otherwise affected by the virus.

“This is one way we think that we can help support our customers during this uncertain time,” says Eversource spokesman William Hinkle.

Some companies say they’re not sure how long the contingency will stay in place.  Liberty Utilities spokesman John Shore says they plan to suspend shutoffs until at least May 1. “These are difficult times and we don’t want to see anyone lose their power or natural gas service when it is needed to keep them safe and healthy,” Shore says.

Most utilities are also taking steps to pare down field work and planned outages, and to let staff work remotely, in order to limit workers’ risk of illness. Customers are also asked to be on the lookout for a rash of scam calls and emails that have cropped up as virus fears worsened.

Public transit companies add new protocols

Public transit providers in New Hampshire are continuing to operate, with new protocols aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Local bus lines – including Advance Transit in the Upper Valley, Concord Area Transit, Manchester Transit Authority and COAST on the Seacoast say they're disinfecting their vehicles more frequently.

But COAST executive director Rad Nichols says his workers are eager to stay on the road – especially for riders who need the bus to get to medical appointments or essential service jobs.

“We’re focusing our efforts on making sure that they aren’t left behind,” Nichols says.

COAST is asking riders to practice social distancing on the bus when possible by sitting farther apart from each other and from drivers. Nichols says they’ve also asked state emergency management officials for help to obtain higher-level cleaning products.

But these local transit companies are operating normal schedules for now. Nichols says that might only change if too many drivers fall ill.

Some longer-range providers – including C&J Bus Lines and the Amtrak Downeaster – are running limited service schedules.

Those companies and the Concord and Dartmouth Coaches say they’re also stepping up disinfection procedures, and waiving most change fees for ticket-holders.

Public transit users are urged to stay home when possible if they feel sick or think they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

- Annie Ropeik 

N.H. courts suspend in-person proceedings

Updated Monday, March 16, 2:00pm

New Hampshire’s legal and criminal justice systems are taking major steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the state’s courts and criminal detention facilities.

The N.H. Judicial branch is suspending all in-person proceedings through at least April 6th at courts statewide. This follows last week’s announcement that all jury trials would be postponed. 

The courts remain open to process a small range of legal matters, including bail hearings and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals, as these are deemed “necessary to protect constitutional rights of criminal defendants,” according to an order signed by N.H. Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Gary Hicks.

The courts will also still hear domestic violence orders of protection, as well as child abuse and neglect emergency proceedings, as well as other emergency motions.

Meanwhile, the N.H. Department of Corrections on Monday also announced that it will immediately suspend all visitation at state-run correctional facilities, including prohibiting lawyers from meeting face-to-face with clients. The agency says it will make accommodations for electronic communication between inmates and their legal counsel.

“The Department understands the importance of visitation, volunteer programming, interns and attorney/client activity and will be assessing and monitoring the situation on a daily basis,” writes the agency in a statement. “We will lift these restrictions when it is safe to do so. Attorneys with urgent needs should contact the Warden or designee for the facility housing their client.”

- Todd Bookman

Dartmouth-Hitchcock To Delay Elective Surgeries, Citing Shortage of Medical Supplies

Updated Sunday, March 15, 7:15 p.m. 

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, New Hampshire's largest healthcare provider, is delaying elective surgeries in an effort to plan for an expected surge in patients suffering from COVID-19.

The medical center says a nationwide shortage in medical supplies also forced the move.

"Given the rapidly evolving situation here in New Hampshire, we made this decision because we must strategically and effectively allocate our resources, including such items as surgical masks, gowns, gloves and hand sanitizers, and also prepare for staff to care for the patients we anticipate in the days and weeks to come," Joanne M. Conroy, the medical center’s president and CEO, said in a press release Sunday evening.

The medical center says it is reaching out to patients whose surgeries will be delayed. Any patient who does not receive a call about their procedure should arrive as scheduled. Doctor's appointments are not affected by the delays.

Two employees of Dartmouth-Hitchcock were the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire earlier this month.

13 cases in New Hampshire; Schools to close for 3 weeks

Updated Sunday, March 15, 2:30 p.m.

In the first of what he suggested would be a series of new executive orders, Governor Chris Sununu has directed all K-12 public schools in the state to transition to remote education and support for three weeks, beginning Monday.

“While students will not be in schools,” Sununu said, “they will be learning.”

Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut said some school districts are prepared to offer remote instruction using digital technology. He described other districts capacities as “fully analog.” All schools are expected to have education plans ready by week’s end. “Remote instruction, plus remote support, results in remote learning for our students,” Edelblut told reporters.

Read the full story here.

New Hampshire Legislature Suspends Activity

Updated Saturday, March 14, 7:15 p.m.

The New Hampshire Legislature will suspend activity for at least a week, in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

From March 16 to March 20, and potentially longer, the State House will be closed to legislators and their staff, as well as visitors. Other government operations will remain open for now.  

In a joint statement, Senate President Donna Soucy and Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff wrote:

“As legislative leaders, our top priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of our members, staff, and the public. Out of an abundance of caution, today we are taking the step to suspend all legislative activities for at least one week. We will continue to monitor the situation and respond as needed and remain committed to working with Governor Sununu to take all necessary steps to curb the impact of coronavirus in New Hampshire.”  

Manchester To Close All Schools For Two Weeks

Updated Saturday, March 14

All Manchester schools will be closed starting Monday.

Superintendent John Goldhardt announced Saturday that city schools will move to remote learning until March 27, making Manchester the latest - and the largest - New Hampshire school district to overhaul its schedule and teaching in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen City is reconfiguring its operations after a seventh person in New Hampshire has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus illness. This person was at the Manchester office of the DMV several days last week, according to state health officials.

Goldhardt said parents, teachers and staff should expect further communication from their principals on further details. He said school district staff are working to coordinate distribution of food and learning materials.

“While I knew that sometime with the spread of the virus that this day would come, I wanted to wait until we absolutely had to do this,” Goldhardt said at a press conference at Manchester’s Central Fire Station.

Other city institutions are also changing practices in response to the coronavirus. Mayor Joyce Craig said the William B. Cushin Senior Activity Center will be closed for the time being.

The Manchester Public Library will remain open, but is canceling all events. The city is working with the state to test individuals who may have contracted the virus. Craig said not everyone who feels ill will be tested, especially those with more mild symptoms.

She said those with a fever and shortness of breath or a cough should call their healthcare providers. Those who live in Manchester, but do not have a primary care provider, can call 603-668-1547 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

-Mary McIntyre

On Town Meeting Day, Many Note New Tension

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 2:40 p.m. 

Late Friday, state officials confirmed that a seventh person in New Hampshire has tested positive for the COVID-19 cononavirus illness.

In many New Hampshire communities, today is Town Meeting day. Several New Hampshire towns postponed town and school meetings scheduled for this weekend, but others moved forward. Some, like the town of Webster, kept to the original schedule.

Paul King was wearing rubber gloves at Webster town hall today, but only because he was handling food. He sees the threat from the virus as low but understands that some are concerned.

“Yeah, just get the budget through and get out of here as quickly as we can, so less chance of anything happening, but it is what it is,” King said. 

Moderator Mike Jette says given that local risks seem low right now, moving ahead was prudent.

“So, our sense is to conduct business as normal, then we’ll be set, and know where we are,” Jettu said. “We also thought about a delay, you know, if this thing continues to escalate, it’s just kind of delaying it into a worse situation.”

Not all local officials agreed. Nancy Webster is the town's supervisor of the checklist.

“I think it should have been cancelled,” she said. “I think social distancing is how you lessen the impact of the pandemic.”

Chichester and Henniker also held their meetings today. Communities that postponed town or school meetings this weekend include Bow, Hopkinton, Loudon, and Enfield.

The attorney general's office issued advice Friday letting towns know that they have the authority to reschedule town meetings in cases of emergency, as long as they properly alert residents.

Seventh person tests positive; state warns of potential exposure at Manchester DMV

  Update: Friday, March 13, 10:35 p.m.

A seventh New Hampshire resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.  The person is an adult female resident from Rockingham County, according to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

The person was at the Manchester DMV office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday of last week, and on Tuesday of this week.  State officials have not said whether the person was a DMV employee.

State health officials say anyone who was at the Manchester DMV during those hours should monitor themselves for symptoms of a fever, cough and other respiratory illness. Anyone who was at the Manchester DMV during those hours and develops those symptoms should remain at home and call their doctor.

Elizabeth Bielecki, director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, said DMV staff had been told in recent days to step up their regular cleaning procedures, including wiping down high-contact surfaces like counters and doorknobs.

N.H. boarding schools ask students to stay home after spring break

Friday, March 13, 9:30am

Several boarding schools in New Hampshire currently on spring break are asking students to delay their return to campus due to concerns about COVID-19. Healthy teenagers are at a lower risk than the elderly of getting sick from the novel virus, but boarding schools face a major challenge: given the state’s limited testing, if a student comes back to campus and shows COVID-19 symptoms, they will likely need to self-quarantine.

Related: UNH and Dartmouth are moving classes online in response to coronavirus

“As a boarding school, we don't really have a capacity to support a quarantine not only for the infected individuals but also for the individuals who had close contact with that person,” says Rector Kathleen Carroll Giles, of St Paul’s School in Concord.

St. Paul's is asking students to stay home after break and resume classes online for at least a week and a half. Giles says reducing travel is the only responsible option given the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“We are all being advised to do everything personally and educationally that we can, to slow the rate of the transmission of virus so that our public health resources can catch up and testing can catch up,” she said. Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter and the White Mountain School in Bethlehem are also asking students to plan to delay their return to campus by several weeks and resume classes online.

- Sarah Gibson

New Hampshire courts cancel all jury trials

Thursday, March 12, 1:00pm

The judicial system is cancelling all jury trials for the next 30 days in New Hampshire, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement today from the Superior Court’s senior judge means anyone who has received a jury duty notification to appear between March 13th and April 13th should NOT go to the courts.

All hearings will be rescheduled.

- Todd Bookman

Rockingham County man is sixth person to test positive for coronavirus

Thursday, March 12 11:35 am

State public health officials have announced a sixth New Hampshire person has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The person is an adult male from Rockingham County who traveled to multiple countries in Europe. The person self-isolated upon return from Europe and notified their healthcare provider after developing symptoms. According to a state press release, household contacts of this person have self-quarantined.

Click here for FAQs: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire

After conducting an investigation into this person’s activities, the state says it has determined the person has been isolated at home since returning to New Hampshire, except to seek health care. State public health officials have not identified any person other than household contacts in New Hampshire who may have been in close contact with this person while infectious.

State public health officials say despite increased testing in New Hampshire, they have not yet identified any widespread transmission in the state. All positive tests in New Hampshire have so far been people with clearly identified risk factors, including travel or contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Given the increasing numbers of infections globally and around the United States, state public health officials are recommending the following:

  • Stay home and avoid public places when sick (i.e. social distancing)
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Avoid being within 6 feet (close contact) of a person who is sick
  • Avoid sharing drinks, smoking/vaping devices, or other utensils or objects that may transmit saliva
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

-Jason Moon

What are your questions (or concerns) about coronavirus in New Hampshire? We want to hear from you - click this link to take our brief survey.

N.H. officials say risk remains low in the state

Wednesday, March 11, 7:50pm 

Top state officials say they are working to make sure New Hampshire is ready if COVID-19 cases increase here, but they say for now, the risk remains low, and the number of confirmed cases remains small.

State epidemiologist Ben Chan, Governor Chris Sununu, and Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control Beth Daly updated members of the media on the developing situation today.

“We want to make sure we provide accurate and up-to-date information on a routine basis and make sure that people feel free to go about their daily activities, attend school, and other important activities and not be in fear of their health," Chan said. 

Five people in New Hampshire have tested positive for COVID-19, 3 in Grafton County and 2 in Rockingham County.  According to the DHHS website, as of Wednesday at 9:00 AM, 11 people are being tested and over 200 are at home being monitored by the state.

Click here for FAQs: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire

Beth Daly said the state has had to issue legal orders forcing two individuals to comply with state instructions. One was an order of isolation for someone who is sick.  The other was an order of quarantine for someone who is not sick but was potentially exposed to the virus.  

The state also announced today that it has received more testing supplies for COVID-19 from the CDC, allowing the State Public Health Laboratories to test an additional 250 people who qualify.

And members of New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation are applauding the announcement that the CDC has released $4.9 million to help the state combat the coronavirus outbreak.  

Speaking earlier today on Morning Edition, Sununu said funding is not an issue right now.  He says he’s in regular contact with other states and the federal government to coordinate a response. Sununu added that, even though governors of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have all declared a state of emergency, New Hampshire is not there yet.

“We don't want to just heighten the level just for the sake of heightening the level, right? This is definitely not a time to panic,” he said. “We have good folks on the ground. We're at the point where we can still deal with everything on a case-by-case basis and reach out to the contacts. We're asking folks to self-quarantine as we find those contacts. And again, it's really about spreading out that potential impact to the community, and that's all part of the mitigation plan going into effect.”

Taylor Caswell, Commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, says he's working with the governor and DHHS to plan around some economic disruption, especially potential impacts on workers in the service industry and businesses with low wage employees who lack paid time off.

He says, with coronavirus forcing some people to stay home from work, businesses are facing difficult questions.

“It's really hard to tell a small pizza place that they're going have to cover wages for somebody for a long period of time, and to balance that by keeping the business afloat versus, you know, trying to help the individual employees.”

Caswell spoke on NHPR’s The Exchange as part of today's show about the economic impacts of coronavirus. 

SNHU cancels in-person classes for now

Southern New Hampshire University says it is cancelling in-person classes through the end of March, and possibly longer, due to concerns of over the coronavirus.

In a letter sent to faculty this afternoon, SNHU says its approximately 3,000 on-campus students will transition to online classes.

“The University is actively monitoring COVID-19 developments and will continue to review information as it becomes available to determine if and when in-person classes may resume,” wrote Paul LeBlanc, the school’s president. “We may decide to extend online delivery through the end of the semester, if deemed necessary.”

Students are being asked to return home following spring break. A spokesperson says the school is working on a case-by-case basis for students who aren’t able to travel home, and that the campus will remain open in a limited capacity. Faculty are able to continue working from on-campus offices.

SNHU already serves approximately 90,000 students globally through online classes.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth College asked all of its students to leave campus during spring break, and says it will assess the situation during that period.  

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health says it has implemented some new precautions in response to the coronavirus outbreak, including restrictions on business and personal travel for employees, both international and domestic.  It also has guidelines limiting events to no more than 50 participants. 

A regular hockey game held as a benefit by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health will not be canceled, but organizers announced it will proceed without spectators and instead be live-streamed. 

-Josh Rogers, Todd Bookman, Christina Phillips and Cori Princell

Towns ask for more communication with the state

Tuesday, March 10, 9:40 pm

Towns in the Upper Valley say they're doing their best to keep local residents informed as the situation around the coronavirus unfolds.

Officials in Hanover and Lebanon have been providing updates on their websites. They’ve also been wiping down surfaces in municipal buildings and making sure people know what preventative steps to take: wash your hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you're sick.

But these two municipalities have some frustrations about how the state has been communicating with them about coronavirus.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services is only providing numbers of affected people at the county level, and that can make preparation plans challenging.

"They can't even tell us if we have a person in our community who's in isolation or who's in quarantine status. That makes it difficult for us to plan ahead and see what the potential impacts could be in the community,” says Shaun Mulholland, Lebanon city manager.

Mulholland says he understands the state follows federal rules around patient privacy, but “there’s a lack of information that allows us to plan more accurately our response.”

“While being respectful of people's medical right to medical privacy, I just know that we're feeling more vulnerable as a result,” said Julia Griffin, Hanover’s town manager. “Hence, our need for more communication rather than less is perhaps part of why we're feeling the way we are.”

According to a spokesperson, the state health department believes that releasing any information that could easily lead to identifying a patient would be a "severe violation of federal law."

Dr. Ben Chan, the state epidemiologist, says DHHS had not heard any concerns or questions directly from the town of Hanover.

“I want to make sure we are trying to address the concerns as best as possible,” Chan said. “I think there’s some confusion where the communication has broken down in that process.”

Chan says he hopes the newly established Joint Information Center will help streamline communication between towns and the state.

“We understand there’s a need for broader engagement at the town and city level,” Chan said.

The JIC, according to a press release from the governor’s office provides a single point of contact for media inquiries. 

Three of the five COVID-19 cases confirmed in the state so far are in Grafton County, where Hanover and Lebanon are located.

-Daniela Allee
 

Fifth Case in N.H.

Tuesday, March 10, 6:00pm

State health officials have announced the fifth positive test result in New Hampshire for the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

The newly identified case is an adult male in Rockingham County who had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in another state. He was tested by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which notified New Hampshire.

According to state public health officials, the patient is self-isolated at home and any household contacts are self-quarantining.

The state is conducting an investigation into this person’s activities and will contact anyone who may have been in close contact with him. So far, they have determined the patient remained at home while ill except to seek healthcare.

Despite the new positive test result, state public health officials stress that there is no evidence of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in New Hampshire. In a hearing before lawmakers Tuesday afternoon, state epidemiologist Ben Chan said that as the state increases the rate of testing for COVID-19, the supply of test kits is diminishing. Chan said the state has the capacity now to test more than 100 additional people for COVID-19 and is awaiting more kits from the CDC.

- Jason Moon

State Orders Private Insurers to Cover Costs of Coronavirus Tests

Tuesday, March 10, 5:30 p.m.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is ordering private health insurers in the state to fully cover costs associated with testing patients for the coronavirus.

The new requirement, announced Tuesday afternoon, is meant to ensure that patients do not put off necessary medical treatment due to concerns over what they may be charged when they access care.

Anthem, the state’s largest private insurer, previously announced that it would cover any out-of-pocket costs associated with coronavirus testing.

The Insurance Department said people covered through the state’s Medicaid program will also receive tests at no cost, should they need them.

A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said the agency is working with the federal government to ensure that the approximately 70,000 state residents with no health insurance coverage are also able to obtain tests for COVID-19, should then need them, regardless of their ability to pay.

The state Insurance Department is reminding health insurance companies that they are not able to deny coverage, including mental health treatment, to patients who seek to use telemedicine for health services. Insurers are also being directed to allow their members to obtain 90-day supplies of medications, when available, to ensure continuous access to prescriptions.

-Todd Bookman

Manchester officials say they are prepared if coronavirus comes to the state's largest city

Monday, March 9, 1:00 pm 

Congressman Chris Pappas, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, and other city officials told reporters this morning that New Hampshire's largest city is prepared for the potential spread of the new coronavirus. 

Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan, Manchester Public Health Director Anna Thomas, Congressman Chris Pappas, and Mayor Joyce Craig.  
Credit Jason Moon / NHPR

Manchester officials held the press conference in a fire station following a closed briefing on the city's emergency preparedness.

Though there haven't yet been any cases identified in the city, Manchester Public Health Director Anna Thomas says city agencies are drawing up plans to operate on minimal staffing if self-quarantines become widespread.

“Even though the city of Manchester has had low activity so far to date, we know we're the state's largest city and with a very populated area. We're very mindful of the fact that we're going to have to constantly be ahead of this,” said Thomas.

Catholic Medical Center CEO Joseph Pepe was also present at the press conference. He said his hospital expects to have access to commercial tests for COVID-19 sometime this week.

Meanwhile, in light of new CDC guidance advising people at higher risk of becoming severely ill because of COVID-19 to avoid crowds, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon has announced it will limit group gatherings at all its facilities to 50 or fewer people.

So far 4 cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 have been identified in New Hampshire, three in Grafton County and one in Rockingham County.

-Jason Moon

Two test positive for coronavirus, bringing New Hampshire's case total to four

Sunday, March 8, 2:00 p.m.

State Epidemiologist Ben Chan and DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette at a press conference discussing presumptive positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire on Sunday, March 8.
Credit Jason Moon | NHPR

Two more people in New Hampshire have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

That brings the total number of cases in the state to four.

Click here for more cononavirus coverage from NPR and NHPR.

One of the new patients is an adult male from Rockingham County who recently returned from Italy.

The other is an adult male from Grafton county. Health officials say he came in close contact with the state's second confirmed case of COVID-19 during a church service in West Lebanon. 

During a press conference Sunday morning, state epidemiologist Ben Chan said the state is working with the church pastor to identify anyone else who may be at risk.

"These new detections do not indicate wider spread community transmission," Chan said. "We can trace contacts from the first case, to the second case, to the third case. And the goal of our public health investigation is to try and prevent wider spread community transmission."

Click here for FAQs: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire

The Hope Bible Fellowship Church in West Lebanon
Credit Daniela Allee | NHPR

The Hope Bible Fellowship Church in West Lebanon canceled services for today and all this week. State health officials are asking anyone who attended services there on Sunday, March 1st, to stay at home and not go out in public.

The state is also investigating to find and notify anyone who may have been in close contact with the man in Rockingham County.

"This individual, it's our understanding they were staying at home in the several days before testing positive. So while we are investigating, we believe that the exposure to the community overall is low at this time," Chan said.

State health officials say they are currently monitoring about 150 New Hampshire residents who are self-isolating because of travel or because they were identified as a close contact with someone who has tested positive.

State public health officials have published instructions on how to self-quarantine here.

Chan says the state currently has the capacity to test approximately 150 more people in New Hampshire for COVID-19 with the CDC test kits the state received. He said it's unclear when more test kits from the CDC might arrive. Efforts to create commercially available COVID-19 tests, including by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, are still ongoing.

-Jason Moon 

What are your questions (or concerns) about coronavirus in New Hampshire? We want to hear from you - click this link to take our brief survey.

Hollis-Brookline Schools Reopen Wednesday

Tuesday, March 10, 2:09 p.m.

The Hollis Brookline School District plans to reopen tomorrow, after closing today in light of news that a staff member was being tested for COVID-19. Superintendent Andrew Corey says he acted with “an abundance of caution,” but since learning that the patient tested negative, he says the district is prepared to reopen with an updated cleaning regimen.

Custodians at SAU 41 are working new hours, cleaning high-touch areas including door knobs, surfaces, and water fountains.

The district’s closure is the second this week in New Hampshire; Newmarket cancelled classes on Monday but plans to reopen on Wednesday.

Both superintendents made the decision with guidance from the state Department of Education and DHHS.

The DOE says it is not giving school districts a yes/no answer on closures, but is sharing the guidance from DHHS, which should give administrators the information they need to make a determination.

A spokesman for DOE said:

“Cancelling school is not advised under this guidance without specific evidence of exposure. Schools have taken steps that they have determined are necessary to protect their communities. School continuity is important, and without specific evidence of increased risk of COVID-19, schools should try to preserve this continuity for students.”

DOE Commissioner Edelblut said the department is working with districts to assess their ability to continue instruction remotely if school buildings are closed.

“We have no intention of long-term closing schools,” he explained. “All of the schools are planning for how we do remote instruction and remote student learning."

Edelblut said many students have internet connectivity at home and chromebooks or tablets from school; those who don’t may have to use computers at libraries or local community centers.

- Jason Moon and Sarah Gibson 

Newmarket schools close temporarily

Monday, March 9, 7:00p.m.

The state saw its first K-12 school closure on Monday, after administrators in Newmarket learned that a staff member had been on a bus with someone diagnosed with the coronavirus. After conferring with state officials, Superintendent Susan Givens said there is not a risk of infection to the school district, and classes will resume on Wednesday.

The New Hampshire Department of Education says it's working with the state health department to help school districts address concerns about the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

In addition to fielding questions from school districts about safety and self-quarantine, the DOE is keeping tabs on schools' plans for domestic and international trips. 

“Many of our students have spent a lot of time and effort raising funds to be able to have these trips available to them,” says Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “But we also want to be cautious. So there’s lots of considerations that go into determining whether or not to go forward.” 

The DOE and DHHS are issuing guidance to schools for their trips, but leaving it up to districts to make the final decision on whether to postpone or cancel.

If school officials or parents have questions about how to monitor groups recently returned from trips, they are advised to call DHHS (603 271 4496). Further information on schools can be found here.

-Sarah Gibson

Town meeting organizers plan to limit person-to-person contact tomorrow

Monday, March 9, 5:15 p.m.

The state is now monitoring approximately 225 New Hampshire residents for symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This number includes people who are self-isolating because of travel or because they were identified as a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

State public health officials are highlighting new guidelines from the CDC for older adults who are at greater risk for serious illness as a result of COVID-19. The recommendations include stocking up on supplies and avoiding crowds.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State’s office is recommending towns consult CDC guidelines for polling places ahead of Tuesday’s municipal elections.

That includes cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly, providing hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol,  and making sure there's enough soap, water and drying materials in public restrooms.

Kevin Peterson is the town moderator in Lyme, a small town in Grafton County. He says being cautious is the best prevention.

That means providing each voter with an individual golf pencil to fill out their ballot, wiping down the microphone after each use during the deliberative session Tuesday morning, and having some social distancing.

"Rather than have the chairs sit right close to each other, we'll have them three to four feet apart. That's a standard way of limiting contact between individuals,” Peterson said.

Voting booths will be frequently cleaned and disinfected, and ballot counters will have gloves to count the paper ballots.

“We’ll have plenty of hand sanitizer around,” Peterson said. “We feel like we’re taking all the precautions that are available to use at this time.

Peterson says on the town email listserv there have been a range of reactions to the town’s plans, “ranging from people who’ve decided that they are not planning to participate, to others who are a little surprised by the extent to which we’re taking precautions.”

-Jason Moon and Daniela Allee

Manchester officials say they are prepared if coronavirus comes to the state's largest city

Monday, March 9, 1:00 pm 

Congressman Chris Pappas, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, and other city officials told reporters this morning that New Hampshire's largest city is prepared for the potential spread of the new coronavirus. 

Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan, Manchester Public Health Director Anna Thomas, Congressman Chris Pappas, and Mayor Joyce Craig.  
Credit Jason Moon / NHPR

Manchester officials held the press conference in a fire station following a closed briefing on the city's emergency preparedness.

Though there haven't yet been any cases identified in the city, Manchester Public Health Director Anna Thomas says city agencies are drawing up plans to operate on minimal staffing if self-quarantines become widespread.

“Even though the city of Manchester has had low activity so far to date, we know we're the state's largest city and with a very populated area. We're very mindful of the fact that we're going to have to constantly be ahead of this,” said Thomas.

Catholic Medical Center CEO Joseph Pepe was also present at the press conference. He said his hospital expects to have access to commercial tests for COVID-19 sometime this week.

Meanwhile, in light of new CDC guidance advising people at higher risk of becoming severely ill because of COVID-19 to avoid crowds, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon has announced it will limit group gatherings at all its facilities to 50 or fewer people.

So far 4 cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 have been identified in New Hampshire, three in Grafton County and one in Rockingham County.

-Jason Moon

Two test positive for coronavirus, bringing New Hampshire's case total to four

Sunday, March 8, 2:00 p.m.

State Epidemiologist Ben Chan and DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette at a press conference discussing presumptive positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire on Sunday, March 8.
Credit Jason Moon | NHPR

Two more people in New Hampshire have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

That brings the total number of cases in the state to four.

Click here for more cononavirus coverage from NPR and NHPR.

One of the new patients is an adult male from Rockingham County who recently returned from Italy.

The other is an adult male from Grafton county. Health officials say he came in close contact with the state's second confirmed case of COVID-19 during a church service in West Lebanon. 

During a press conference Sunday morning, state epidemiologist Ben Chan said the state is working with the church pastor to identify anyone else who may be at risk.

"These new detections do not indicate wider spread community transmission," Chan said. "We can trace contacts from the first case, to the second case, to the third case. And the goal of our public health investigation is to try and prevent wider spread community transmission."

Click here for FAQs: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire

The Hope Bible Fellowship Church in West Lebanon
Credit Daniela Allee | NHPR

The Hope Bible Fellowship Church in West Lebanon canceled services for today and all this week. State health officials are asking anyone who attended services there on Sunday, March 1st, to stay at home and not go out in public.

The state is also investigating to find and notify anyone who may have been in close contact with the man in Rockingham County.

"This individual, it's our understanding they were staying at home in the several days before testing positive. So while we are investigating, we believe that the exposure to the community overall is low at this time," Chan said.

State health officials say they are currently monitoring about 150 New Hampshire residents who are self-isolating because of travel or because they were identified as a close contact with someone who has tested positive.

State public health officials have published instructions on how to self-quarantine here.

Chan says the state currently has the capacity to test approximately 150 more people in New Hampshire for COVID-19 with the CDC test kits the state received. He said it's unclear when more test kits from the CDC might arrive. Efforts to create commercially available COVID-19 tests, including by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, are still ongoing.

Churchgoers in the Upper Valley notice some differences on Sunday

Meanwhile, a number of Upper Valley churches changed parts of their services to minimize person-to-person contact this weekend. Kyle Seibert, the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Hanover, said he’s been paying close attention to the news about coronavirus as well as recommendations from the CDC.

So this Sunday, that meant not shaking hands during the service, as a way to minimize spreading germs.

“We actually learned some American Sign Language this morning,” Seibert said, “of ‘peace be with you and also with you.’ ”

Across the street, at St. Denis Catholic Church, things were different too on Sunday. Normally, along with passing out communion wafers, parishioners drink the wine from a communal cup.  But yesterday, they skipped the shared cup. Parishioner Max Wunderlich, from White River Junction, Vt., said they also skipped the sign of peace, out of health concerns.

Other organizations continued to change plans because of coronavirus precaution. Special Olympics New Hampshire cancelled several events, including a basketball tournament and a swim meet, scheduled for the coming weeks. Mary Conroy, president & CEO of Special Olympics New Hampshire, said that “while cancelling events is disappointing for athletes who have trained for months to compete -- as well as the volunteers, family, friends -- our love of sport doesn’t compare to the importance of protecting the health of our athletes, which will remain our priority.”

Conroy said decisions regarding future events will be made in the coming weeks and months as the coronavirus situation evolves.

-Jason Moon and Daniela Allee

Dartmouth cancels international study programs

Friday, March 6, 9:45 p.m.

Dartmouth College has suspended all of its spring term international programs, including study abroad programs, exchange programs, and Dartmouth-supported internships and fellowships for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students. The move will affect roughly 100 students, the college said.

What are your questions (or concerns) about coronavirus in New Hampshire? We want to hear from you - click this link to take our brief survey.

In a message to the Dartmouth community Friday, Provost Joseph Helble said the college considered a number of factors in making this decision, including increasing travel uncertainty, risks to community health, federal and state guidance, and “concern for homestay families with vulnerable members in the home.” Undergraduate students in “credit-bearing programs” affected by the cancellations will be able to access a $5,000 cash grant from the college.

That money can be used for independent research, internships, alternative education opportunities or alternative off-campus housing for the spring. To access the money, students will need to fill out an online form by March 20. 

Dartmouth says the form will be available by March 10. Dartmouth is also offering online courses for affected students for the spring term, which starts March 30. Students who are already in overseas programs can remain if they choose, but no new programs will start, the college said.

-Daniela Allee

New Hampshire receives more test kits

Friday, March 6, 4:40 p.m.

State public health officials say they have received additional testing kits from the CDC. The newly arrived test kits allow the state to test an additional 200 people.

But officials have not said what the state’s total testing capacity is at the moment. As of 9 a.m. Friday, the state said it has tested a total of 25 people, with 20 tests coming back negative, 3 pending, and 2 positive results.

Volunteers with the Metropolitan Medical Response System helped the state conduct COVID-19 tests at the Lebanon Airport Thursday afternoon. Samples were taken from three people in a setting where they were able to remain inside their car while the sample was taken.

In a Facebook Live video on Friday, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center CEO Joanne Conroy acknowledged the frustration of many in addressing the fact that the first patient to contract COVID-19 in New Hampshire, a DHMC employee, disregarded a request to self-quarantine.

“I’d like to start with a recognition that this employee was directed by Dartmouth-Hitchcock to self-quarantine and did not comply. We fully understand this causes great concern,” said Conroy.

“This concern exists both inside and outside our organization. We will not provide any additional details around this employee or any other patients. It’s the law and we comply with it.”

Ahead of next Tuesday’s municipal elections in Lebanon, home to DHMC, city officials are taking precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

City Manager Shaun Mulholland said every voter will have access to hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes before entering the voting booth.

“If they wish to use it, they're not required to, but we'll have them there,” Mulholland said. “They can pull it out of the container and they can go in and wipe down their area and the pen that they're going to be using so we can reduce that risk.”

Mulholland said he wants city residents to know it is safe to come vote on Tuesday.

-Jason Moon

State lawmaker asked to self-quarantine after traveling to Italy

Thursday, March 5, 7:25 pm

Some effects of the new coronavirus have reached the New Hampshire State House.

One state lawmaker who returned from a trip to Italy on Monday is now self-quarantined, at the request of House Speaker Steve Shurtleff.

Rep. Judith Spang of Durham said she went to the State House the day after she returned, on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the CDC released updated guidance, advising anyone who has traveled to Italy, Iran, South Korea or China to stay home and monitor their health.

Spang said she was contacted by the State House nurse that day. Then, she heard from the House speaker.

"The speaker said, I don't want to see you in the state house for 14 days,” she remembers.

The Speaker's office says it has no formal policy on coronavirus, but is following CDC guidelines that have been adopted by state health officials.

Spang says she's symptom-free but will honor the request that she self-quarantine.

Her two weeks at home come as lawmakers face deadlines to act on dozens of bills.  Spang says she plans to use her forced time at home to clean her basement.

Click here for more cononavirus coverage from NPR and NHPR.

Hanover region responds after two test positive for coronavirus

People in the Hanover area say a few things have also changed for them now that two people in the area have tested positive for the new coronavirus. 

Sign in a bathroom at the Baker-Berry Library on the Dartmouth campus.
Credit Daniela Allee

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business canceled the last day of classes, after a student contacted the school administration to say they were experiencing flu-like symptoms. 

The college has also canceled all international programming for the month of March, in response to the spread of the coronavirus.  That's made for a busy few days for Pierce Wilson, a freshman, who works at Tuck’s study abroad office. 

“Actually, I have a ton of stuff to do because we’re scrambling to remake the programs on campus,” he said. 

The college is discouraging international travel for all members of the Dartmouth community.

So Guilherme Marinho, a 19-year-old international student from Brazil, has changed his spring break plans. 

He had originally planned to go back to his hometown of Curitibia to see his family. But as travel recommendations and restrictions around the coronavirus change, Marinho wants to be on the safe side. 

““The regulations about countries are changing so fast that it might just be that I can’t come back to the US, and then I can’t come study for the spring term,” he said. “It’s a pretty big impact.”

He says this means the next time he’ll see his family is over the holidays in December. 

“My grandparents are a little bummed out,” he said. “But the biggest concern on all of their minds is that I continue my studies properly.” 

Instead, he’ll spend his spring break in New Hampshire with his girlfriend, who’s a New Hampshire native. 

Sean Smith is a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College. 

He says his department has been interviewing candidates for a number of open faculty positions. Typically that means candidates come for in-person interviews. 

“And now, we’ve switched the remaining interviews to all virtual in order to eliminate unnecessary travel,” he said.

Click here for FAQs: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire

For Klaus Lubbe, the coronavirus has slowed down business. 

Lubbe is the president and CEO of Bio X Cell, a biotech company in the Upper Valley that makes antibodies for research purposes, sending samples off to China and South Korea. 

But while business has been slow, he says his Chinese partners asked him a few weeks ago if he could find a way to send them face masks. 

“People are looking for masks here in West Lebanon or Hanover; sorry, but you can’t get them here either,” he said.

But he managed to find some masks online to send over. 

“They were very grateful,” he said.

-Josh Rogers and Daniela Allee

DMHC developing its own test for coronavirus

Wednesday, March 4, 5:45pm

Dr. Joanne M. Conroy, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock, answers questions March 2 about coronavirus.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Officials at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center say they're close to having developed their own viral test for the novel coronavirus.

The center's Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Ed Merrens, said the center could have a test ready within the next few days.

"Certainly confirmatory testing will need to be done at the state level,” he said. “But this will allow us to test individuals we think are at risk."

He stressed that testing will be only available for those who display symptoms of the coronavirus.

Currently, medical providers in New Hampshire do not have access to such tests. All tests so far have been administered through the state.

-Peter Biello and Alex McOwen

New Hampshire issues Public Health Incident Declaration

Wednesday, March 4, 4:30pm

The state has issued a Public Health Incident Declaration, allowing volunteers to participate in the response to COVID-19. In a press release, state public health officials say they are drawing up plans to train volunteers in case the outbreak becomes more widespread.

Currently seven people in New Hampshire are being tested for COVID-19. Two people in Grafton county have tested positive.

What are your questions (or concerns) about coronavirus in New Hampshire? We want to hear from you - click this link to take our brief survey.

Dartmouth College announced that four Geisel School of Medicine students have been identified as close contacts to the second person to test positive. Those students have been self-quarantined, according to the college.

Dartmouth College also announced it is cancelling all student international programming for the month of March, including spring break programs, internships, and field-based research. The college is also discouraging international travel for all members of the Dartmouth Community and requiring anyone who returns from countries identified by the CDC as Level 2 or Level 3 risks to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“To be clear, self-quarantine for travel that commenced after March 4, 2020, will need to occur off campus,” the email reads.

Meanwhile Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement welcoming a proposed federal funding package that would include $4.9 million in initial funding for New Hampshire to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Chris Sununu during a news conference March 2 on New Hampshire's steps to be prepared to respond to coronavirus.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

“These initial funds will help cover costs associated with monitoring this public health situation,” said Sununu in a written statement. “I urge Congress to send this appropriation to the President immediately so that New Hampshire has all resources available to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

As of February 28, 2020, the state had spent $46,000 responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. New Hampshire would be reimbursed for these costs as a result of this initial funding package.

-Jason Moon

CDC updates guidance on self-isolation

Wednesday, March 4, 3:15 pm

The CDC has issued updated guidance for who should self-isolate after travel abroad.

Now all travelers returning from countries with a level 3 travel alert are advised to stay home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. Countries with a level 3 travel alert and widespread coronavirus transmission currently include China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. The list will likely change as the situation develops.

Previously, only travelers from China were being instructed to self-isolate.

Travelers from countries with a level 2 travel alert are now advised to monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the U.S.

Click here for more cononavirus coverage from NPR and NHPR.

In New Hampshire, a new slate of COVID-19 tests has come back negative, leaving the total number of positive cases at two, as of 9:00 AM on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire travelers leaving the state by air are taking extra precautions.

Judith Antell of Wolfeboro spoke to NHPR just before boarding a bus to Logan Airport on her way to see her father in Florida. She plans to wipe down the airplane’s seatbelt and tray table with disinfectant wipes once she boards.

“If it was overseas, I would definitely cancel it,” said Antell. “I want to be within driving distance, so that if something happens I can still drive home.”

Officials at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport tell NHPR they haven’t yet seen a dip in the number of passengers coming through the terminal. Airport officials say they are directing janitorial staff to conduct extra cleanings of all public spaces as a precaution.

-Jason Moon

Second person tests positive for coronavirus in New Hampshire

Tuesday, March 3, 5:55 p.m.

State health officials have announced a second presumptive positive test result for the coronavirus disease in New Hampshire.

The patient is an adult male from Grafton County who had close contact with the the first person to test positive in New Hampshire, who also lives in Grafton County. He is currently isolated at home. Both individuals are employees of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

What are your questions (or concerns) about coronavirus in New Hampshire? We want to hear from you - click this link to take our brief survey.

State health officials say they expect additional cases may be identified as they try to figure out other people that first person came into contact with.

The state says the first person identified with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, attended a social event last Friday despite being asked to self-quarantine. The first patient is now being ordered to isolate under state law.

The state is contacting attendees who had close contact with the person during the event and asking them to follow the recommended 14-day self-isolation.

DHMC has identified staff who may have been exposed through close contact but is not aware of any exposure to patients in clinical areas, according to a state press release.

-Jason Moon

State gives guidance to schools, healthcare facilities on coronavirus response

Tuesday, March 3, 4:40 p.m.

In a statewide conference call today that included more than 1500 people, New Hampshire public health officials offered updated guidance to healthcare facilities and schools on how to respond to coronavirus.

Click here for more cononavirus coverage from NPR and NHPR.

State health officials fielded dozens of questions, including how schools should advise students returning from overseas travel.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, N.H. state epidemiologist.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Right now the CDC and state public health officials are asking only people who have returned from China to stay at home for 14 days before going out in public. Some schools in New Hampshire have gone further, asking students returning from other countries, including Italy, to self-quarantine.

“Just to be clear, that is not a [Division of] Public Health recommendation that those individuals need to self-quarantine,” said Ben Chan, state epidemiologist. “The school districts have taken that step. We support the school districts in taking those steps, but individuals who have traveled [to countries] other than China, are not being asked to self-quarantine.”

Chan added that travelers from other countries with CDC travel advisories are being asked to self-monitor and report any symptoms to their health care provider. Guidance from CDC and state public health officials on who should self-quarantine could change as the situation develops.

Chan said now that the state can do its own coronavirus tests, they're expanding the criteria for who gets tested beyond the criteria the CDC has been using. But during the call Chan cautioned that if the outbreak becomes more widespread in the state, it may overwhelm their capacity to test every low-risk patient.

“Likely, as this epidemic progresses, we're not going to be able to test everybody that may have risk factors and presents with any type of respiratory illness,” said Chan.

Chan told primary care providers the most important thing is to advise patients to remain at home when showing symptoms. Right now, four people in New Hampshire are being tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The state's first - and so far only - positive test result was announced Monday.

Beth Daly, head of the state's Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, also urged schools to begin making plans for if the coronavirus becomes widespread in the state.

“Residential schools in particular should be planning for the potential to isolate or quarantine students,” said Daly. “It needs to be a single room with access to a private bathroom, and then considering how you’re going to provide food and other basic needs.”

Health officials also warned schools to be on alert for bullying of students who have traveled abroad or who are of Asian descent.

-Jason Moon

Dr. Ben Chan speaks about response to the first confirmed case of a presumptive positive test for coronavirus - at a news conference with Governor Sununu and the congressional delegation.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Patient who tested positive for coronavirus attended social event

Tuesday, March 3, 11:40 a.m.

The Grafton County patient who tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19 attended a Tuck School of Business social event in White River Junction on Friday, February 28th, according to a community-wide email sent by the Dartmouth College health service.

According to the message, the investigation into who the patient, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock employee, might have come into contact with is still ongoing, and all people identified as coming in close contact with him are being notified. So far, no Dartmouth students have been identified as close contacts.

Meanwhile, four more patients in New Hampshire are being tested for COVID-19, according to the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control website.

Later today, the New Hampshire departments of health and education will host a statewide conference call with schools to offer guidance on how districts should prepare for the potential spread of the virus.

Many school districts have already been communicating with parents, outlining their plans. In the Concord school district, staff are disinfecting all “highly-used surfaces” in the building on a daily basis. In Derry, the entire bus fleet has been disinfected.

In Washington, D.C., the state’s congressional delegation is calling on the federal government to ensure states are reimbursed for the costs of dealing with the coronavirus.

“While New Hampshire’s state and local governments stand ready to assist the federal government, it is essential that the allocation of state dollars to the coronavirus response be reimbursed by federal supplemental funding,” the letter signed by all four of the state’s congressional delegation reads. “This reimbursement is necessary to maintain our state’s activities.”

-Jason Moon