Coronavirus Update: 4 More Deaths; 32 Additional Cases Of COVID-19 in New Hampshire

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Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order is in effect until May 4. Read Emergency Order No. 17An exhibit outlines businesses deemed essential, and therefore exempt from closing.

Sununu creates office to oversee federal relief

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

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

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

AG fields complaints about stay-at-home order

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

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

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

The complaints generally refer to retail stores and health clubs.

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

- Mary McIntyre

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

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

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

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

The total number of known cases is now 747.

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

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

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

Concord DMV closes after staff member tests positive

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

National Guard deployment numbers way up in N.H.

Update: Tuesday, April 7, 5:35 p.m.  

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

Allstate customers to save money on car insurance during pandemic

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

Nashua Chinese Cultural Society donates masks

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

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

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

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

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

- Alex McOwen

Sununu urges fair playing field for Manchester airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

Shipyard worker dies from COVID-19

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Casey McDermott

PSU's ice area becomes COVID-19 ward

Update: Monday, April 6, 4:50 p.m.  

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

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

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

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

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

- Sean Hurley

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

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

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

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

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Healthcare workers hardest hit

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

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

Recommendation on mask use

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

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

New Hampshire hotels restricted to "essential" bookings

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

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

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

- NHPR staff

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Four Manchester police officers test positive for COVID-19

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

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

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

- Todd Bookman

Food banks see increase in demand

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

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

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

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

- Daniela Allee

New Hampshire grocers plan to provide masks to employees

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

State prison employee tests positive for COVID-19

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

Amtrak again reduces Downeaster service

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

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

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

The Downeaster will also only operate two trains on weekends.

Amtrak is waiving change fees through the end of May.

- Todd Bookman

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

Update: Sunday, April 5, 2020  

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

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

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

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

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

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

- NHPR staff

Portsmouth lays off 87 employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

81 more cases and 2 additional deaths

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

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

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

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

Six of the new cases are hospitalized.

- NHPR Staff

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

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

Sununu extends 3 emergency orders until May 4

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

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

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

- Dan Tuohy

Coos County has its first confirmed case

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Sarah Gibson

Showing symptoms? EMS says call your doctor first

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

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

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

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

- Cori Princell 

ACLU calls for release of ICE detainee in Dover

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

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

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

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

- Cori Princell 

N.H. closing highway rest stops Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

- Sarah Gibson 

Portsmouth layoffs in response to COVID-19

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

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

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

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

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

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

-NHPR staff

LRGH gets $5.2 million loan from state

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

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

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

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

- Jason Moon

Sununu: Help for furloughed health care workers

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

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

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

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

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

- Sarah Gibson

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

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

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

This is developing, and this will be further updated Friday

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

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

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

Read more here.

Groups call for closure of Appalachian Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

Schools mull ditching April vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Sarah Gibson

Sewer treatment plants still fighting clogs

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

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

Hanover Hill nursing home dealing with coronavirus

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

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

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

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

Click here for more on this story.

State revenues not hit by coronavirus...yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Todd Bookman

Manchester VA will provide beds for non-coronavirus patients

Update: Thursday, April 2, 4:25 p.m. 

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

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

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

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

- Peter Biello

Sununu calls for expedited federal aid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Josh Rogers

Tuckerman Ravine, other backcountry areas closed

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

Forest Service map of the temporary closure.

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

UNH converts rec center to surge site

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Josh Rogers

Golfers issue plea to Sununu

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

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

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

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

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

- Josh Rogers

Census touts importance of 2020 head count

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

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

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

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

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

- Sarah Gibson

Market Basket changes shopping rules

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

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

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

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

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

- Mary McIntyre

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

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

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

Credit NH DHHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- NHPR Staff

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

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

Three hospitals requiring staff to wear masks at all times

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Jason Moon

Coronavirus outbreak at Crotched Mountain School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Todd Bookman

Drive-through test site opens at Pease Tradeport

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

Shaheen asks for expedited test results for first responders

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

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

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

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

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

- Alex McOwen

Dartmouth-Hitchcock to test COVID-19 treatment

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

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

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

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

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

- Annie Ropeik

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on this story here

-Mary McIntyre

Earlier updates

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