Coronavirus Update: 75 New N.H. Cases; 3 New Care Facility Outbreaks; 5 New Testing Sites

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NHPR is continuing to cover the developing story around coronavirus in New Hampshire. Bookmark this page for the latest updates. 

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Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order is in effect. Read Emergency Order No. 17It has an exhibit outlining businesses deemed essential, and therefore exempt from closing. New Hampshire schools are closed through the remainder of the academic year.

State announces 75 new coronavirus cases; outbreaks at three long-term care facilities, more access to testing

Update: Monday, April 27, 7:10 p.m.

Positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire
Credit N.H. DHHS

An additional 75 people in New Hampshire have tested positive for COVID-19, state officials announced at a press briefing Monday afternoon, bringing the total cases so far to 1,938.

Of the new cases with complete information, four are under the age of 18, and the rest are adults.

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The regional breakdown of the new cases is: 25 in Rockingham County; 35 in Hillsborough County (including 13 in Manchester and 12 in Nashua); four in Belknap County; two in Merrimack County; two in Cheshire County; and one in Carroll County. The county of residence is still being determined for six of the new cases, the state says.

No additional deaths have been linked to COVID-19 for at least three days, officials confirmed at the same press briefing. However, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said six of the last seven deaths - announced over the weekend - were residents of long-term care facilities.

Click here to get the latest numbers around cases and testing in New Hampshire.

Shibinette also announced three new COVID-19 outbreaks at such facilities:

  • Seven residents and four employees at Birch Hill Retirement Community in Manchester
  • Fourteen residents and four employees at Crestwood Center, a Genesis-owned facility in Milford
  • Nine residents and two staff at Salemhaven Long Term Care and Rehabilitation Center in Salem

The newly announced cases add to a growing list of COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities tasked with caring for some of New Hampshire’s most medically vulnerable residents. County-run nursing homes, private nursing facilities, retirement communities and institutions for children with disabilities have all been affected.

Testing criteria changed

Shibinette and other state officials also announced a major change to the state’s testing criteria. Moving forward, Shibinette said any resident with any symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild, should be evaluated for testing. She said additional guidance on the new criteria will be released by the state epidemiologist later this week.

Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that the state plans to further expand testing capacity across the state: opening five new testing sites outside of healthcare facilities (in Claremont, Lancaster, Plymouth, Tamworth and Rochester) and partnering with the Visiting Nurses Association to conduct in-home testing of people who aren’t able to visit a testing location.

Sununu said the state will also expand a recent effort to offer COVID-19 testing at all long-term care facilities in Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties, now bringing that testing statewide.

Once these new steps are implemented later this week, Sununu said the goal is to conduct an additional 1,500 tests a day.

New Hampshire currently lags behind most other New England states, a fact Sununu acknowledged at Monday’s press conference.

- NHPR Staff

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Sununu says school summer programs may go remote

Update: Monday, April 27, 6:25 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu says programs traditionally offered in school buildings over the summer may have to go online.

Schools typically offer intervention programs to ensure students stay on track over the summer. Many districts expect more kids will need those programs, given the challenges of remote learning. But schools are awaiting guidance on whether these summer programs will also have to go online.

In a press conference on Monday (April 27), Gov. Sununu said that's pretty likely, based on public health projections and on the concerns of parents.

"You also have to consider whether parents would feel comfortable bringing their kids into those types of atmospheres and so that's another variable," Sununu said.

Schools expect a final decision by mid-May.

- Sarah Gibson

Recreation sites may reopen by early summer

Update: Monday, April 27, 4:05 p.m.

Some state campgrounds and other public outdoor recreation sites may reopen by early summer under new public health protocols. At a state task force meeting Monday, Parks Director Phil Bryce laid out his agency’s goals for a phased return to normal operations.

He says they're hoping to reopen some state campgrounds to limited usage as soon as early May.

"Our plan is to basically cut our campsites we allow in half, and try it. A lot of trying things out, see if it works," Bryce said.

The state also wants to reopen its beaches, but Bryce says they’re unsure whether to allow some stationary groups of visitors or to limit beach use to people like swimmers, walkers and joggers.

Read more on this story.

- Annie Ropeik

Courts closed until end of May

Update: Monday, April 27, 12:50 p.m.

The New Hampshire court system has extended its closures until the end of May in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly all in-person proceedings in the Circuit, Superior and Supreme Courts are suspended until May 25th, or until the last day of a declared state of emergency. Court officials are encouraged to conduct business by phone, video conference or other remote means during this time.

Some exceptions to the in-person ban are allowed. Those include hearings for emergency relief, and proceedings about constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

- Sarah Gibson

77 new cases bring New Hampshire's total to 1,864

Update: Sunday, April 26, 7 p.m.

Positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire, as of April 26
Credit N.H. DHHS

The state announced 77 new positive tests for COVID-19 on Sunday (April 26), bringing the total number of cases in New Hampshire to 1,864. Several cases are still under investigation, the state says.

Of the new cases with complete information, four of the patients are under the age of 18, and the rest are adults. Of the adults who tested positive, 68% percent are female, and 32% are male, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Four new hospitalizations were announced, bringing total hospitalizations of New Hampshire patients diagnosed with COVID-19 to 242, or 13 percent of identified coronavirus patients.

Click here for NHPR’s breakdown of COVID-19 cases and testing in New Hampshire.

The regional breakdown of new cases is: 24 in Rockingham County; 41 in Hillsborough County (including 14 in Manchester and six in Nashua); four in Strafford County; three in Merrimack County; one in Grafton County; and one in Sullivan County.  The county of residence has not yet been determined for three of the new cases.

- NHPR Staff

Revenue down, costs up in N.H. towns

Update: Sunday, April 26, 3:40 p.m.  

Towns and cities in New Hampshire have seen revenues decrease during the coronavirus pandemic, but some costs are going up, including providing emergency aid. In a survey by the New Hampshire Municipal Association, 40 percent of towns that responded said that they’ve already seen an increase in welfare expenses.

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Margaret Byrnes is the executive director of the municipal association. She says in many cases, towns are trying to help residents find housing. But that can be difficult in areas where there aren’t available shelters.

“And so you’re seeing municipalities pay hotel rates, room rates to give shelter to people who are unable to pay, as well as food costs,” she says.

Municipalities are also paying more for emergency services and technology. At the same time, many towns have seen revenue shortfalls from motor vehicle registrations, building permits, and parking fees, and they’re anticipating an increase in people not paying their property taxes.

“That can have long-term impacts on the town: not having as high of reserves, not having money on hand and having things be much tighter than they would have been otherwise,” Byrnes says.

Byrnes says municipal leaders are also concerned about the potential cuts to state aid, highway block grants and meals and rooms tax distribution.

- Daniela Allee

7 deaths, 69 new confirmed cases in N.H.

Update: Saturday, April 25, 4:59 p.m.

Coronavirus in N.H., town by town.
Credit N.H. DHHS

State health officials announced 69 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus Saturday, as well as seven deaths, which is the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since the outbreak began.

Sixty residents have now died from COVID-19.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reports the additional seven deaths were residents 60 years old or older.

There are currently 95 people hospitalized in New Hampshire due to COVID-19, which is also a single-day high.

Fourteen of the new cases are hospitalized.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state is now 1,787. Click here for a high-resolution map showing town-by-town cases.

Of the seven additional deaths, three women and a man were residents of Strafford County, and two women and one man were residents of Hillsborough County.

About 17,000 residents of New Hampshire have tested negative for the coronavirus.

- NHPR Staff 

Delegation urges prisons not to release sexual/violent offenders

Update: Saturday, April 25, 4:30 p.m.

New Hampshire's congressional delegation is urging the state's correctional system not to release anyone convicted of domestic or sexual violence during the pandemic.

Correctional facilities around the country have been releasing incarcerated people in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 inside of jails. In a statement, the New Hampshire delegation say they want local officials to issue clear guidance prohibiting the early release of any domestic violence offenders.

They cite the recent release of an inmate with a violent record from Carroll County as posing a threat to public safety and the safety of previous victims.

- NHPR Staff

Panel named to prepare for possible patient surge

Update: Saturday, April 25, 3:15 p.m.

More than 30 health professionals will serve on a newly created medical advisory committee.

The committee, which was created through emergency order issued by Gov. Chris Sununu, will provide guidance to health care providers about how best to handle COVID-19 related issues. It will establish recommendations for the triage of critical health care resources in the event of a patient surge exceeding a hospital's available resources.

It will also make recommendations to the governor about the health crisis. The committee consists of doctors, public health officials, ethicists, lawmakers and long-term care facility leaders.

It isn't clear when it will hold its first meeting.

- Todd Bookman

Bow drive-thru voting

Update: Saturday, April 25, 2:00 p.m.

Voters in Bow cast ballots via drive-thru voting for the annual school district meeting Saturday (April 25). NHPR's Josh Rogers reports from Bow High School that the process was going smoothly when drivers started lining up. Residents are voting on a $30 million school budget, among other things. COVID-19 compatible procedures were adopted to hold the meeting.

Poll workers wore masks and gloves. Bottles of hand sanitizer stood at the ready, and many voters, like John Blackadar, seemed pleased with the process. "I don't know who thought this up, but it's a great idea. Thank you for being creative," he said. 

Bow's school budget vote was originally scheduled for March. Bow was among the many communities who postponed town votes due to COVID-19.

The school district warrant articles were presented to voters via a live-stream presentation earlier this week. Public comment on the budget were collected by phone and email.

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WMNF closes high-use trailheads, day-use areas

  Update: Saturday, April 25, 9:09 a.m.

Credit WMNF

The White Mountain National Forest is closing several high-use trail heads and day-use areas until further notice. The closures include some dispersed recreation facilities.

The WMNF remains open, but officials are urging the public to hike or walk locally during the state's emergency order and stay-at-home order.

The growing concern is increased exposure to coronavirus, with what's described as an unseasonably high number of visitors to the national forest.

"As the warmer weather approaches, the forest continues to see increased visitation at recreation sites, trailheads and trails," says Connie Carpenter, WMNF Acting Forest Supervisor. "It is difficult to practice physical distancing and maintain high use sites to CDC guidelines." 

Trails are open, but they are only accessible by foot traffic.

- NHPR Staff

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Sununu extends state of emergency

  Update: Friday, April 24, 5:38 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu has extended the state of emergency for another 21 days.

The original order was issued on March 13, when New Hampshire had six diagnosed COVID-19 cases.

Today, the number of diagnosed cases in the state stands at 1,720, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additional orders from the governor Friday require insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to be more flexible as a part of COVID-19 response.

The orders also ensure workers compensation for first responders exposed to COVID-19.

And another order allows recently-retired employees to return to their employers without a waiting period.

- NHPR Staff

N.H. reports 2 additional deaths, 53 new cases

 Update: Friday, April 24, 5:01 p.m.

New Hampshire health officials on Friday announced two additional deaths from coronavirus, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the state to 53. 

The Department of Health and Human Services says the deaths were in Rockingham and Strafford counties, and both men were 60 and older.

With 53 new positive test results, the total number of coronavirus cases in New Hampshire climbs to 1,720.

Six of the new cases required hospitalization. To date, 224 people have been hospitalized due to coronavirus, or 13 percent of the total known cases. (Click here to view a larger, high-resolution map of town-by-town cases in N.H.)

The state says 578 people have recovered after being infected with the virus.

More than 16,000 residents in New Hampshire have tested negative for coronavirus. As of Friday, 2,250 people were being monitored.

- NHPR Staff 

Merchants discuss reopening the economy

  Update: Friday, April 24, 4:35 p.m.

Nancy Kyle, of the Retail Merchants Association, stressed that store owners want to reopen, but only when it's safe to do so. She spoke Friday to the governor's task force examining how best to reopen the economy when various emergency orders and restrictions are lifted.

Kyle urged the group to not consider reopening on Memorial Day weekend, and said whenever the state does reopen stores, it should start midweek to give everybody time to adjust to their new reality - including those businesses along the Massachusetts border.

"Especially those on the southern tier are going to have problems, because of Massachusetts being a hot spot - 41,000 cases, just over the southern border is a huge population," she said.

Kyle predicted that getting laid off retail workers back to work will be a problem, as many can collect more on enhanced unemployment than they earned on the job. She suggested mounting a PR campaign, when the time comes, to convince the public it's safe to go shopping again. She also proposed a hotline for store owners to seek advice on best practices to ensure shoppers are safe.

- NHPR Staff

Nashua ramps up testing

Update: Friday, April 24, 4:06 p.m.

The city of Nashua says it is ramping up coronavirus testing and outreach. Mayor Donchess announced Friday the city will soon add four staff to the city's health department to expand emergency and health services related to the pandemic.

Nashua will pay for the new hires with a grant from the CDC Foundation, which recently received a $15 million donation from the social media platform TikTok.

Public Health Director Bobbie Bagley says the city will also start offering pop-up testing sites, once a week, at a soup kitchen or community hub. She says the idea is to increase access to vulnerable residents who otherwise wouldn't be tested.

"We're making sure that individuals who don't have cars, don't have primary care providers, may not have insurance - we can offer those tests in our community," she said during a news conference. Bagley says they have had a hard time getting enough test kits but that Nashua should get more through the additional federal aid coming to New Hampshire.

- Sarah Gibson

Rise in unexplained infant deaths in N.H.

Update: Friday, April 24, 3 p.m.

The state Office of Child Advocate is urging parents to practice safe sleeping practices, after a rise in unexplained infant deaths in New Hampshire.

Director Moira O'Neill says this increase may be a result of new habits formed during the stay-at-home order. Since February, the OCA has received reports of two infant deaths that may be associated with unsafe sleep practices.

O'Neill says advocates in other New England states are seeing a similar trend.

"It's possible that if people change their routines and they're napping during the day or they're drinking alcohol when they're taking care of their kids, they may be more likely to fall asleep with their infants in the same sleep environment, like their bed or a sofa," she says. "And that really enhances the opportunity for the death of an infant."

- Alex McOwen

President signs $484 billion coronavirus aid bill

  Update: Friday, April 24, 1:07 p.m.

President Trump has signed the $484 billion coronavirus aid recovery and relief bill to further support small businesses, workers, health care facilities and testing for COVID-19.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who negotiated the small business assistance provisions in the bill, says the package helps smaller businesses that may lack a relationship with a big bank.

It includes $75 billion in grants for health care providers and $25 billion to ramp up coronavirus testing. New Hampshire will get at least $17 million from this testing fund, Shaheen says.

- NHPR Staff

Related story: Kuster Says Economic Relief Bill Will Be Lifeline for Some Small Businesses

Delegation highlights need for VA claim review

  Update: Friday, April 24, 12:21 p.m.

New Hampshire's congressional delegation is raising concern after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it is ending its current 48-hour review period for claim determination.

The delegation wrote the VA, following criticism the New Hampshire Veterans of Foreign Wars leveled over the proposed changes.

"We are deeply concerned that the VA is phasing out this quality review mechanism in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Staff assisting veterans are working at remote locations with fewer resources during an ever-evolving situation. Our country is facing an unprecedented emergency, and confusion during this crisis only leads to further frustration."

Read the letter

- NHPR Staff

USNH enacts policy changes to address COVID-19 fiscal issues

  Update: Friday, April 24, 11:30 a.m.

The UNH Wildcat statue, with face mask, on the Durham campus on April 19.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The University System of New Hampshire has enacted three new policies to address fiscal issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, including a new furlough policy for workers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

The new furlough policy "allows campuses to place eligible employees, pursuant to a written notice, on an unpaid furlough of up to 120 days (subject to earlier recall based upon business needs)," according to the document. This will remain in place through Dec. 31, 2020.

The USNH board approved the policies earlier this month to assist with the "cash preservation," University of New Hampshire President Jim Dean writes. 

The fiscal challenges at UNH involved the university refunding $27.2 million to students in pro-rated dining, housing and student fees, Dean notes.

- Dan Tuohy

Sununu tells towns, cities to be careful with budgets

Update: Friday, April 24, 10:41

Gov. Chris Sununu says towns and cities should not expect federal coronavirus relief funds will make up for any lost revenues.

He said the state just received guidance from the U.S. Treasury on how New Hampshire can spend more than $1.25 billion in federal aid.

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There is flexibility to administer funds to address COVID-19 related expenses to small businesses, non-profit groups, public institutions, and cities and towns. It cannot, however, "backfill" budgets, either for local government or the state, he says.

"Cities and towns must be very careful in how they approach, not just today's budget, but future budgets," he said. "The days of spending like it's 2018 are behind us," he said.

- Josh Rogers

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Scammers targeting PPP

Update: Friday, April 24, 9 a.m.

Scammers are targeting small businesses with a promise of access to paycheck protection loans, says U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a co-author of the Paycheck Protection Program. The program is designed to provide forgivable loans to help small businesses and their workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins says scammers are promising guidance and advice about getting a loan, and asking for a fee. 

The loan has no application fee.

Related story: Congress passes latest economic relief package to confront coronavirus

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