Coronavirus Update: Crowd Protests N.H.'s Stay-at-Home Order; State Reports 38th COVID-19 Death

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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. 17An exhibit outlines businesses deemed essential, and therefore exempt from closing.

56 new cases include two males under 18 years old

Update: Saturday, April 18, 4:46 p.m.

New Hampshire reported an additional death from COVID-19 on Saturday, and the state confirmed 56 new cases, including two males under 18.

Thirty-eight residents have now died from the coronavirus, the latest being a woman, who's over 60, from Hillsborough County.

The state now has 1,342 known cases of COVID-19. Several others remain under investigation.

Two new cases required hospital care, bringing the total hospitalizations to 192, or 14 percent of the 1,342 confirmed cases.  Nine of the new cases had no identified risk factors, indicating community-based transmission continues to increase, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu seeks to dismiss Democrats' suit over spending

  Update: Saturday, April 18, 4:31 p.m.

Attorneys for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu have filed a motion to dismiss a lawusit brought by top Democrats in the Legislature over who has the authority to spend federal coronavirus relief money.

At issue is whether Sununu needs the approval of state lawmakers to spend any of the $1.25 billion in federal aid headed to New Hampshire.

In the filing, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald argues the current emergency leaves Governor Sununu no time to wait for legislative approval before making each spending decision. 

- Jason Moon

Crowd protests N.H. stay-at-home order

  Update: Saturday, April 18, 4:11 p.m.

Protesters beeped their car horns and gathered outside the New Hampshire State House on Saturday to demonstrate against Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order.

More than 100 people crowded out in front of the State House in a clear violation of Sununu's order limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Attorney Dan Hynes was among those who attended. He's also filed a lawsuit to stop Sununu's executive orders on the pandemic.

Hynes says the crisis is being blown out of proportion and that Sununu's limits on gatherings violate the constitution.

"I personally agree with Trump that the cure can't be worse than the disease and this lock-down, it's one-size-fits-all, it's not a good approach," he said. Despite the size of the crowd, there was no attempt by police to break up the event. 

- Jason Moon

State working on crisis guidelines for medical workers

  Update: Saturday, April 18, 3:02 p.m.

State officials say they are working on new guidelines for medical providers to use in case they become overwhelmed with patients and have to make difficult choices about who gets treatment.

Gov. Chris Sununu activated the state's process for developing crisis standards of care for hospitals and other providers. These temporary guidelines could help medical providers make difficult triage decisions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Next week, New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette will begin appointing a panel of experts to write these crisis standards. The panel will include doctors, lawyers, ethicists, and others.

The state says the new standards will be based on principles of fairness and survivability, and will not discriminate on demographic factors like race, religion, or ethnicity.

- Jason Moon

Shipment of 500,000 face masks lands in Manchester

  Update: Saturday, April 18, 1:11 p.m.

New Hampshire received a shipment of more than 500,000 face masks today. 

Gov. Chris Sununu says the personal protective equipment is part of the deal that inventor Dean Kamen brokered earlier this month that delivered 91,000 pounds of PPE to New Hampshire. The two men were joined by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, and Boeing President Dave Calhoun as the face masks arrived at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Saturday.

Boeing is paying to transport the equipment, and Sununu says the supplies will be distributed to areas of greatest need in New Hampshire at no cost to the recipients.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu talking with NHL about possible games in Manchester

  Update: Saturday, April 18, 10:44 a.m.

Governor Chris Sununu says he's in very preliminary talks with the National Hockey League about the SNHU Arena in Manchester serving as a neutral, TV-only site for potential NHL games.

The league suspended its season last month but is exploring ways to possibly resume play.

"These discussions aren't even really happening yet. I don't think the NHL is there. They are having discussion internally, I guess. Really, we are just so far off that we are not really at that point to understand what the benefits to ourselves or the NHL or what those dynamics might be."

So far, the coronavirus pandemic has caused the SNHU Arena to cancel more than a dozen events. It was the site of minor league pro hockey for close to 20 years and has hosted preseason games for the Boston Bruins.

- NHPR Staff

ACLU seeks release of immigrants detained in Dover jail

Update: Friday, April 17, 8:45 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is seeking to have Strafford County Jail in Dover release all immigrants detained there by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ACLU-NH filed a class action lawsuit Friday on behalf of the approximately 60 immigrants in custody at the Dover jail, which contracts with ICE to house immigrants involved in federal immigration court processes.

The petition alleges that the Department of Homeland Security and ICE cannot ensure social distancing and proper hygiene at the jail during the pandemic.

It says the conditions of the correctional facilities - including shared bunk beds, bath rooms, and a cafeteria – put detainees at an increased risk of coronavirus infection if they remain there, and it claims that ICE can continue to monitor immigrants even if it releases them from the jail.

The national ACLU has filed similar lawsuits across the country; a spokesman said so far, over 70 people have been released in 10 states as a result of the lawsuits.

-Sarah Gibson

 

COVID-19 deaths rise to 37

  Update: Friday, April 17, 5:45 p.m.

New Hampshire's state epidemiologist announced three additional deaths Friday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the state to 37. Dr. Ben Chan said two of the three residents were associated with known outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

One death occurred at the Hanover Hill Health Care Center, a nursing home in Manchester. The second death was at The Huntington at Nashua. Chan says 12,852 residents have been tested. He reports 76 new positive test results, which increases the total number of known coronavirus cases in the state to 1,276.

The state also identified a new outbreak. At the Easterseals' Gammon Academy in Manchester, a residential facility serving people with developmental disabilities, 16 residents and 16 staff members tested positive for COVID-19, said Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

A majority of the positive tests were asymptomatic, according to Maureen Beauregard, president and CEO of Easterseals in New Hampshire. In a statement, she indicated Easterseals had four additional people testing positive, for a total of 36.

"We continue to operate this residential facility," she said in a statement. "Our clients have no other option or accommodations available to them and continue to remain under our supervision and care."

Shibinette says the state recently changed its approach to testing at facilities like Easterseals. If one resident is diagnosed with COVID-19, the state is now testing all residents in that particular unit, regardless of symptoms. "It allows the department to identify facility outbreaks quicker and with more accuracy," she says.

- NHPR Staff

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State changes approach to testing at facilities

Update: Friday, April 17, 5:31 p.m.

State epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan says the state's health agency is changing its approach to testing at long-term care facilities.

Until this week, the state encouraged facilities to only test those who were symptomatic.

"What we want to do is increase testing to move from more of a general prevention standpoint to a containment strategy going in and testing all the residents because we know there's the possibility of asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission," he says.

Chan says this expanded testing can inform how facilities manage an outbreak. That might involve isolating people who have tested positive at a facility and identifying staff who may be symptomatic to prevent them from treating someone who doesn't have COVID-19.

The state's new testing strategy comes as multiple facilities across the state are battling outbreaks of COVID-19, with one new cluster at a Manchester facility for individuals with developmental disabilities announced Friday.

- Casey McDermott

N.H. gets grant to address mental health needs

  Update: Friday, April 17, 5:30 p.m.

New Hampshire has received a $2 million federal grant to help those dealing with mental health and substance use disorders during COVID-19.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services says it will use that money to launch a system providing crisis intervention for those individuals.

The New Hampshire Rapid Response System will primarily address the needs of uninsured or underinsured individuals through the state's existing community mental health system.

- Daniela Allee 

Superior court cancels jury trials

  Update: Friday, April 17, 4:30 p.m.

New Hampshire is now canceling jury trials at the superior courts indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The order will now last until about 30 days after the courts resume "normal operations," according to a press release. Criminal and civil jury trials were initially only canceled through early June.

The court's press release says no one should be reporting for jury duty right now.

Residents with jury duty scheduled after June 8 should check the state courts website before coming in. Canceled trials will be rescheduled once the courts resume normal business.

- Annie Ropeik

Additional hospitals get emergency funds

  Update: Friday, April 17, 3:30 p.m.

Five more hospitals have received emergency funds from the state of New Hampshire. The state has set up a $50 million loan fund to help hospitals address the financial fallout of COVID-19.

The newly announced recipients are Cottage Hospital, Weeks Medical Center, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, Androscoggin Valley Hospital, and Exeter Hospital.

The first state-issued hospital loan went to Laconia-based LRGH Healthcare two weeks ago. About $7 million has also been loaned to 40 other smaller health care institutions across the state, officials said Friday.

- Daniela Allee

New outbreaks involve at-risk populations

  Update: Friday, April 17, 2:06 p.m.

Residents of long-term care facilities account for dozens of the state's COVID-19 cases, and almost half of the deaths in New Hampshire.

The state on Thursday identified three new long-term care facilities that are dealing with outbreaks. All serve people with special care needs. At The Residence at Salem Woods nursing home, 21 residents and four staff members tested positive. And all are tied to the facility's memory care unit, according to a spokesman.

At Bellamy Fields in Dover, which specializes in care for people with Alzheimer's disease, 12 residents and eight staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Dr. John Hopkins, who owns the facility, says that is up from earlier in the week. He spoke of the challenges for these residents.

"When you have people with Alzheimer's who like to touch everything and walk around and leave the water in the sinks running, and plant and replant the flowers - they are very busy people," he said.

The state is conducting more tests there Friday, April 17.

At the Institute of Professional Practice in Concord, which treats children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, one resident and six staff members have tested positive for the virus. Three other long-term care facilities in the state had already reported COVID-19 outbreaks.

Identifying the challenges facing nursing homes during the pandemic, the state of New Hampshire introduced measures to try to stem COVID-19 infections at the facilities. They include mobile testing for nursing home workers in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.

- Josh Rogers

No reported infections at N.H. Veterans Home

  Update: Friday, April 17, 11:18 a.m.

As nursing homes remain high-risk areas for outbreaks, the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton has so far reported zero infections among its 160 residents. 

Veterans Home Commandant Peggy Labrecque says that, as of Thursday, 13 residents have been tested - all results returned negative. She says veterans with fevers and respiratory illnesses are isolated as they await testing.

"I worry every day and I'm up a lot at night worrying that we will have an outbreak here," she says. "It feels like not if, but when."

Labrecque says the New Hampshire Veterans Home is accepting donations  of small-sized N95 masks, washable or disposable gowns, and large or medium gloves. 

- Peter Biello

Low-income workers feel sting of COVID-19 crisis

  Update: Friday, April 17, 10:44 a.m.

A report by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute finds the initial economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have disproportionately affected the state's low-income earners.

The report says the state's three largest employment sectors -- health care, retail and food services -- have been severely impacted. Phil Sletten, a senior policy analyst at NHFPI, says some of these workers still have not recovered from the 2008 recession.

"And that means they may not have much of a financial cushion, if any savings that they would be able to draw upon in this time when their incomes and their livelihoods are likely quite disrupted by the crisis that we see today," he says.

Sletten says economic relief policies enacted by the federal and state governments have helped, but more action will likely be needed in both the short term and long term.

-Alex McOwen 

Senators urge VA to help veterans connect remotely

  Update: Friday, April 17, 10:02 a.m.

Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide updated guidance for veterans trying to connect to health care providers remotely.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the senators say many of the veterans most at risk from COVID-19, elderly veterans or those with underlying conditions, have never used telehealth services.

The Manchester VA has been encouraging greater use of telehealth services during the pandemic.  The CARES Act provided the VA with more than $2 billion to support the growth of telehealth.

New Hampshire's senators are asking Wilkie to explain how the VA is using that funding to boost telehealth efforts. 

- Peter Biello

Rally to protest stay-at-home order

  Update: Friday, April 17, 9:59 a.m.

A rally in front of the State House is planned for Saturday afternoon to protest Governor Sununu's stay-at-home order.

Event organizers say they will voice their opposition to the current emergency order, which they say restricts their freedom to assemble, work, and travel.

It's unclear how local police will respond to the event, which could violate the governor's order, which limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Two more deaths; three care center outbreaks; N.H. schools to remain closed

Update: Thursday, April 16, 5:30 p.m.

Coronavirus cases in New Hampshire
Credit N.H. DHHS

Two more people have died from COVID-19 in New Hampshire, the state announced today (Thursday, April 16). DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette also announced 71 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total 1,211.

Click here to see our tracker of coronavirus cases in New Hampshire.

Thirty-four people have now died in the state. The deaths announced today were both patients over 60 years old, a woman from Hillsborough County and a man from Rockingham County.

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Shibinette also announced three new outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care and residential facilities in New Hampshire: the Institute of Professional Practice in Concord, The Residence at Salem Woods in Salem, and Bellamy Fields in Dover.

The Institute of Professional Practice had two residents, one in a residential program, one in a day program, who tested positive for COVID-19. One resident died, and six staff members were infected, Shibinette said. They have not had positive cases for several days, she said.

The Residence at Salem Woods had 21 residents and four staff members test positive, while Bellamy Fields in Dover had five residents infected, along with five staff members, according to Shibinette.

New Hampshire schools are closed until the end of the year

Gov. Chris Sununu has ordered that remote learning at New Hampshire schools will be extended through the end of the academic year. 

Click here to sign up for our coronavirus newsletter to get the latest updates.

Sununu previously ordered schools to be closed through May 4 to slow the spread of COVID-19. He said during the news conference Thursday that public health experts now realize how prevalent transmission of the virus can be, and with people who are asymptomatic.

"You could have an entire classroom of kids passing COVID back and forth without a single symptom, without a sniffle, you wouldn't even know it," he said.

The governor said decisions about summer learning programs and September classes have not been made. He notes that students returning in the fall may need extra educational help. In a letter to education leaders in the state, Sununu said there is no model available at this time "to responsibly ensure the safety of our students, our educators, faculty, and staff."

"We also know that it is heartbreaking for our high school seniors who have worked so hard over the course of their academic careers to get to this point, only to have the celebrations that they and their families were looking forward to enjoying not materialize," Sununu writes. "That said, public health officials and the safety must be paramount in our decision-making."

Click here  for more of NHPR’s coverage of how New Hampshire schools and students have been affected by coronavirus.

- NHPR Staff

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