Coronavirus Update: First N.H. Death; 23 New Cases; DHMC Develops New Test

17 hours ago

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

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Update, Tuesday, March 24, 12:45 a.m.

Governor Sununu will hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. today, March 24, about new initiatives to respond to COVID-19.

NHPR will break from scheduled programming to carry this conference live - it will also be streaming online at NHPR.org and on NHPR's mobile app. You can also tell your smart speaker to "play NHPR" to listen to the updates.

The governor plans to tour Southern New Hampshire University's gym at 4 p.m. The gym is being designated as a "clinical surge flex" area to handle possible coronavirus patients. SNHU President Paul LeBlanc tweeted out a photo of the gym, with cots set up across the floor (photo above), with the message: "Ready if needed."

- Dan Tuohy

Sununu bans gatherings of 10 or more

Update, Tuesday, March 24, 12:30 p.m. 

In his latest executive order, Governor Sununu is prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The ban is for scheduled gatherings for "social, spiritual, and recreational activities, including but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities."

Court proceedings, organizations, state government and urgent medical events are exempt from the order, which is in effect until April 6.

The ban on gatherings of 10 or more follows the latest CDC guidelines.

- Sarah Gibson 

Police try to limit face to face contact

Update, Tuesday, March 24, 10 a.m.

Police departments across New Hampshire are trying to limit the amount of face-to-face contact between officers and the public to help prevent spread of coronavirus. Some departments, including Portsmouth, have closed their station lobbies to the public.

The Manchester Police Department's lobby is still open, but only to people with emergency situations. Spokeswoman Heather Hamel says officers will handle non-emergency situations by phone. She says the number of police officers on the street is the same, and investigations of crimes continue uninterrupted.

- Rick Ganley, Mary McIntyre

Murray urges public to report suspected fraud

The U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire is warning Granite Staters to on the watch for online scams. Scott W. Murray says scammers are trying to cash in on the coronavirus pandemic by preying on public fears.

Scams include counterfeit products and fake cures, as well as malicious websites or apps that appear to share information, or phishing emails that appear to be from legitimate organizations, like the CDC.

Granite Staters can report cases of fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at (866) 720-5721.

DHMC develops its own test for COVID-19

Update:  Monday, March 23, 4:25 p.m.

Credit DHMC

Dartmouth-Hitchcock says it's now able to do its own coronavirus tests without relying on the state public health lab or commercial labs in other states.

Dr. Edward Merrens with Dartmouth-Hitchcock says in theory they could run as many as 1000 tests a day. But because of shortages in testing swabs and protective equipment for healthcare workers, only Dartmouth-Hitchcock patients who are hospitalized and health care workers who have direct contact with patients will be tested.

"The biggest limiting factor is the swabs and the protective equipment," Merrens says.

Merrens says the new testing capacity should relieve some of the burden on the state's public health lab.

- Jason Moon

First coronavirus death in N.H.

Update: Monday, March 23, 4:15 p.m.

New Hampshire has seen its first death from coronavirus. The announcement came from state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan at a press conference Monday (March 23).

The male patient was over the age of 60 and a resident of Hillsborough County, Chan said, adding the patient had several underlying medical conditions.

Chan also announced that there are 23 new cases of coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing the state's total to 101.

Earlier today, the mayors of Manchester and Nashua asked Governor Sununu to issue a shelter in place order to slow the spread of the virus. Mayors Joyce Craig and Jim Donchess are the latest to join a growing number of public officials asking Sununu to issue such an order.

At the press conference, Sununu said New Hampshire residents must practice social distancing and "be accountable to each other," and did not announce such an order.

Read full story here.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu announces plan to increase available hospital beds

Governor Chris Sununu announced today that the state is working with healthcare providers to set up more temporary hospital bed space.

The eight sites across the state would be used in the event that a surge of coronavirus patients overwhelms existing hospital bed capacity.

Sununu says the first site to be ready will be in Manchester at Southern New Hampshire University. Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital will handle clinical care at that location.

- Jason Moon

First day of remote learning for most families

Update: Monday, March 23, 4:15 p.m.

Many families across New Hampshire are wrapping up their first day of remote learning during the state's virus-related school closures.

Districts spent much of last week getting paper packets and devices to students so they could begin classes today. Many teachers and staff said things are off to a hopeful start but there's still a lot in flux.

School staff are looking for ways to keep tabs on students who are struggling, both with remote learning and emotionally.

Many teachers are making one-on-one calls to stay connected with students. Guidance counselors across the state say they're also figuring out how to do wellness checks and provide support remotely.

- Sarah Gibson

WIC conducting appointments only by phone

Update: Monday, March 23, 1 p.m.

New Hampshire Health and Human Services announced today that, in light of CDC recommendations around social distancing, the state's Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program will conduct all appointments by phone until further notice.

The WIC program provides nutrition, education, and support to the state's pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and preschool-aged children. DHHS says WIC offices are working to ensure clients continue to get the services they need with minimal disruption, and that all appointment types, including certifications, can be completed by phone. The WIC phone appointments web page  has more information. Its phone number: 1-800-942-4321

State senator, state house staffers self-quarantine after Fuller Clark's husband tests positive for coronavirus

Update: Monday, March 23, 11:55 a.m.

Credit NHPR Staff

The positive COVID-19 test of the husband of a Portsmouth state senator Martha Fuller Clark is prompting one other state senator and several state house staffers to self-quarantine.

Terry Pfaff, the chief operating officer of the state legislature, says the steps are prudent under the circumstances.

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“We currently have two senators who are self-quarantining, the senator herself, Martha Fuller Clark, and also Senator Sherman," he said.

"We also have several of our senate staff who are self-quarantining, out of an abundance of caution and monitoring their heath.”

Senator Tom Sherman of Rye rode in a car with Fuller Clark in the days before her husband’s positive test. The quarantined Senate staffers were in close proximity with Fuller Clark during that same period.

The state house is closed to visitors and legislative leaders have suspended operations through April 10.

- Josh Rogers

Gov. Charlie Baker issues stay-at-home advisory order in Massachusetts

 Update: Monday, March 23, 11:30 a.m. 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has just announced state health officials will issue a stay-at-home advisory to all residents of the state.

Baker is also ordering the closure of non-essential businesses, starting at noon tomorrow (March 24). Both the advisory and order will expire on April 7th.

Baker said the stay-at-home advisory is not a mandated shelter-in-place order; noting he did not believe that he can or should order citizens to be confined to their homes. He urged residents to stay home and avoid unnecessary activities.

On Sunday, Mass. health officials reported three new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state's total to five.

Click here for more on this story from WBUR.

DHHS announces 13 new positive test results for coronavirus in New Hampshire, bringing state's total to 78

Update: Sunday, March 22, 5:20 p.m.

The current situation in New Hampshire by county
Credit New Hampshire DHHS

State health officials announced an additional 13 cases of the coronavirus on Sunday (March 22), bringing the total number of New Hampshire cases to 78. Of the new cases of COVID-19, are all adults, including nine males and four females.

Sullivan County now has its first confirmed case, while DHHS says a case previously identified in Coos County was in fact a resident of Grafton County, meaning Coos is the only county in the state yet to see a confirmed case.

Rockingham County has been the most affected, with 28 cases now confirmed.

Six of the new cases have required hospitalization, with at least one of those patients now discharged.

On Friday (March 20), DHHS issued guidance that those with mild symptoms will not be given tests and should instead stay home, a result of a lack of testing supplies and protective equipment for health care workers.

Nearly 900 tests remain pending, according to DHHS.

- Todd Bookman

Manchester VA Limits On-Site Patient Traffic

Update: Sunday, March 22 at 5:15 p.m.

The Manchester VA Medical Center
Credit Peter Biello / NHPR

The Manchester VA Medical Center is intesifying its reponse to the coronavirus.

In an update posted on the VA's website, veterans are advised they will be screened in their vehicles as they arrive on campus.

Visitors at VA outpatient clinics in Conway, Somersworth, and Tilton will be screened at the entrances to those facilities.

The VA is urging patients who are ill to call before going to the center. The phone number is is 800-892-8384 ext. 3199.

Click here for more information.

Court changes procedures, delays trials in response to coronavirus

Update: Sunday, March 22, 2:50 p.m. 

The federal courthouse in Concord is again altering its procedures in light of the pandemic. In a new set of orders issued by Chief Judge Landya McCafferty, the Rudman Courthouse will only be open for in-court hearings on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the time being.

Criminal defendants making their initial appearance, facing arraignment or scheduled for bail hearings will now appear via videoconference, with their consent.

Members of the public and the media who wish to attend a hearing in-person will use an overflow room, with capacity limited to no more than 10 people. All civil hearings will be done by teleconference, and all jury trials are being delayed until at least May 1st.

“The court wants to assure the public that it is committed to fulfilling its mission of providing justice efficiently and effectively throughout this public health emergency,” wrote McCafferty. “The judges of this court are committed to preserving the constitutional and legal rights of the public as we respond to these unprecedented challenges.

- Todd Bookman

Coronavirus Cases Rise to 65 in N.H.

Update, Saturday, March 21, 6:28 p.m.

New Hampshire officials have announced 10 additional cases of coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 65 confirmed cases.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports that three of the confirmed cases in the state have required hospitalization; one of the new cases is hospitalized. All of the 10 new people identified are adults. Four of the cases have no identified risk factors, indicating additional community-based transmission of COVID-19, according to DHHS.

The state is reducing the number of tests it is performing, citing a shortage of protective gear for health care workers. People with mild symptoms are asked to stay home.

On Saturday, Governor Chris Sununu issued a new executive order that requires grocery store customers to use new plastic or paper bags. Reusable tote bags, he says, pose a risk to store employees.

- Todd Bookman 

State senator's husband tests positive

Update, Saturday, March 21, 2:11 p.m.  

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth says her husband has tested positive for COVID-19. In a press release issued from the New Hampshire Senate, the senator says she has not experienced symptoms. She and her husband have been in isolation since Tuesday.

To the extent members of the public were in close contact with Fuller Clark between March 7 and March 15, the Senate says they should follow state guidelines for self quarantine and self-observation

"While my husband is feeling under the weather, his symptoms are not critical and we have been in self-isolation since Tuesday," she said in a statement. "After my husband received the positive test result today, we felt it was our responsibility to inform the public so that others may take the necessary precautions to self-observe and self-quarantine as necessary."

- Dan Tuohy

Update: Saturday, March 21, 12:45 p.m.

The White House coronavirus task force is holding a briefing at 12:45 p.m. Listen live on NHPR and streaming on NHPR.org

C & J suspending service Sunday

Update, Saturday, March 21, 11 a.m

C & J is suspending all bus service, beginning Sunday.

The company was running a reduced schedule to points in Boston and New York City, but with ridership plummeting, C & J says it is now cancelling all trips indefinitely.

Concord Coach is continuing to run on a limited schedule to Boston and Logan Airport.

Amtrak's Downeaster is also operating with fewer daily trains.

- Todd Bookman

Earlier updates

CLICK HERE FOR EARLIER UPDATES FROM MARCH 20 THROUGH THE END OF THIS LIVE BLOG

CLICK HERE FOR EARLIER UPDATES FROM MARCH 3-19