Coronavirus Update: N.H. Reports 8 More Deaths, 2 New Outbreaks At Long-Term Care Homes

6 hours ago

NHPR is continuing to cover the developing story around coronavirus in New Hampshire. Bookmark this page for the latest updates, including case numbers and other important news of the day. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage.

Related: What's open and what's not in New Hampshire? Click or tap here to find out.

The latest numbers in New Hampshire
Positive test results for COVID-19 in New Hampshire, as of May 20.
Credit N.H. DHHS

Scroll down to our live blog for more COVID-19 news and the latest updates.

The most recent update from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services on May 20: 

  • Eight additional deaths were reported, bringing the state's total deaths to 190. 
  • DHHS reported 149 new cases. The state's total confirmed cases now number 3,868. 

Click here for NHPR's COVID-19 tracker for more case and trend data in N.H.

Other important links:

LIVE BLOG - CORONAVIRUS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE:

4 in 10 residents delayed medical care in the past month

  Update: Thursday, May 21, 3 p.m.

The U.S. Census Bureau says 40 percent of surveyed adults in New Hampshire delayed getting medical care in the last four weeks.

The Bureau released the numbers this week in an effort to share data with lawmakers planning for coronavirus recovery.

The Bureau also says 44 percent of New Hampshire adults are in a household that saw a loss of income in the last two months.

That rate of income loss puts New Hampshire on par with the rest of New England.

- Sarah Gibson

Emergency order makes it easier for nurses to practice in N.H.

Update: Thursday, May 21, 11:09 a.m.

A new emergency order would make it easier for nurses who trained out of state to practice in New Hampshire.

The order by Governor Chris Sununu allows students in accredited nursing programs in other states to apply for a New Hampshire license.

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Lindsey Courtney is the interim director of the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification. She says there is a shortage of licensed nursing assistants in the state. And while this order doesn’t address that group specifically, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can still perform those tasks.

“This one is particularly important to the agency and to the board to ensure we meet the workforce requirements in the state," she says

- Daniela Allee

Related: What's open and what's not in New Hampshire? Click or tap here to find out.

8,000 new jobless claims filed last week in N.H.

Update: Thursday, May 21, 10:21 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Labor says more than 8,000 initial unemployment claims were filed in New Hampshire last week, and that's down more than 1,500 from the previous week.

The latest number covers new claims through May 16th.

The number of new claims in a week peaked at 39,000 in early April and has since been declining.

- NHPR Staff

Sununu: No need to make masks mandatory in New Hampshire

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 6:25 p.m.

Governor Chris Sununu says he sees no need to order people to wear masks in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky asked Sununu on Wednesday to follow the lead of neighboring Massachusetts in requiring people to don masks in public. 

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“We consulted with the department of public health - a very trusted source - looking at all the looking at all the different guidelines, the data, where we are today," Sununu said. "And we are not in a position to determine that a mandatory mask order is appropriate for the state at this time. So that is not going to happen right now.”

Sununu says he’ll be watching how Massachusetts' decision to open up ocean beaches plays out. He says prudence dictates keeping beaches here closed for now but that he expect to open them relatively soon.

- Josh Rogers

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DHMC to participate in COVID-19 clinical trial

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 6:10 p.m. 

Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced Wednesday it is participating in a clinical trial of a new treatment for severe cases of COVID-19. The drug Lenzilumab could help prevent an immune response to the virus called Cytokine Release Syndrome.

The syndrome is defined by an overactive immune response to the virus, which can damage organs and even cause death. The study will test the drug against a placebo on 238 patients nationwide. Results of the study are expected by September.

- Jason Moon

8 deaths, 149 new cases, 2 new outbreaks

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 3:30 p.m.

New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette on Wednesday announced eight additional COVID-19 deaths, with six of them at long-term care facilities.

The latest coronavirus update further highlighted the impact on nursing homes. The state has 149 new cases, and 51 of those were from a single testing event at one long-term care facility - Villa Crest Nursing and Retirement Center in Manchester.

Shibinette reported two new outbreaks at residential facilities. At Greenbriar Healthcare in Nashua, 10 residents have tested positive for the virus. At Community Bridges in Belmont, a facility for people with disabilities, two residents and four staff members tested positive.

As of May 20, about 28 percent of nursing homes in the Granite State have at least one COVID-19 case, according to Shibinette. In terms of deaths at long-term care centers, New Hampshire is at about 1 percent, compared to Massachusetts, with 5.6 percent, she said.

“Whether we are the best or the worst, every death is a tragedy," she said. "Every long-term care facility that gets affected is a tragedy not just for the residents, but the families and the staff that take care of those residents.”

Gov. Chris Sununu said the state will launch two more fixed testing sites, which will go live starting this weekend, in Keene and in Londonderry. The state now has nine fixed testing sites.

The state is also expanding testing criteria to include household members of people in high-risk populations, such as anyone older than 60 or a person with an underlying health condition.

Sununu said he will make a Friday announcement about additional areas of the economy to reopen in the weeks ahead. 

He added that more than 5,000 small businesses have applied for grants under a new $400 million Main Street Relief Fund. The prequalification form under that program must be completed by May 29.

- NHPR Staff

State close to having tested all nursing home residents

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 11:09 a.m.

New Hampshire is closing in on its goal to test all nursing home residents and staff for the coronavirus.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said May 6 that all nursing home residents would be tested within two weeks. A department spokesman said that process will be completed early next week, which would be a few days behind schedule.

The testing of all staff is expected to be completed by the end of next week, or early in the following week.

The state also plans to set up a sentinel surveillance system in which ten percent of the facilities will test ten percent of their residents each week.

- NHPR Staff

Seacoast beaches won't be open for Memorial Day weekend

Update: Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 a.m.

Governor Chris Sununu is insisting that New Hampshire beaches are not ready to open for Memorial Day weekend.

Sununu said Tuesday he is considering a task force recommendation to flex open beaches on June 1. He said while he wants to wait and see how nearby states make it work at their beaches, he remains concerned about visitors from those states coming to New Hampshire.

The governor has reopened some parts of the economy based on recommendations from health officials, but he's urging people to not let their guard down yet.

- Mary McIntyre

Some Outdoor Activities Get Green Light

Update: Monday, May 18, 7:45 p.m.

The state is permitting the resumption of more outdoor recreational activities, including bike rentals, mini-golf and paintball, under revised coronavirus guidelines.

The new rules allow outdoor activity in groups of 10 people or fewer, so long as staff members and customers wear face masks and meet other standards. The guidance, as outlined by Gov. Chris Sununu Monday, clears the way for bike, canoe and kayak rental operations to open. The same goes for outdoor driving and shooting ranges, paintball, hiking and fishing guide services, and some charter fishing boats.

Beaches, however, will remain closed, as will larger scale outdoor tourist attractions, like amusement and water parks and racetracks.

-Josh Rogers

Antibody tests indicate very small percentage of residents have been exposed to coronavirus

Update: Monday, May 18, 5:20 p.m.

State officials say new testing suggests a large percentage of New Hampshire residents have not yet been exposed to the novel coronavirus and haven’t developed any protection against it. The state has conducted 4,500 antibody tests over the past week, which detect if a person has had the coronavirus in the past.

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The test results reveal that only about three to four percent of New Hampshire residents have been exposed. But state epidemiologist Benjamin Chan says there’s still a lot that's unknown about this type of test.

“We still do not fully understand what a positive antibody test means for someone’s protection against infection or reinfection," Chan says. "Specifically, we don’t understand how long a person’s protection lasts for after they have been infected.”

Chan says even if someone tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies, they still need to take appropriate social distancing precautions. If not, state officials warn New Hampshire could be at risk for a second surge of the virus.

- Alex McOwen

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Recommendations could help summer camps reopen

Update: Monday, May 18, 5:15 p.m.

As summer nears, a group working to recommend plans for reopening the state's economy is weighing proposals for summer camps.

Chris Emond, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Central New Hampshire, represents camps on the Governor's Re-opening Task Force. He says under his plan, camps would follow the state's standard social distancing guidelines, but would still need some flexibility, like on mask wearing.

“Staff wearing masks all day in a summer day camp environment, in an overnight environment, is not really going to be practical. So it’s really where possible,” he says.

The plan also includes screening campers for symptoms upon arrival, and limiting staff members coming and going from overnight camps. The task force will vote tomorrow (Tuesday) on whether or not to approve these guidelines for camp reopenings.

- Alex McOwen

State moves to reopen some outdoor attractions; issues new guidance for childcare facilities

Updated Monday, May 18, 3:45 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu has announced that some outdoor attractions are now permitted to reopen in New Hampshire, including miniature golf courses, driving ranges, canoe and kayak rentals, outdoor shooting ranges, paintball, and equestrian facilities, among others. 

Sununu says these businesses are primarily  in outdoor settings at which ten or fewer people gather to engage in activities. The state has issued new guidance for these facilities to operate in a manner which aims to protects public health.

Sununu also announced new guidelines for childcare facilities to reopen in the state. The guidance includes the wearing of masks by all staff and parents dropping off kids, frequent supervised handwashing, and limiting of group and childcare room capacity. 

- NHPR Staff

Note: We will continue to update this developing story

Restaurants allowed to resume serving, though outdoor dining only

Updated: Monday, May 18, 1:00 p.m.

Penuche's in Manchester has picnic tables on the sidewalk spaced six feet apart, in preparation for outdoor dining allowed starting this week under the state's new stay-at-home order.
Credit Casey McDermott / NHPR

Starting today, restaurants across New Hampshire can start hosting customers for outdoor dining for the first time in nearly two months.

Restaurants have been limited to takeout, delivery and curbside pickup since mid-March, when Gov. Chris Sununu first issued his stay-at-home order.

Establishments wanting to open for diners need to practice social distancing measures by spacing out tables, and wait staff are required to wear face coverings or masks.

Indoor seating is still prohibited. In many cities, preparations have been underway, with seating and picnic tables on the sidewalk, all spaced six feet apart.

- NHPR Staff

Week in Review: N.H. scenes amid the pandemic

Update: Sunday, 10:11 a.m.

NHPR photos by Casey McDermott, Sean Hurley, Josh Rogers, and Dan Tuohy.

In the midst of a pandemic, a new Market Basket opens in Plymouth

12 additional deaths, 98 new cases

Update: Saturday, May 16, 5:37 p.m.

State health officials announced another 12 deaths due to COVID-19 on Saturday, increasing the number of residents who have died from coronavirus to 171.

Of the 12, only one resident, a male patient from Strafford County, was younger than 60 years old, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

It was unclear if any of the deaths were connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Those outbreaks have so far accounted for more than three-quarters of the state's recorded coronavirus deaths.

Ten of the deceased were from Hillsborough County, six men and four women. The other death was a woman from Rockingham County. Click here for a high-resolution map of cumulative town-by-town cases in N.H.

The update from New Hampshire's public health agency also reports 98 new cases, bringing the total to 3,556. Three of the new cases are residents under the age of 18. 

There were 12 new hospitalizations. To date, 347 people have required hospital care related to coronavirus since the pandemic began, which is 10 percent of the overall confirmed cases.

- NHPR Staff

UNH holds virtual commencement celebration

Update: Saturday, May 16, 4:30 p.m.

Credit UNH

With traditional graduations upended by the coronavirus, the University of New Hampshire opted for a virtual commencement on UNH's Facebook page on Saturday.

The school invited alumni, faculty and graduating seniors themselves to tune in and share well wishes for the class of 2020.

UNH will also hold separate online commencements for individual academic programs.

The state's public colleges have said they intend to resume in-person instruction in the fall.

They're also planning what they call "blended" learning options, with some virtual components. This could make classes more accessible to students who have concerns about returning to campus.

- Casey McDermott

Liquor commission has curbside pickup options at two busy outlets

Update: Saturday, May 16, 2:01 p.m.

The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission quietly rolled out curbside pickup options at two heavily trafficked retail stores this week.

Right now, the service is offered only on a limited basis at the liquor outlets on I-95 north in Hampton and I-93 north in Hooksett. Customers who want to use the curbside service must place an order online and schedule pickup at least a day in advance.

An agency spokesman said same-day pickup is not available. They say these two stores are doing curbside pickup as a pilot program to inform future decisions about whether to offer the service more widely. 

Governor Chris Sununu said in March that the state was considering curbside service at its liquor outlets. The stores have remained open throughout the stay-at-home order, despite safety concerns from some employees.  

- Casey McDermott 

UNH gives half of relief funds back to students

  Update: Saturday, May 16, 11:41 a.m.

The University of New Hampshire has doled out half of its federal coronavirus aid to students. The state's flagship university received $11.6 million from the federal stimulus, and was required to give half of it to students for expenses related to campus closures. 

A UNH spokeswoman says about 11,000 students were eligible for grants of between $250 and $700 apiece. It leaves the school with $5.8 million in unallocated federal funds. 

On Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu announced UNH and other public state and community colleges would get $15 million in COVID-19 relief money. The news arrived on the eve of UNH's virtual graduation ceremony today, Saturday, via Facebook.

-Annie Ropeik

N.H. expands testing capacity

Update: Saturday, May 16, 11:01 a.m.

New Hampshire is greatly expanding its testing capacity as the state seeks to reach another milestone in phased-in economic reopening with the start of outdoor dining Monday, May 18. Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette says the state is reaching a daily average of 2,000 tests.

The effort received a boost from the state's seventh fixed testing site, on Stickney Avenue in Concord, this past week. The state's other six fixed testing sites: Claremont, Lancaster, Milford, Plymouth, Tamworth, and Rochester.

The state also launched an online registration for individuals to request and schedule a test. The portal is for those who are showing COVID-19 symptoms and for people in at-risk groups, including those 60 and older, those with underlying health conditions, a person caring for an at-risk individual, and health care workers. The state's number for scheduling is 603-271-5980, and residents with coronavirus questions can call 2-1-1.

Find a location near you - Zoom in/out on our map to find a collection site:

- NHPR Staff

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State Reevaluating Use of Rapid Testing Machines

Update: Friday, May 15, 8:50 p.m.

The state's top health official said New Hampshire is reevaluating how it will use rapid testing machines produced by Abbott Laboratories in light of FDA findings that up to 15 percent of negative test results from the machines may be false.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said she couldn't say how many COVID-19 tests in New Hampshire had been carried out on the Abbot machines. But she said protocols for using the Abbott machines would be changing.

“Abbott can certainly be used to test for an easy positive,” Shibinette said, “but right now we have to develop our guidance around what’s the next step after you get a negative, because based on the FDA guidance there’s going to be a next step.”

Gov. Chris Sununu had hailed the arrival of New Hampshire’s 15 Abbot machines last month, but their use was hobbled from the start by a lack of supplies. Shibinette said the state had hoped the machines, which can turn around a COVID test in as little as 15 minutes, might be deployed in nursing homes, but said technical requirements made that infeasible.

-Josh Rogers

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Earlier updates

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