Coronavirus Update: N.H. Schools Ordered To Close For 3 Weeks, As COVID-19 Cases Rise to 13

17 hours ago

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WATCH: Governor Chris Sununu held a press conference along with state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan and education commissioner Frank Edelblut on Sunday, March 15. The governor announced a sweeping reponse to coronavirus, including school closures across the state, as well as the new number of identified cases in the state: 13.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock To Delay Elective Surgeries, Citing Shortage of Medical Supplies

Updated Sunday, March 15, 7:15 p.m. 

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, New Hampshire's largest healthcare provider, is delaying elective surgeries in an effort to plan for an expected surge in patients suffering from COVID-19.

The medical center says a nationwide shortage in medical supplies also forced the move.

"Given the rapidly evolving situation here in New Hampshire, we made this decision because we must strategically and effectively allocate our resources, including such items as surgical masks, gowns, gloves and hand sanitizers, and also prepare for staff to care for the patients we anticipate in the days and weeks to come," Joanne M. Conroy, the medical center’s president and CEO, said in a press release Sunday evening.

The medical center says it is reaching out to patients whose surgeries will be delayed. Any patient who does not receive a call about their procedure should arrive as scheduled. Doctor's appointments are not affected by the delays.

Two employees of Dartmouth-Hitchcock were the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire earlier this month.

13 cases in New Hampshire; Schools to close for 3 weeks

Updated Sunday, March 15, 2:30 p.m.

In the first of what he suggested would be a series of new executive orders, Governor Chris Sununu has directed all K-12 public schools in the state to transition to remote education and support for three weeks, beginning Monday.

“While students will not be in schools,” Sununu said, “they will be learning.”

Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut said some school districts are prepared to offer remote instruction using digital technology. He described other districts capacities as “fully analog.” All schools are expected to have education plans ready by week’s end. “Remote instruction, plus remote support, results in remote learning for our students,” Edelblut told reporters.

Read the full story here.

New Hampshire Legislature Suspends Activity

Updated Saturday, March 14, 7:15 p.m.

The New Hampshire Legislature will suspend activity for at least a week, in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

From March 16 to March 20, and potentially longer, the State House will be closed to legislators and their staff, as well as visitors. Other government operations will remain open for now.  

In a joint statement, Senate President Donna Soucy and Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff wrote:

“As legislative leaders, our top priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of our members, staff, and the public. Out of an abundance of caution, today we are taking the step to suspend all legislative activities for at least one week. We will continue to monitor the situation and respond as needed and remain committed to working with Governor Sununu to take all necessary steps to curb the impact of coronavirus in New Hampshire.”  

Manchester To Close All Schools For Two Weeks

Updated Friday, March 14

All Manchester schools will be closed starting Monday.

Superintendent John Goldhardt announced Saturday that city schools will move to remote learning until March 27, making Manchester the latest - and the largest - New Hampshire school district to overhaul its schedule and teaching in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Queen City is reconfiguring its operations after a seventh person in New Hampshire has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus illness. This person was at the Manchester office of the DMV several days last week, according to state health officials.

Goldhardt said parents, teachers and staff should expect further communication from their principals on further details. He said school district staff are working to coordinate distribution of food and learning materials.

“While I knew that sometime with the spread of the virus that this day would come, I wanted to wait until we absolutely had to do this,” Goldhardt said at a press conference at Manchester’s Central Fire Station.

Other city institutions are also changing practices in response to the coronavirus. Mayor Joyce Craig said the William B. Cushin Senior Activity Center will be closed for the time being.

The Manchester Public Library will remain open, but is canceling all events. The city is working with the state to test individuals who may have contracted the virus. Craig said not everyone who feels ill will be tested, especially those with more mild symptoms.

She said those with a fever and shortness of breath or a cough should call their healthcare providers. Those who live in Manchester, but do not have a primary care provider, can call 603-668-1547 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

On Town Meeting Day, Many Note New Tension

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 2:40 p.m. 

Late Friday, state officials confirmed that a seventh person in New Hampshire has tested positive for the COVID-19 cononavirus illness.

In many New Hampshire communities, today is Town Meeting day. Several New Hampshire towns postponed town and school meetings scheduled for this weekend, but others moved forward. Some, like the town of Webster, kept to the original schedule.

Paul King was wearing rubber gloves at Webster town hall today, but only because he was handling food. He sees the threat from the virus as low but understands that some are concerned.

“Yeah, just get the budget through and get out of here as quickly as we can, so less chance of anything happening, but it is what it is,” King said. 

Moderator Mike Jette says given that local risks seem low right now, moving ahead was prudent.

“So, our sense is to conduct business as normal, then we’ll be set, and know where we are,” Jettu said. “We also thought about a delay, you know, if this thing continues to escalate, it’s just kind of delaying it into a worse situation.”

Not all local officials agreed. Nancy Webster is the town's supervisor of the checklist.

“I think it should have been cancelled,” she said. “I think social distancing is how you lessen the impact of the pandemic.”

Chichester and Henniker also held their meetings today. Communities that postponed town or school meetings this weekend include Bow, Hopkinton, Loudon, and Enfield.

The attorney general's office issued advice Friday letting towns know that they have the authority to reschedule town meetings in cases of emergency, as long as they properly alert residents.

Seventh person tests positive; state warns of potential exposure at Manchester DMV

  Update: Friday, March 13, 10:35 p.m.

A seventh New Hampshire resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.  The person is an adult female resident from Rockingham County, according to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

The person was at the Manchester DMV office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday of last week, and on Tuesday of this week.  State officials have not said whether the person was a DMV employee.

State health officials say anyone who was at the Manchester DMV during those hours should monitor themselves for symptoms of a fever, cough and other respiratory illness. Anyone who was at the Manchester DMV during those hours and develops those symptoms should remain at home and call their doctor.

Elizabeth Bielecki, director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, said DMV staff had been told in recent days to step up their regular cleaning procedures, including wiping down high-contact surfaces like counters and doorknobs.