Updated Tuesday, March 3rd at 5:55 p.m.
State health officials have announced a second presumptive positive test result for the coronavirus disease in New Hampshire.
The patient is an adult male from Grafton County who had close contact with the the first person to test positive in New Hampshire, who also lives in Grafton County. He is currently isolated at home. Both individuals are employees of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
State health officials say they expect additional cases may be identified as they try to figure out other people that first person came into contact with.
The state says the first person identified with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, attended a social event last Friday despite being asked to self-quarantine. The first patient is now being ordered to isolate under state law.
The state is contacting attendees who had close contact with the person during the event and asking them to follow the recommended 14-day self-isolation.
DHMC has identified staff who may have been exposed through close contact but is not aware of any exposure to patients in clinical areas, according to a state press release.
Updated Tuesday, March 3rd at 4:40 p.m.
In a statewide conference call today that included more than 1500 people, New Hampshire public health officials offered updated guidance to healthcare facilities and schools on how to respond to coronavirus.
State health officials fielded dozens of questions, including how schools should advise students returning from overseas travel.
Right now the CDC and state public health officials are asking only people who have returned from China to stay at home for 14 days before going out in public. Some schools in New Hampshire have gone further, asking students returning from other countries, including Italy, to self-quarantine.
“Just to be clear, that is not a [Division of] Public Health recommendation that those individuals need to self-quarantine,” said Ben Chan, state epidemiologist. “The school districts have taken that step. We support the school districts in taking those steps, but individuals who have traveled [to countries] other than China, are not being asked to self-quarantine.”
Chan added that travelers from other countries with CDC travel advisories are being asked to self-monitor and report any symptoms to their health care provider. Guidance from CDC and state public health officials on who should self-quarantine could change as the situation develops.
Chan said now that the state can do its own coronavirus tests, they're expanding the criteria for who gets tested beyond the criteria the CDC has been using. But during the call Chan cautioned that if the outbreak becomes more widespread in the state, it may overwhelm their capacity to test every low-risk patient.
“Likely, as this epidemic progresses, we're not going to be able to test everybody that may have risk factors and presents with any type of respiratory illness,” said Chan.
Chan told primary care providers the most important thing is to advise patients to remain at home when showing symptoms. Right now, four people in New Hampshire are being tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The state's first - and so far only - positive test result was announced Monday.
Beth Daly, head of the state's Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, also urged schools to begin making plans for if the coronavirus becomes widespread in the state.
“Residential schools in particular should be planning for the potential to isolate or quarantine students,” said Daly. “It needs to be a single room with access to a private bathroom, and then considering how you’re going to provide food and other basic needs.”
Health officials also warned schools to be on alert for bullying of students who have traveled abroad or who are of Asian descent.
Updated Tuesday, March 3rd at 11:40 a.m.
The Grafton County patient who tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19 attended a Tuck School of Business social event in White River Junction on Friday, February 28th, according to a community-wide email sent by the Dartmouth College health service.
According to the message, the investigation into who the patient, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock employee, might have come into contact with is still ongoing, and all people identified as coming in close contact with him are being notified. So far, no Dartmouth students have been identified as close contacts.
Meanwhile, four more patients in New Hampshire are being tested for COVID-19, according to the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control website.
Later today, the New Hampshire departments of health and education will host a statewide conference call with schools to offer guidance on how districts should prepare for the potential spread of the virus.
Many school districts have already been communicating with parents, outlining their plans. In the Concord school district, staff are disinfecting all “highly-used surfaces” in the building on a daily basis. In Derry, the entire bus fleet has been disinfected.
In Washington, D.C., the state’s congressional delegation is calling on the federal government to ensure states are reimbursed for the costs of dealing with the coronavirus.
“While New Hampshire’s state and local governments stand ready to assist the federal government, it is essential that the allocation of state dollars to the coronavirus response be reimbursed by federal supplemental funding,” the letter signed by all four of the state’s congressional delegation reads. “This reimbursement is necessary to maintain our state’s activities.”