Updated on Thursday, March 5 at 7:25 pm
Some effects of the new coronavirus have reached the New Hampshire State House.
One state lawmaker who returned from a trip to Italy on Monday is now self-quarantined, at the request of House Speaker Steve Shurtleff.
Representative Judith Spang of Durham says she went to the State House the day after she returned, on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the CDC released updated guidance, advising anyone who has traveled to Italy, Iran, South Korea or China to stay home and monitor their health.
Spang said she was contacted by the State House nurse that day. Then she heard from the House Speaker.
"The speaker said, I don't want to see you in the state house for 14 days,” she remembers.
The Speaker's office says it has no formal policy on coronavirus, but are following CDC guidelines that have been adopted by state health officials.
Spang says she's symptom-free but will honor the request that she self-quarantine.
Her two weeks at home come as lawmakers face deadlines to act on dozens of bills. Spang says she plans to use her forced time at home to clean her basement.
People in the Hanover area say a few things have also changed for them, now that two people in their community have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business canceled the last day of classes, after a student contacted the school administration to say they were experiencing flu-like symptoms.
The college has also canceled all international programming for the month of March, in response to the spread of the coronavirus. That's made for a busy few days for Pierce Wilson, a freshman, who works at Tuck’s study abroad office.
“Actually, I have a ton of stuff to do because we’re scrambling to remake the programs on campus,” he said.
The college is discouraging international travel for all members of the Dartmouth Community.
So Guilherme Marinho, a 19-year-old international student from Brazil, has changed his spring break plans.
He had originally planned to go back to his hometown of Curitibia to see his family. But as travel recommendations and restrictions around the coronavirus change, Marinho wants to be on the safe side.
““The regulations about countries are changing so fast that it might just be that I can’t come back to the US, and then I can’t come study for the spring term,” he said. “It’s a pretty big impact.”
He says this means the next time he’ll see his family is over the holidays in December.
“My grandparents are a little bummed out,” he said. “But the biggest concern on all of their minds is that I continue my studies properly.”
Instead, he’ll spend his spring break in New Hampshire with his girlfriend, who’s a New Hampshire native.
Sean Smith is a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College.
He says his department has been interviewing candidates for a number of open faculty positions. Typically that means candidates come for in-person interviews.
“And now, we’ve switched the remaining interviews to all virtual in order to eliminate unnecessary travel,” he said.
For Klaus Lubbe, the coronavirus has slowed down business.
Lubbe is the president and CEO of Bio X Cell, a biotech company in the Upper Valley that makes antibodies for research purposes, sending samples off to China and South Korea.
But while business has been slow, he says his Chinese partners asked him a few weeks ago if he could find a way to send them face masks.
“People are looking for masks here in West Lebanon or Hanover; sorry, but you can’t get them here either,” he said.
But he managed to find some masks online to send over.
“They were very grateful,” he said.
Update on Wednesday, March 4 at 5:45pm
Officials at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center say they're close to having developed their own viral test for the novel coronavirus.
The center's Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Ed Merrens, said the center could have a test ready within the next few days.
"Certainly confirmatory testing will need to be done at the state level,” he said. “But this will allow us to test individuals we think are at risk."
He stressed that testing will be only available for those who display symptoms of the coronavirus.
Currently, medical providers in New Hampshire do not have access to such tests. All tests so far have been administered through the state.
Update on Wednesday, March 4 at 4:30pm
The state has issued a Public Health Incident Declaration, allowing volunteers to participate in the response to COVID-19. In a press release, state public health officials say they are drawing up plans to train volunteers in case the outbreak becomes more widespread.
Currently seven people in New Hampshire are being tested for COVID-19. Two people in Grafton county have tested positive.
Dartmouth College announced that four Geisel School of Medicine students have been identified as close contacts to the second person to test positive. Those students have been self-quarantined, according to the college.
Dartmouth College also announced it is cancelling all student international programming for the month of March, including spring break programs, internships, and field-based research. The college is also discouraging international travel for all members of the Dartmouth Community and requiring anyone who returns from countries identified by the CDC as Level 2 or Level 3 risks to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“To be clear, self-quarantine for travel that commenced after March 4, 2020, will need to occur off campus,” the email reads.
Meanwhile Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement welcoming a proposed federal funding package that would include $4.9 million in initial funding for New Hampshire to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
“These initial funds will help cover costs associated with monitoring this public health situation,” said Sununu in a written statement. “I urge Congress to send this appropriation to the President immediately so that New Hampshire has all resources available to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
As of February 28, 2020, the state had spent $46,000 responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. New Hampshire would be reimbursed for these costs as a result of this initial funding package.
Update on Wednesday, March 4 at 3:15 pm
The CDC has issued updated guidance for who should self-isolate after travel abroad.
Now all travelers returning from countries with a level 3 travel alert are advised to stay home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. Countries with a level 3 travel alert and widespread coronavirus transmission currently include China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. The list will likely change as the situation develops.
Previously, only travelers from China were being instructed to self-isolate.
Travelers from countries with a level 2 travel alert are now advised to monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the U.S.
In New Hampshire, a new slate of COVID-19 tests has come back negative, leaving the total number of positive cases at two, as of 9:00 AM on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire travelers leaving the state by air are taking extra precautions.
Judith Antell of Wolfeboro spoke to NHPR just before boarding a bus to Logan Airport on her way to see her father in Florida. She plans to wipe down the airplane’s seatbelt and tray table with disinfectant wipes once she boards.
“If it was overseas, I would definitely cancel it,” said Antell. “I want to be within driving distance, so that if something happens I can still drive home.”
Officials at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport tell NHPR they haven’t yet seen a dip in the number of passengers coming through the terminal. Airport officials say they are directing janitorial staff to conduct extra cleanings of all public spaces as a precaution.
Update on 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.
Update on 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.
Update on 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.”