News Of Potential Coronavirus Exposure in Manchester Helps Lead to City School Closures

Mar 14, 2020

The Manchester DMV was closed Saturday after a positive test for coronavirus was linked to a woman who had spent several days in the office. The state won't confirm whether the patient was an employee of the DMV.
Credit Josh Rogers | NHPR

The state has identified the seventh person in New Hampshire who tested positive for the virus as an adult female resident of Rockingham County, according to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services sent Friday night.

Officials say that 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.

Anyone who was at the Manchester DMV on those days and times is urged to monitor themselves for symptoms of a fever or cough. If they develop those symptoms, they are urged to remain at home and contact their doctor.

State officials have not said whether the person was a DMV employee. Elizabeth Bielecki, director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, said DMV staff had been urged in recent days to step up regular cleaning procedures, including wiping down high-contact surfaces like counters and doorknobs.

The Manchester DMV was closed on Saturday for additional cleaning, but Bielecki said she expects all DMV offices to be open for normal hours starting Monday. 

But the news quickly had an impact in the city, at least in the short term. Manchester school officials announced Saturday that city schools will close for the next two weeks, a decision Superintendent John Goldhardt said was influenced in part by news of the local COVID-19 connection.

Click here for our coronovirus live blog for more on this story and the latest updates from around the state.

Still, things were mostly business as usual Saturday at the shopping complex that houses the DMV office. Mike and Amy Walters of Derry showed up at the DMV in Manchester ready to get new drivers licenses. Instead, they found paper signs hanging on the door saying the office was closed.

The Walters weren't aware the closure was COVID-19-related but said they weren't overly concerned.

"You know we are not a risk, which makes it a lot different, if we were 80," Mike Walters said.

The couple did, however, have a pack of disinfectant wipes with them: "to wipe anything that we touched," Amy Walters said.

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Just below the DMV office, Aki Wu works the grill in a Japanese restaurant. He said he learned from TV news that someone with COVID-19 spent hours in the building where he sells sushi. Wu said the coronavirus has already been making life hard for restaurants. 

"It's a little bit slowed down, so everybody gets worried," he said.

Almost everyone.

Dawn Jennerjohn of Bedford and her granddaughter Chloe were emerging from a filled-to-capacity dance class at Manchester Dance Studio, just a few doors down from the DMV.

"Our dance instructor just reassured us that she has a cleaning lady that comes in twice and day and cleans, and so we thought for sure it was going to be less people, but no," Jennerjohn said.

Chloe will have time to practice her dance steps this week. Bedford, like several other New Hampshire towns, has closed school due to COVID-19.

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