Your FAQs Answered: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire | New Hampshire Public Radio

Your FAQs Answered: What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In New Hampshire

Sep 19, 2020

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

As NHPR tracks the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Hampshire, we’ve been asking you to tell us how your life is changing because of coronavirus - and we’ve welcomed your questions

Here, we answer some of your questions, and share other important information about the coronavirus and how to stay safe.

Note: Bookmark this page - it will be updated.

What is the novel coronavirus and COVID-19?

Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that are common in both humans and animals. The name comes from the shape of the virus — when looked at under a microscope, the virus resembles the sun and its corona.

Click here for more coronavirus coverage from NPR and NHPR.

This new coronavirus has been officially named “SARS-CoV-2.” The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019,” abbreviated as “COVID-19”.

How widespread is the coronavirus in New Hampshire?

Community-based transmission of COVID-19 has been identified in all New Hampshire counties. “Community transmission” or “community spread” means people have been infected with the virus and have no identified risk factors, such as travel to domestic or international locations, or close contact with a person with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. 

Where is it in New Hampshire?

You can track how the pandemic is spreading globally and in New Hampshire with this map and list from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. These CDC numbers are updated daily.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services releases case numbers, hospitalizations, recovery numbers and other information daily on its COVID-19 summary dashboard.

The state also launched its COVID-19 schools dashboard for K-12 schools and colleges. Jake Leon, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, says a case will show up on the dashboard if a student has any on campus activity. That includes going to class, band practice or sports practice - or, for college students, the student union.

Leon says in the case of colleges, students will be listed on the state’s school dashboard and the state’s map of cases per each town. But if a student is fully remote and does not go to the school's campus on any occasion, they would not be listed on the school dashboard.

NHPR has been compiling data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services into a series of interactive graphics below, which we update every time new information becomes available.

Click here to see them.

Read more about the current situation in New Hampshire here.

How is the coronavirus spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from close person-to-person contact (within about 6 feet). It spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Click here to learn about contact tracing in New Hampshire. 

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, or bluish lips or face, seek medical attention immediately.

There is limited information regarding risk factors. However, based on the information that is currently available, it is thought that adults aged 65 and older and those with serious underlying medical conditions are at highest risk. 

How can I avoid getting COVID-19?

The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to this virus. This means avoiding close contact with people who are sick and putting distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.

In New Hampshire, schools transitioned to remote learning through the end of the school year, and the governor ordered everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Sununu’s 'Stay at Home' order expired on June 15, along with the cap on gatherings of more than ten people. Sununu and public health officials in the state still recommend wearing a face mask and social distancing when out.

To avoid getting sick, you should also: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public places where it is difficult to maintain 6 feet of social distance, like at the grocery store or pharmacy, especially in places with widespread transmission.

What disinfectant works against COVID-19?

The EPA has released a list of disinfectants that are “qualified” to use against the coronavirus.  The CDC also offers guidelines on how to both clean and disinfect your home. 

Cleaning with bleach kills the coronavirus. But public health officials also say there is value in regular cleaning with ordinary household cleaning products to reduce the spread of infection.

What are your questions about coronavirus in New Hampshire? We want to hear from you - click this link to take our brief survey.

What should I do if I think I have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you are feeling sick and think you have symptoms of COVID-19, the most important thing you can do is stay home. Call your doctor before seeking medical care or testing in person. They will help you determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. 

If you live in New Hampshire and do not have a primary care physician, you can call 211 for guidance.

How can I get tested for COVID-19?

Anyone who is a resident of New Hampshire can be tested, even without a referral from a doctor. Residents can reserve tests through the state’s website, nh.gov/covid19, or by calling the COVID-19 Coordinating Test Office, which is run by DHHS. The phone number is 603-271-5980.

That office can help coordinate transportation and possibly send a visiting nurse if needed for at-home testing.

Tests are available regardless of a person’s insurance status. 

Where do I get tested?

New Hampshire opened community-based testing sites in mid-April and released the online registration portal in May. Now, hospitals across the state are being trained to operate as community-based testing sites.

The current state testing sites will be open for as long as needed, as the situation is fluid.

Here is a full map of testing locations across New Hampshire:

How long will it take to receive my results?

The time it takes to receive test results can vary on what site collects your nasal swab. DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette said in an August 11 news conference that state-run sites are turning around tests within 48 hours.

Commercial sites can vary in time as the swabs are sent to commercial laboratories. 

Will I need to pay for COVID-19 testing?

Per the New Hampshire Insurance Department, health insurance companies must provide coverage of the initial health care provider visit and FDA-authorized COVID-19 testing for those who meet the CDC criteria for testing, as determined by your healthcare provider. 

For those who don’t have insurance, the state of New Hampshire and ConvenientMD have reached an agreement for free testing at their locations. 

There is currently no limit or cap on the number of times an individual can be tested for COVID-19 in New Hampshire. People should check with their insurance company regarding coverage for repeat testing.

What is the coronavirus test like?

The New Hampshire Joint Information Center confirmed to NHPR that the only testing for current COVID-19 cases in the Granite State are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of the body’s immune response, or antibodies. Health care workers who proctor the test might swab the back of the throat, take a saliva sample or collect a liquid sample from the lower respiratory tract.

Once the swab arrives at a lab, researchers extract the virus' genome and amplify certain regions of the genome, which gives researchers a large sample that they can then compare to COVID-19. 

How does the antibody test work and what is it?

Antibodies are proteins your body produces to fight infections. The antibody test is a blood test that can reveal whether someone might have had the coronavirus without being diagnosed. 

The test is done by giving some blood through a finger prick. However, even those tests that meet the government's informal standard may produce many false answers and provide false assurances.

ClearChoiceMD is currently offering antibody testing at nine centers in the state. Sununu said that most insurance carriers will cover testing, but the state has agreed to pay for the testing for those who aren’t covered. 

Antibody tests are a way of telling whether you've ever had COVID-19, even if you never developed symptoms to the virus. A test isn’t useful until two weeks after the virus has left your system. 

What is open, now that the state has relaxed the stay at home order?

At 11:59 p.m. on June 15, Sununu’s ‘Stay at Home’ order expired, along with the cap on gatherings of more than ten people.

Most businesses and entities are now able to reopen, though some are choosing to stay closed. Those that are open are required to follow industry-specific guidance that was crafted, in part, by the governor’s Reopening Task Force.

In an effort to avoid a surge of cases and limit super-spreader events, Sununu said in his August 11 news conference that the state liquor enforcement division will be increasing their presence to ensure that all restaurants and bars in the state are following New Hampshire’s guidance documents.

All restaurant and bar attendees must be sitting at their assigned tables, and not standing or walking around.

NHPR’S updated What’s Open (And What’s Not Open) In New Hampshire has specific information on everything from courts to petting zoos. 

Does New Hampshire have a statewide mask mandate?

New Hampshire is the only state in the region without a statewide mask mandate in place, but more towns around the state are starting to institute their own mask mandates. Check out NHPR’s map to see what is required where.

People attending gatherings of more than 100 people in the state are required to wear a mask, Gov. Chris Sununu announced in his August 11 news conference. If participants do not meet the requirement, organizers will be subject to a penalty that can be enforced by local or state police if necessary. 

What is the penalty for violating an emergency order, rule or regulation?

Gov. Chris Sununu issued emergency order No. 65 on Aug. 13 that says “any business, organization, entity, property owner, facility owner, organizer, or individual that recklessly violates any Emergency Order, rule, or regulation issued under the State of Emergency shall be subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation or day that a violation continues.”

The order also outlines a potential fine of $1,000 a day for failure to cooperate in an investigation, failure to cease operations upon notification and failure to comply with instructions after notification of a positive COVID-19 test result.  

The order also states that in addition to seeking a civil penalty, the attorney general can also negotiate and settle with “such suspected violators” without court action.   

How is the statewide mandate of masks in gatherings of more than 100 people being enforced?

The Division of Public Health will be in charge of taking necessary enforcement actions of violations, including handing out the fines and shutting down an event, activity, business, entity, organization, facility or property if necessary. 

The DPH can work with the local or state police if necessary. A spokesperson from the state’s Joint Information Center said that local law enforcement could notify DPH of a potential violation. The DPH can determine what the necessary enforcement would be, and would work with the Attorney General’s office if the state seeks a civil penalty or enforcement action. 

Can I go visit my loved one in a long-term care facility?

On August 13, the state announced an updated visitation guide on allowing interaction with visitors. Each facility's visitiation plan will be dictated by phases of reopening:

  • Phase 0: Facilities in current or recent (within 14 days of) outbreak status. Compassionate care only

  • Phase 1: Facilities in counties with a prevalence of active COVID-19 cases of 50 cases per 100,000 population or fewer and are not in outbreak. Compassionate care and outdoor visitation allowed.

  • Phase 2: Facilities who have met criteria for Phase I and have been operating successfully in Phase I for at least 14 days. Compassionate care, limited indoor and outdoor visition allowed.

  • Phase 3: Facilities in counties with a prevalence of active COVID-19 cases of 10 cases per 100,000 population or fewer and have been operating successfully in Phase II for at least 14 days. Visitors allowed with social distancing and masks.

For a full breakdown, see the powerpoint slides from the presentation here

What are the rules for out-of-state visitors?
In a July 2 press conference, Sununu announced that residents from New England states (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island) may stay at New Hampshire hotels and lodgings without a 14-day quarantine requirement.

That requirement is still in effect for residents from states outside of New England. When checking in at hotels and other lodging, those visitors must “self attest” that they’ve quarantined at home and taken steps to prevent potential transmission, including social distancing and wearing masks.  You can read the "Safer at Home" guidance for hotels here

Can I travel outside of New Hampshire?
Granite Staters are allowed to freely travel to other New England states without being required to complete a 14-day quarantine upon return. People who travel outside of New England must quarantine upon their return to New Hampshire.

What do I need to know before I go out?

The CDC put together a document breaking down certain daily activities and things to take into account. The more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Here are some questions the CDC suggest you think about to be prepared:

  • How many people will you interact with?
  • Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others? Will you be outdoors or indoors?
  • What’s the length of time that you will be interacting with people?

The CDC recommends bringing a cloth face mask, tissues and hand sanitizer along whenever you go out.

What if I’m over 65?

In emergency order No. 52,  issued on June 15, Sununu stated, “New Hampshire citizens who are over the age of 65 and who have underlying health conditions that place them at high risk for COVID-19 are strongly advised to stay home or in their places of residence as much as possible.”

The order went on to state that such individuals should only leave home for essential needs.

What if we see a surge in coronavirus cases? Could the stay-at-home order return to New Hampshire?

While the governor outlined plans to return to a sense of normalcy, he still cautioned that people need to remain vigilant about protective measures and said New Hampshire is likely to see a rise in COVID-19 cases in the months ahead.

Will we be returning to school in the fall?

Sununu announced New Hampshire’s back-to-school guidance on July 14, which allows schools to reopen this fall.

School officials will be able to set their own rules and plans for how they will reopen. Professional development, class size, classroom health screening, and mask guidance are part of what the governor describes as a "flexible" and "dynamic" document that provides guidance for districts to reopen or operate under hybrid learning models.

Read here:

In a August 13 news conference, Sununu released a five-step plan to expect if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.

He also released the steps for when a positive case is reported:

  • Public Health officials contact individual and notify the school

  • School notifies community

  • Person isolates, along with close contacts identified by public health

Can my pet get the coronavirus?

There have been cases of animals contracting the disease. A tiger in New York City was the first animal to test positive in the U.S and the CDC has confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pet cats. 

The CDC says the risk of COVID-19 spreading to people through pets is low.  It has a working set of guidelines on protecting animals. More specific instructions were put out by the USDA: 

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

If you are infected with COVID-19, the CDC recommends you limit contact with your pets.

Am I going to be evicted? I haven’t paid rent in months. 

In a June 11 press conference, Sununu announced that effective July 1, the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures will be lifted. Sununu said the state will give tenants 30 days — rather than the seven typically allowed — to vacate a home after an eviction. 

The relaxed eviction guidelines are for tenants with unpaid rent between March 17th and June 11.

Using money from the CARES Act, the state is launching a $35 million Housing Relief Fund targeted to renters, which will support one-time grants for households that have lost income or otherwise incurred extra expenses due to COVID-19.  It also includes a short-term rental assistance program. Sununu said he hopes this offers an “off-ramp” to renters as the state lifts the moratorium on evictions that went into effect early on in New Hampshire’s COVID-19 crisis.

How do I apply for unemployment?

Anyone who has seen a reduction in hours or job loss as a result of the pandemic, including those who are self-employed or are contractors, are eligible for unemployment.

File in the state you work in. So, if you live outside of New Hampshire, but work in New Hampshire, file with the New Hampshire Employment Security Office.

Prior to the pandemic, the maximum weekly benefit amount was $427 a week, for those who earned up to $41,400 in their four-quarter base period, or above. 

Sununu announced in his Aug. 25 news conference that FEMA has approved the state’s application for the “Lost Wages Assistance Program,” part of the president’s executive order earlier in early August.

The minimum weekly unemployment benefit will be raised to $100 to ensure out-of-work residents can get the new $300 benefit from the “Lost Wages” program, going back to Aug. 1. Sununu added that CAP agencies are launching a new, streamlined application process to help people apply for housing relief.

For more information or to apply for unemployment, go here. 

Where can I turn for help?

  • The state of New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services has a hotline for COVID-19  exposure and health advice. Dial 211. 
  • Also visit https://www.nh.gov/covid19/ for more information. 
  • You can also dial into the CDC hotline, 800-CDC-INFO, for ways to protect yourself and symptoms of the coronavirus. 
  •  For travel advisories and advice for those trapped abroad, call the state department at 888-407-4747. 
  • The U.S. Small Business Admin Disaster Relief Loans will help with disaster relief loan application info for businesses, or call (603) 225-1400. 
  • For businesses needing emergency assistance, call (603) 271-0146 or visit the Rapid Response Program for Businesses
  • The Public Health Support for Layoffs will help employees who need health care, medical assistance, childcare, food stamps after layoffs. Also, call (603) 271-9700. 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
  • You can also get in contact with any mental health resources in the state through the NAMI Hotline by calling 1-800-242-6264.
  • For veterans in NH having symptoms and wondering what to do next, the VAMC Hotline for Symptoms can help. Call (603) 624-4366 ext 3199.
  • The National Veteran Crisis Line can also help at 1-800-273-8255.
  • If you are due to appear in court or have questions about court, call 1-855-212-1234.
  • For elderly services, visit the NH AARP website.
  • The Disability Rights Center, for legal resources for disability related concerns, can be reached at (603) 228-0432.
  • If you have any questions about your state taxes, go to the NH Department of Revenue Administration website or call (603) 230-5000.

Ask a question:

Sources:

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) How to Protect Yourself and Others

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) What To Do if You Are Sick

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Travel FAQs

CDC COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country

NH DHHS Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

NH DHHS Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Self-Quarantine Guide 

NH DHHS Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Self-Observation Guide 

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu Emergency Orders - 2020