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

Jan 15, 2021

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.

To skip ahead to a specific question, click on the item in the list below.

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 is occurring in all New Hampshire counties, according to state health officials. “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. Currently, the state Department of Health and Human Services rates all New Hampshire counties as having “substantial” community level of transmission.

What’s the best way to keep up with the spread of COVID 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 information is available in multiple languages, along with videos in American Sign Language.

The state also has a COVID-19 schools dashboard for K-12 schools and colleges.

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

Click here to see them.

Read more about the current situation in New Hampshire here on our live blog.

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 talks, 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 eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

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 the 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.

New Hampshire has a statewide mask mandate in place, requiring everyone over the age of five to wear a mask in all indoor and outdoor public spaces when they cannot stay six feet apart from others. The CDC also recommends wearing cloth face coverings.

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.
o 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.

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.

Both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Rapid Antigen Testing are available to test current COVID-19 cases in the Granite State.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction tests, scan samples for genetic material, while antigen tests are used to detect certain proteins on the surface of the virus.

Where do I get tested?

New Hampshire opened community-based testing sites in mid-April 2020 and released the online registration portal in May. Now, hospitals across the state are being trained to operate as community-based testing sites.

The state updated its map of PCR testing sites in November.

The state also has a map of sites where rapid antigen tests are offered for patients with symptoms of COVID-19.

How long will it take to receive my results?

The time it takes to receive test results can vary depending on the type of test and which site collects your nasal swab.

While PCR tests can take days for results to come back, antigen tests are generally available within 15 minutes.

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.

How does the coronavirus vaccine work?

COVID-19 vaccines cause the body to develop immunity to the coronavirus without giving you the disease. Receiving the coronavirus vaccine will not give you COVID-19 or make you test positive for the virus. Find the CDC’s answers to some common questions here and information about possible side effects of the vaccines here

Public health experts are still studying the new COVID-19 variant recently detected in the United Kingdom, but according to the CDC, there is not yet any evidence that suggests the approved vaccines are any less effective against the new strain. At a press conference on Jan. 14, state health officials said emerging COVID-19 variants have not yet been detected in New Hampshire.

When will I be able to get the coronavirus vaccine? How do I know which category I belong to?

If you fall into a high risk group, you could get the vaccine in the coming months. New Hampshire health officials estimate the general public could begin getting vaccinated in the spring.

According the state’s draft vaccination plan, these are the phases for New Hampshire’s vaccine distribution:

  • Phase 1A (vaccine administration to this group has begun): health care workers, first responders and people associated with long-term care settings
  • Phase 1B (Jan. - March): people with significant medical conditions that leave them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, all adults over the age of 65, staff and residents of IDD facilities, corrections officers and prison staff
  • Phase 2A (March - May): teachers, other school and childcare staff
  • Phase 2B (March - May): adults between 50 - 64 years old 
  • Phase 3A (May and beyond): those under the age of 50 who have moderate risk factors related to COVID-19
  • Phase 3B (May and beyond): everyone who has not already been vaccinated

Learn more about the coronavirus vaccine in New Hampshire here.

How can I register to receive the coronavirus vaccine when I am eligible?

Starting Jan. 22, those in group 1b can register for a vaccine at www.vaccines.nh.gov,  and administration to that group will begin Jan.26. The public can also visit the site to find out where they fit in the vaccination timeline.

Mobile vaccination clinics will begin reaching out to disproportionately impacted communities, mainly in Manchester and Nashua, starting later this month.

If I tested positive for COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?

If you’ve been infected with COVID-19 in the past, it looks safe to get a vaccine. About 5% to 10% of volunteers in Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials were already infected with the coronavirus. But because there are not many studies looking into this yet, the CDC has not yet released vaccination recommendations for people who have already had COVID-19. 

How fast is New Hampshire vaccinating its residents? Who has been vaccinated so far?

We’re currently in “phase 1a” of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes people considered the most at risk for COVID-19: health care workers, first responders, and people associated with long-term care settings. 

Those in group 1b can register for a vaccine at www.vaccines.nh.gov, and administration to that group will begin Jan.26.

To view the data on vaccine distribution in New Hampshire, visit our coronavirus tracker.

What restrictions are in place in New Hampshire to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

The governor’s office has released detailed guidance specific to different industries, activities and venues in the state, along with universal guidelines for all New Hampshire employers and employees.

For example, retail stores must limit indoor capacity to 50% and restaurants are collecting their customers’ contact information to aid in contact tracing efforts.

Some restrictions, like a 2-week closure of hockey rinks in October, are temporary measures in response to outbreaks.

In November, 2020, Gov. Chris Sununu enacted a statewide mask ordinance

What is the penalty for violating New Hampshire’s mask mandate or other safety measures?

Gov. Chris Sununu issued an emergency order on Aug. 13, 2020 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.”

Gov. Chris Sununu enacted a statewide mask ordinance in November, as a way of fighting the spread of COVID-19.

On January 8, 2021, the New Hampshire Attorney General's office released new recommendations for grocery stores and retailers on encouraging mask wearing among customers. The New Hampshire Department of Justice recommends calling local law enforcement if a customer refuses to wear a mask without a reason listed as an exception in the emergency order.

 Check out NHPR’s map to see which communities have local ordinances that require mask wearing. Local ordinances supersede the statewide mandate and penalties may be in place where applicable.

What are New Hampshire’s travel restrictions?

People coming into New Hampshire from outside of New England must complete a 14-day quarantine, or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative COVID-19 test result. This guidance applies to both visitors to New Hampshire and residents returning to the state from nonessential travel.

Some other states in New England have different or stricter guidelines, and it’s worth checking those states’ guidelines when planning travel.

What is the situation with New Hampshire’s schools?

For the 2020-2021 school year, schools reopened with a mix of remote, in person and hybrid models. The state offers guidance on schools transitioning between models, based on the level of COVID-19 in their communities, as well as other guidance and a dashboard of current cases in schools.

What about long-term care facilities? Do they allow visitors?

Long-term care facilities have been the sites of multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in New Hampshire. The state has reopening and visitation guidance, allowing residents at some facilities to interact with visitors, based on the status of outbreaks and county transmission levels. The state offers other resources related to long-term care 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.
https://www.211nh.org/search/ has a range of resources, from housing to legal help.
• The state’s Community Action Programs can help with housing concerns, along with New Hampshire Legal Aid.
• 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