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

May 21, 2020

Credit Sarah Gibson | NHPR

As NHPR tracks the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Hampshire, we’ve been asking you to tell us about how it’s affecting you - 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. And the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services releases case numbers, hospitalizations, recovery numbers and other information daily.

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.

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

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 have transitioned to remote learning, and the governor has ordered everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Some businesses are starting to reopen, but with measures in place to increase social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus. 

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 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

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced in a press conference on May 29 that any resident of New Hampshire, regardless of whether they have a symptom of coronavirus, can get a test. Tests are available regardless of a person’s insurance status. 

Where do I get tested?

Testing sites operated by the state, cities, hospitals and urgent care centers are currently open across the state.  Here is a map of locations:

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. 

The city of Manchester has also announced that all residents who have symptoms or are in a high-risk group can take a free test, according to the city's Emergency Operations Center.

Those interested in testing should call Manchester's COVID-19 hotline at 603-668-1547, Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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. Gov. Chris 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 is relaxing the stay at home order?

On Friday, May 1, Gov. Chris Sununu announced a “Stay at Home 2.0” - his plan to relax some aspects of that order and re-open parts of the economy. The order was set to expire on May 31st, but Sununu announced on Friday, May 29, that "Stay at Home 2.0" would be extended by at least two weeks. 

Since then, he has relaxed other parts of the order. You can read about the changes here.

State health officials still say it’s best to stay home whenever possible in order to protect vulnerable populations. When you do go out, be sure to maintain at least 6 feet of social distance, use proper hand hygiene, and wear a mask if possible.

What are the rules for out-of-state visitors?

As part of his Stay at Home 2.0 guidelines, Gov. Chris Sununu said that golf courses and campgrounds cannot serve out-of-staters unless they are members.

New Hampshire is also asking those from out-of-state who will be traveling to and staying in New Hampshire for an extended period of time to self-quarantine for a two-week period.

What if we see a surge in coronavirus cases? Could the stay at home order tighten again?

Gov. Sununu said the state is stepping forward now but could always step back if necessary. He says he’s focused on balancing health and safety with the state’s economic needs.

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.

What should I do if I can’t make rent or a mortgage payment?

Gov. Chris Sununu issued emergency order No. 4 on March 17, outlining that “no owner of non-restricted property or restricted property may initiate eviction proceedings and no eviction order shall be issued or enforced during the State of Emergency.”

He modified his emergency order on April 3, to make it clear that if tenants and property owners can’t pay rent or mortgage during the pandemic, they will still have to pay in full when the state of emergency is lifted. 

The new order, however, says landlords may initiate eviction proceedings against tenants during the state of emergency who damage property or are a threat to the health and safety of their neighbors.

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. 

Now, that same individual receives an additional $600 weekly benefit, for up to $1027 a week.

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

How is the stay at-home order being enforced?

The N.H. Attorney General's office issued a memo on March 27, about the enforcement of New Hampshire's stay-at-home order.

The memo outlines that law enforcement has the authority to bring charges against a business or person who violates Gov. Chris Sununu's stay-at-home order. The primary objective of enforcing the order is to inform the public, and police are not encouraged to arrest or charge someone on their first violation.

Repeat violators of the order may be issued a written warning from law enforcement officials. If a person or business fails to comply after receiving a written warning, enforcement may escalate to criminal charges.

It isn’t clear how many businesses may be violating the governor’s orders, but some are. According to the New Hampshire Department of Justice, business and property owners in at least six towns — Bedford, Newport, Thornton, Loudon, Jackson and Londonderry — were issued written warnings by local officials.

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.

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