Health | New Hampshire Public Radio

Health

Brought to you in part by: Dartmouth-Hitchcock

After more than a year of hunkering down during the pandemic, many people who've been vaccinated for COVID-19 are feeling a little safer about stepping out. This is great for adults. But the vaccine isn't presently available to people under the age of 16 — children.

The exterior of Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover
Dan Tuohy, NHPR

When Gov. Chris Sununu announced New Hampshire’s mask mandate last November, he cited hospital capacity and staffing strain as key factors in his decision. As that same mandate is now lifted, federal hospital data paints a mixed portrait of the pandemic’s effects on the state’s hospitals: On some fronts things have improved, but on others they’ve actually worsened or stagnated.

A sign says "Vaccine Available," next to other signs pointing to "Vaccines"
Todd Bookman, NHPR

Some in New Hampshire’s disability community say the state needs to do more to ensure people with disabilities and their caregivers can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

A sign outside King Kone in Merrimack reads: "Dr Fauci Needs You / Wear A Mask"
Emily Quirk, NHPR

After scaling back contact tracing efforts last November amid surging cases, New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services says it has resumed investigating all new COVID-19 infections.

Community health workers prepare for a vaccine clinic next to a sign that says "Clinical observation 15 minutes after your vaccination" in English and Spanish
Casey McDermott, NHPR

Inside one of Nashua’s community COVID-19 vaccine clinics, before patients arrive, nurses, public health workers and first responders are suiting up in scrubs and protective masks, sorting through paperwork and assembling supplies to administer the shots.

A line of cars awaits at the Lebanon vaccination site
Courtesy of Barbara Pontier

Starting next week, New Hampshire will begin a large-scale effort to get more vaccines to people who are unable to get to fixed vaccine clinics — either because they lack transportation or have other medical conditions that prevent them from leaving home.

A sign says "Vaccine Available," next to other signs pointing to "Vaccines"
Todd Bookman, NHPR

Earlier this year, state leaders were eager to tout New Hampshire’s progress getting COVID-19 shots into the arms of its residents.

“Here, in New Hampshire, we continue to administer vaccines at a higher rate than most states,” Gov. Chris Sununu noted during a Jan. 14 press conference. “I think we're currently ranked about 12th on the CDC chart, in terms of administration.”

This excerpt from New Hampshire's vaccine distribution planning documents outlines the groups first in line to receive the vaccine.
NH.gov/COVID19

New Hampshire is set to receive its first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, and one local health care system says it could begin inoculating its frontline workers by Wednesday.

New Hampshire hospitals are seeing more COVID-19 patients than at any other point in the pandemic. As of Thursday morning, 248 confirmed COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide, according to the latest numbers from the New Hampshire Hospital Association. Another 39 patients suspected of having COVID-19, though not yet confirmed, were also admitted on top of that.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Many in New Hampshire are choosing to travel or get together with family this Thanksgiving, despite state and federal guidance to the contrary – and the demand for COVID-19 tests is increasing as a result.

That has meant longer wait times for a test, and for results, according to local health officials.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

As COVID-19 cases surge in New Hampshire, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan and Dr. Elizabeth Talbot, infectious disease specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask or face covering to stop potential exposure to the virus. 

The Exchange interviewed them Wednesday. Here are some highlights of that conversation. You can listen to the full discussion here. 

Wayne Marshall / Flickr creative commons

Childhood health advocates in Nashua pushed for a greater focus on lead poisoning at a virtual conference Wednesday.

The state is now requiring universal lead testing for kids aged one and two, as well as public health interventions and remediation by landlords at lower levels of exposure.

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There’s no level of lead exposure considered truly safe, and it can lead to developmental problems.

Liam James Doyle / NPR

Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force are briefing a Senate panel on the federal response to the pandemic.

Witnesses include Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

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CDC

There's been a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire over the last two weeks, but the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to the virus have remained flat.

How should we make sense of the current coronavirus numbers? NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Dr. Michael Calderwood, an infectious disease expert at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, about what trends we should be paying attention to.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR File Photo

A regional plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants also made the northeast healthier, by reducing air pollutants like mercury and sulfur dioxide.

But a new study focused on children found the benefits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, were even greater than previously thought – preventing hundreds of childhood illnesses and saving an additional hundreds of millions of dollars.

The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Reusable shopping bags will be allowed again at New Hampshire grocery stores, after Gov. Chris Sununu lifted the state’s COVID-19 ban on reusable bags Monday.

PEXELS

Governor Chris Sununu has signed a bill that makes permanent some parts of the expanded telehealth system put in place for COVID-19.

The bill requires equal insurance coverage for medical visits done remotely and in person, including for Medicaid users.

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It also adds parameters for telehealth to state law, including spelling out where and how treatment can be given and received. 

CDC.gov

New Hampshire is reporting its first case of mosquito-borne illness for 2020. A Loudon resident was hospitalized and is now recovering from Jamestown Canyon Virus.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Hospitals in New Hampshire say without more money from the state to offset huge losses from responding to the coronavirus they could be in serious financial trouble within the next few months.

Steve Ahnen with the New Hampshire Hospital Association told the Legislative Advisory Board of the Governor’s Office For Emergency Relief and Recovery on Wednesday that hospitals in the state have lost more than $530 million in revenue since March.

NHPR File Photo

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has reached a $120,000 settlement with a former employee over allegations she was retaliated against for publicly criticizing the state's child protective services.

CDC

Gyms, bowling alleys and museums are just a few of the many industries that reopened this week as Gov. Chris Sununu continues lifting restrictions on businesses in New Hampshire. But how widespread is COVID-19 still in New Hampshire?

Annie Ropeik screenshot / NHPR

The state Senate votes Tuesday on a bill that would make permanent much of the telehealth system that has emerged in New Hampshire during the pandemic.

Ali Oshinskie for NHPR

New Hampshire is joining with every other state in the country in an effort to expand an already massive lawsuit against more than two dozen generic drug manufacturers

photo of nursing home sign
Casey McDermott / NHPR

The coronavirus has infected residents in nearly a quarter of all nursing homes in New Hampshire since the beginning of the outbreak, according to newly released data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The new numbers, which only account for the state’s 74 nursing homes and not other types of long-term care facilities, also show many nursing homes are still struggling to acquire enough PPE.

The new state website where people can sign up for coronavirus tests got off to a rocky start today. Some visitors to the online portal Thursday morning found the form already filled in – with someone else’s personal info.

Courtesy Sandra Gagnon

In New Hampshire, nowhere has the coronavirus been more deadly than at long-term care facilitiesNewly released data shows a staggering three-quarters of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have happened at nursing homes or similar congregate living centers.

To most people, those deaths have been anonymous — just one of the many statistics listed off by state officials at each press conference. NHPR’s Jason Moon reports on the human story behind one of those numbers: a woman named Simonne Gagnon.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A judge sided with plaintiffs Thursday in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the ACLU-NH against the state of New Hampshire.

ConvenientMD has been operating a drive-through testing site at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth since early April.
Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The number of new coronavirus tests being processed each day in New Hampshire has remained relatively flat for about a month, according to an analysis by NHPR. This comes even as state health officials say they want to see more testing here.

Courtesy Cristin Zaimes

For some healthcare providers in New Hampshire, the COVID-19 pandemic has jump-started a move to something they’ve wanted for years: more telemedicine. 

But the state's insurance system has been slow to catch up - and it's still unclear if it can last. 

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