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NH, Vermont see jump in coronavirus cases over the weekend

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Concord Monitor
Published: 10/5/2020 5:02:38 PM
Modified: 10/5/2020 5:15:33 PM

CONCORD — The recent slow rise in new COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire and Vermont became noticeably faster over the weekend.

New Hamsphire reported 218 new cases from Friday through Sunday, the most the Granite State has seen in three consecutive days since June 4-6, four months ago.

The spike appears to have been driven largely by cases in the southern tier and at UNH. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard says the town of Durham, for example, has an active caseload of 151 per 100,000 people, Nashua has 86 and Manchester 60, compared to 19 active cases per 100,000 people in Concord.

Durham’s results may be higher because the large-scale testing at UNH has not yet been fully integrated into the state’s reporting.

Nashua is currently the only place in the state where the school system is classified as having “substantial” community-level transmission of the disease, the highest of three categories, because of the number of cases over the past two weeks. Most of the state, including Merrimack County, is classified as having “minimal” transmission, while Hillsborough County and Stafford County are “moderate.”

The new cases reported over the weekend raised the two-week average in New Hampshire to 44, the highest in 3½ months.

In Vermont, a total of 26 migrant workers at a large apple orchard tested positive for the coronavirus, state officials said Monday, leading to the biggest one-day increase in cases since June 3 in a state that has consistently had one of the nation’s lowest infection rates.

The apple pickers at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham arrived in Vermont on Sept. 14 and were in a 14-day quarantine when the Health Department learned last week that one of them had tested positive, officials said.

The workers who tested positive are in the country legally on visas given to temporary farm workers, officials said. They did not say where the 26 infected workers were from, but state Deputy Agriculture Secretary Alyson Eastman noted that many foreign apple pickers in Vermont are from Jamaica. They had flown into New York’s Kennedy Airport and took a bus together to Vermont, she said.

The Health Department offered testing to all the workers over the weekend, leading to the latest results, and contact tracing was underway, said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

The infected workers were living together and have been isolated, officials said.

“At this time, the outbreak is contained to the farm, and I want to emphasize there is no known risk to the public,” Levine said at a news briefing. “It is also safe to eat apples and other products that were grown or produced by the orchards.”

People who have been apple picking in the last several weeks or who visited the farm stand are not at risk, either, he said.

The farm owner is complying with all COVID-19 health recommendations and quickly moved to put measures in place to keep anyone who may have been contagious from coming into contact with other workers, Levine said.

The cases linked to the orchard made up a majority of the 33 new confirmed cases the state reported Monday, for a total of 1,817 total cases since the pandemic began. The total of number of deaths from COVID-19 in Vermont has remained at 58 for over two months.

Leahy tested for virus

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy was being tested for COVID-19 on Monday after attending a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last week.

Two Republican members of the committee — Sens. Mike Hill, of Utah, and Thom Tillis, or North Carolina — have tested positive.

David Carle, a spokesman for Leahy, a Democrat, said the senator went to the Capitol on Monday morning to get tested. He has no symptoms, Carle said.

Burlington eyes allowing fire pits

Elected officials in Vermont’s largest city are considering a resolution to allow backyard fire pits in Burlington in what supporters say would be a good way to physically distance and socialize during the pandemic.

The resolution would create a permitting process for fire pits, NECN reported.

“I’m calling them COVID fires,” said city councilor Joan Shannon, a Democrat who represents the city’s south district.

The resolution would allow backyard burning of clean, dry firewood in approved receptacles at least for a trial period of November through April.

Shannon and two other city councilors believe it would improve residents’ mental health if they could socialize more during the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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