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COVID-19 news of the day: Five more deaths in NH; flex site set in Dartmouth gym

  • Members of the New Hampshire National Guard, along with Hanover Fire Chief Martin McMillan, second from left, measure space in West Gym as they prepare to convert it into a “clinical flex area” at the Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, N.H., on April 1, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 4/8/2020 4:30:04 PM
Modified: 4/9/2020 1:05:55 PM

New Hampshire tallied five more deaths from COVID-19, Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 18.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the five Granite Staters we lost to COVID-19 today. Our toughest days are likely still ahead,” Sununu said in a tweet.

The deaths to date include four associated with Hanover Hill Health Care Center in Manchester; five associated with the Huntington at Nashua; and one with Crotched Mountain in Greenfield.

While other facilities in the state have staff or residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, state officials said they are naming facilities only when there is an outbreak.

New Hampshire announced 41 new positive tests for a total of 788. So far 118 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire is going to put up signs urging people coming from out of state to quarantine for 14 days, Sununu said.

Wednesday’s increase in cases is “below our high watermark” of daily increases of more than 80 from a few days ago, Sununu said. But it’s too soon to say if this is a trend.

He said he couldn’t be sure where the state is in terms of its surge and that he would soon be making public the models state officials are using to predict demands on the health system.

Stay-at-home order

Sununu said he would make a decision about whether to extend the stay at home order and other social distancing measures about two weeks before the current end date of May 4. He said he’s likely to take a look at each measure individually. Broadly, he said, social distancing in some forms would have to continue for a “couple of months into the summer” in order to prevent a future spike in COVID cases.

“We just need to be careful with the timing,” he said.

Vermont peak expectedwithin weeks

Vermont officials said they expect the state will hit its peak number of COVID-19 cases in the next two or three weeks but that social distancing and “stay home” orders seem to have been holding the spread of the new coronavirus to lower levels than initially feared.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott said the state will discuss modeling projections on Friday that indicate “we are tracking at a rate lower than originally projected, showing that what we are doing is working.”

“We can’t lift our foot off the gas, because that can change in an instant,” he cautioned.

Scott also indicated he plans to extend his emergency order that closed non-essential businesses in the coming days.

Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Vermont had 30 new positive tests, for a total of 605 cases, though 120 of them involve residents or staff at two nursing homes in Burlington. The statewide death toll remained flat, at 23, he said. Less than 10% of the tests in Vermont have come back positive.

“The percent of positive tests and the number of positive tests each day has really been at a very stable level for quite a while now,” Levine said. “We really do believe that correlates very well with all of the measures that have been taken in the state.”

Like Scott, Levine said continued social distancing, hand washing and staying at home remain critical to preventing the virus from spreading.

With hundreds of suddenly jobless people expressing frustration that they can’t get through to make unemployment claims, Scott said Vermont Department of Labor officials are working to improve the process, which currently relies on a 30-year-old mainframe computer system.

“We know we need to do better,” Scott said, saying he wants to make sure people get the “economic relief that they need.”

Prison takes stepsto control spread

With an inmate at the Northwest Correctional Facility in Swanton, Vt., having tested positive for the virus, all inmates and staff at the prison will be tested, officials said Wednesday.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the prison is under full lockdown, and staff members throughout the corrections system are required to wear masks in jails and prisons.

Smith said the statewide inmate count has declined from 1,671 last month to 1,435 on Wednesday as corrections officials take steps to reduce the density of the prison population.

At the same news conference, Education Secretary Dan French said state officials have not waived graduation requirements, and will make a decision by May 8 as to whether formal high school graduation ceremonies can be held in June.

Alternate siteat Dartmouth gym

Public health officials in the Upper Valley, working with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire National Guard and Dartmouth College, are moving forward with a 125-bed “alternative care site” at West Gym on the Dartmouth College campus.

One of more than a dozen “flex care” facilities being set up around the state, the site would be used to “house patients who might still require hospitalization, but only require a limited amount of care, reserving fixed hospital space for those in more critical need” if a surge of COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the Upper Valley, organizers said in a news release on Wednesday.

The release noted that “the need for increased medical surge capacity is not currently present in our region,” but equipment will begin arriving on Friday in preparation. West Gym is in the larger Alumni Gymnasium building.

Vt. delegation to takecalls on pandemic

U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will hold a telephone town hall on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday at 5 p.m..

Residents can ask questions about the federal stimulus package and learn about resources available to help struggling businesses. Republican Gov. Phil Scott is also expected to join them on the call.

To hear the town hall, dial 1-888-480-3635 at the time of the meeting.

Clara Martin staffshopping for patients

Case managers with the Randolph-based Clara Martin Center, which provides substance use and mental health care, are grocery shopping for high-risk clients and delivering medication during the pandemic.

Treatment with therapists and groups has continued by phone and through Zoom conferencing. About 85% of the organization’s staff is now working from home, Clara Martin officials said.

Staff are working with Gifford Medical Center and area law enforcement to provide mental health assessments via telehealth when necessary.

Correction

New Hampshire reported  41 new positive test results for COVID-19 on Wednesday, br inging the statewide total to 788. An earlier version of this story overstated the total number of positive cases diagnosed by then.

 

 




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