COVID-19: Claremont, Randolph schools report cases; Vermont hospitalizations hit new high

Published: 1/11/2021 8:54:39 PM
Modified: 1/11/2021 9:05:29 PM

CLAREMONT — The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced another 711 new COVID-19 cases across the state, including 32 new cases in Sullivan County and 17 in Grafton County.

Officials at SAU 6 late on Monday said they had learned of a confirmed case at Claremont Middle School and were working on contact tracing for staff and student who had been exposed to the person involved.

Claremont schools are in remote learning mode this week because of the spread of the virus in the city.

Sullivan County now has 203 cases, including 99 in Claremont, 35 in Newport and 22 in Charlestown.

By comparison, Grafton County, which with a population of almost 90,000 is twice as large as Sullivan County, has 192 cases, including 44 in Hanover and Lebanon combined. DHHS said the state currently has a PCR test positivity rate of 8.3%.

More than 51,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, and a total of 869 people have died, with no new deaths announced Monday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 610 new cases per day on Dec. 27 to 736 new cases per day on Sunday.

Vermont hospitalizations hit new high

Vermont has 47 people hospitalized for COVID-19, the highest number since the pandemic started in March, according to Department of Health data as of Monday.

That number includes 10 people in the ICU. Six more people are hospitalized “under investigation” of COVID-19, meaning they are waiting on test results or confirmation they have the disease.

The hospitalization record comes amid rising case count averages in the post-holiday period. The state reported 109 cases Monday, a decline from daily totals above 200 late last week, but the seven-day average is still high compared to a few weeks ago.

But it’s unclear who, exactly, is in the hospital now for COVID-19. The state doesn’t release daily data on the location or demographics of hospitalized patients.

Cumulative data since the start of the pandemic shows that older Vermonters are more likely to be hospitalized for the disease, in line with national trends.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock employees continue to receive vaccinations

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center had administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to about 4,500 providers and other health-care workers as of the end of Friday, a spokeswoman for the Lebanon-based medical center said.

All told, 6,283 doses had been administered throughout the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system, going to front-line clinical staff and other employees who come in contact with patients.

“We’re continuing to only vaccinate those with direct patient contact under Phase 1A, as defined by the state of New Hampshire and the Centers for Disease Control,” D-H spokeswoman Audra Burns said via email on Monday.

Phase 1A also includes first responders and older adults in residential care settings.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s website advises patients, “Note, we are not scheduling appointments for the vaccine at this time … Please, avoid calling your provider’s office directly for information about the vaccine.”

D-H said it “is working closely with New Hampshire and Vermont public health officials on distribution plans” for the vaccine.

COVID-19 case confirmed at Randolph Middle School

School officials in the Orange Southwest School District said they learned of a positive COVID-19 test involving someone at the Randolph Union Middle School Sunday evening.

The school response team did the required contact tracing, involving six people considered close contacts and two other potential close contacts, who are now all in quarantine, according to a notice to the school community from Orange Southwest Superintendent Layne Millington. However, potential exposure was considered “very low” and only was a factor last Thursday, the notice said.

As a result, the school was cleared for normal operation on Monday, with no affect on athletics, Millington wrote.

New Hampshire House to holdhybrid public hearings on bills

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House plans to hold “hybrid” public hearings on bills while the Statehouse remains closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Speaker Sherm Packard said Monday.

Packard, R-Londonderry, told business leaders that lawmakers will attend the hearings in-person while all public testimony will be done by phone or video. Lawmakers who do not wish to attend in person also can join remotely, he said during an online discussion with other legislative leaders organized by the Business and Industry Association.

“We just had the machines delivered today that are going into the committee rooms that will clean the air five times per hour,” he said. “We hope to at some point to get back to doing things in person again.”

The Senate held its first online public hearings Monday. Sen. Donna Soucy, the Senate minority leader, said nearly 60 people attended.

“We had more people participating, at least tuning in, than ever before,” said Soucy, D-Manchester. “Doing things virtually has opened up a lot of opportunity, particularly for business people who would find it difficult to drop things in the middle of day, drive to Concord have to wait sometimes for hours to testimony when the hearing before went too long.”

The 24-member Senate also met in an online session last week, but House Republican leaders have resisted that idea. Instead, the 400-member House convened from their cars Wednesday in a parking lot at the University of New Hampshire.

Groups file home health care lawsuit against New Hampshire officials

New Hampshire’s failure to provide home health care services to qualifying elderly and disabled people puts them at risk of ending up in nursing homes that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed against state health officials Monday.

The lawsuit was filed by New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Disability Rights Center-New Hampshire, AARP Foundation and the Nixon Peabody law office on behalf of four people enrolled in a Medicaid waiver program, called “Choices for Independence,” meant to help participants stay in their homes.

“When CFI participants are deprived of the community-based long-term care that the state concedes they need and are entitled to, they face grave health risks,” AARP Foundation Senior Attorney M. Geron Gadd said in a statement.

“Failure to properly administer the CFI Waiver not only deprives participants of their right to live as they choose, but also greatly increases their chances of exposure to COVID-19 in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”

Pamela Phelan, litigation director for the disability rights group, said the plaintiffs are “one crisis away” from unnecessary institutionalization, and without the services they’ve been promised, they “linger for hours or days alone in bed or confined in their own homes.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said they haven’t received the complaint yet.

Sled dog race canceled

An annual sled dog race in New Hampshire that usually attracts hundreds of people has been canceled this year because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby had been scheduled for Feb. 12-14.

“Everywhere we turned we couldn’t make it work because of COVID,” Jim Lyman, president of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, told The Laconia Daily Sun on Friday.

Lyman said that social distancing restrictions would have prohibited the traditional spectator viewing areas.

Another obstacle was the continued closure of the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential traffic, Lyman said. Between half and two-thirds of the mushers who compete in the open-class events at the derby come from Quebec.

The derby dates to 1929. Since the early 1980s it has been canceled 13 times because of poor snow conditions.

Rutland night-shift troopers back at work after quarantine

RUTLAND — All of the Vermont State Police troopers who work the night shift out of the Rutland barracks are back at work after being exposed to the coronavirus, officials said.

The nine troopers who were exposed represent the entire night shift. None tested positive.

The troopers were exposed Dec. 29, but it’s unclear how.

State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman said the troopers began quarantining early last week. On Monday, he said all the tests had been completed and all the troopers had been cleared to return to duty.

— Staff, VtDigger and wire reports

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