COVID-19 update: Merrimack County jail employee, Shaw’s workers test positive for virus

  • County corrections Superintendent Ross Cunningham stands inside the Merrimack County jail in this Monitor file photo. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Concord Hospital medical staff at one of the two undisclosed COVID-19 testing sites holds a testing kit. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/27/2020 1:37:34 PM

One of the employees at the Merrimack County jail has tested positive for COVID-19, county officials announced Friday.

The unnamed employee was in the county correctional facility for only one day within the last several weeks, and only for a few hours on that day, according to Corrections Superintendent Ross Cunningham.

County officials learned Thursday that the employee had tested positive and immediately notified the state’s Division of Public Health Services.

County and state officials reviewed the jail’s security camera footage to identify “each and every physical space that the employee was in and every person the employee encountered during their brief time in the facility,” officials said in a statement

“Every person who interacted with the employee has been identified,” the county said and anyone considered to be at risk of exposure has been notified and is now quarantined.

Any physical spaces visited by the employee have been disinfected and deep cleaned.

“The Merrimack County Commissioners are taking seriously the risk posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and is committed to taking every possible measure to protect the safety of county employees, nursing home residents and county jail inmates,” officials said in a statement. “The Merrimack County Department of Corrections will continue to screen employees and others who enter the facility for COVID-19 symptoms, including a questionnaire and temperature check.”

Shaw’s workers test positive

Nearly 160 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New Hampshire, with 25 of those hospitalized. One person has died. Nearly 21 new cases were announced Thursday. Those numbers lag behind the actual totals due to delays in test results and a shortage of actual tests and equipment to take samples.

It was not immediately known if that number included three workers at Shaw’s supermarkets in Dover, Littleton, and Woodsville, who tested positive for the virus. A spokeswoman for the chain confirmed the cases in a statement Friday. No further information was given about them, and a state Health Department spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

More screening at Concord Hospital

Since the virus outbreak, Concord Hospital and its affiliates have confirmed 10 positive cases of COVID-19 among 312 tests results. The hospital is waiting for results for another 150 or so patients.

Of the ten positive results, one patient is currently hospitalized at Concord Hospital and nine are recovering at home, hospital officials said in a daily COVID-19 update.

The hospital has now established screening for the virus in Parking Lot E on the Concord Hospital campus for any community member who is experiencing a fever or non-critical respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or shortness of breath.

People are advised to drive directly to the large tent in the Visitor Entrance parking lot.

“They will be triaged and advised if: they should go home and self-isolate; proceed to the Emergency Department; or be evaluated in person with or without testing for COVID-19 at one of our dedicated Concord Hospital Medical Group practice locations,” the hospital said in its update.

The screening tent is open daily from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. In addition, the hospital has established a COVID-19 screening and education hotline for the public, which is (603) 789-9123 and will be staffed daily from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The hospital said it was supportive of Governor Chris Sununu’s stay at home order, which goes into effect 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Stimulus money

New Hampshire is poised to receive at least $1.25 billion in support from the nearly $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

That amount is part of a $150 billion fund that will assist states incurring costs and losing revenue because of the pandemic, New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan said. The legislation passed in Congress on Friday.

The package provides funds to help small businesses, health systems, unemployment insurance, individuals and families.

Exact change, please

It will be exact change only for people using cash at New Hampshire toll booths starting Monday, and electronic tolling only from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., to minimize interaction between staff and motorists.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation cash that starting Monday morning, Cash/E-ZPass lanes for cash customers will be exact change only.

If you don’t have exact change, a toll attendant can explain payment options to customers.

“In addition, due to reduced traffic volumes, toll plaza Cash Lanes will not be staffed 24 hours a day. Instead they will be staffed from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. only,” the announcement said.

From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. all plazas will operate as All Electronic Tolling (AET) “No Cash Collection.”

To avoid getting an invoice, customers can pay online within seven days of the transaction at using the “7-Day to Pay” option or by calling the E-ZPass Customer Service Center at (877) 643-9727.

After the seven days elapse, an invoice will be processed and mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

Signs will be hung on the toll booths and message boards will be in place at the approach to all toll booths to notify motorists of these changes.

St. Paul’s donates medical supplies

Responding to the call from first responders for masks and protective equipment, St. Paul’s School donated surplus medical equipment to Concord Hospital, the Concord Police Department, and the Concord Fire Department.

“We are honored to be able to step in with these supplies and we deeply appreciate the work being done by our community’s medical teams, firefighters, and law enforcement,” explains Rector Kathy Giles. “Protecting those who are taking care of all of us is an urgent priority and we’re glad to be able to do our part.”

St. Paul’s School Medical Director Dr. John Bassi and Director of Environmental Health and School Safety Tim McGinley reached out to Concord Hospital’s Incident Command Post, the private boarding school said in a statement.
Medical teams and other first responders are facing critical shortages of necessary gear just as they anticipate a spoke in activity related to the spread of COVID-19.

Items donated by the School thus far include swab kits for testing, hundreds of surgical masks, disposable medical gowns, and concentrated sanitizer.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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