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Sununu says N.H. COVID cases could triple to more than 1,000 a day, outbreak reported at veterans home

  • Vietnam veteran Les Greenleaf at the window of the Town Hall in the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton on Thursday, May 25, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

Laconia Daily Sun 
Published: 11/13/2020 4:15:52 PM

New Hampshire hit a record for new COVID-19 infections, 14 people at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton have the virus, and community exposures may have occurred at polling places on Election Day, officials said Thursday.

Gov. Chris Sununu, the only New England governor who has not imposed a mask mandate, rejected the notion that the state has lost control of the disease.

He said there are limits to what a state can do to control a virus, but urged people to abide by extensive guidance documents the state has posted at NH.gov.

“We have 350 cases today. If you ask me where we’ll be in two weeks, I think we’re over a thousand. I think that’s it,” Sununu said.

He said the state is preparing contingency plans for opening hospitals that can handle a surge in patients.

Three new deaths were reported, all in long-term care, bringing the number of people who have died of the disease in New Hampshire to 495.

Sununu said there is evidence the disease is spreading at indoor gatherings, particularly those with extended family, friends, and neighbors.

He warned that those vulnerable to disease complications, such as elderly people and those with underlying conditions, should think twice about joining gatherings as Thanksgiving approaches.

“We keep saying it, the virus doesn’t care that it’s Uncle Bob, but you should,” he said.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, said there is substantial community disease transmission now throughout the state.

“The hospitalizations are increasing, the test positivity rate is increasing, the number of people dying from COVID-19 is also increasing,” he said.

There aren’t enough people to conduct investigations for every person who gets the virus, so contact tracing is being prioritized to situations where people are most at risk.

Margaret D. LaBrecque, commandant of the New Hampshire Veterans Home, said the outbreak there came despite “implementing all possible preventative measures.”

Visitors have not been allowed inside the home.

She said it probably was brought in by a staff member who picked up the virus through community transmission. Four staff members and 10 residents have tested positive, she said.

“I’m worried for the residents,” LaBrecque said. “My job is to keep them as safe as possible. I’m a little fearful.”

She said she was sad and frustrated with the test results. The National Guard is bringing in a mobile station to test all residents and staff.

“We remain optimistic for recovery while understanding this disease can become devastating at a moment’s notice,” LaBrecque said.

“The vast majority of our residents are elderly and may have medical conditions putting them at a very high risk of becoming sick, or even severely ill, with COVID-19.”

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said that people who voted at four polling locations across the state, including Belmont High School, have tested positive in the last couple of days.

They were in line to vote and couldn’t maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

“If you were in line at a polling station on Election Day, then you really need to be monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19,” Shibinette said.

One key metric, the percentage of positive tests, has increased from 1% to about 3%.

There are now 2,528 active infections, 178 per 100,000 population, and four new hospitalizations, bringing total hospitalizations to 64.

Sununu warned that people should not ease up on social distancing and mask precautions, even as the pandemic has dragged on and some people are tired of taking these steps.

“You’ve got to, as Bill Belichick says, play 60 minutes. You’ve got to play it all the way through.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 




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