In N.H., rise attributed to spread among young

  • Matt Dunn speaks during a Hospital Zoom meeting about rising numbers of cases in New Hampshire and the U.S. Courtesy

The Conway Daily Sun
Published: 4/17/2021 2:00:17 PM

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in New Hampshire, officials at Memorial Hospital in North Conway say one of the driving factors is the number of young people contracting the disease.

COVID-19 vaccinations here are open to anyone age 16 and older. Beginning Monday, there will no longer be a residency require requirement. People must still register for an appointment by visiting or by calling 211. Teens under age 18 also must have parental consent to receive a vaccine.

Officials admit it’s a troubling trend. The day’s total of new positive test results in N.H. on Thursday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services was 552 (17 in Carroll County); 109 of those cases (about 20 percent) were in people between ages 20 and 29.

With an average of 445 cases per day over the past seven days, nearly half have been people under the age of 30. There are now 3,763 active COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire.

In Carroll County, there are 103 active cases (32 in Conway). In total, 2,160 cases have been reported in the county since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Memorial Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Will Owen, in a community Zoom update last Friday, referenced a report that looked at why cases are increasing in Michigan (one of the nation’s COVID hot spots) and said: “It’s the young people and young adults that are driving this next surge. They’re talking about indoor sports and things like that being one of the big drivers in this group.”

Matt Dunn, Memorial’s chief medical officer, said, “The highest population in terms of (Michigan’s) surge is the 20-30 age range and then the 30-40 age range, and that mirrors, actually, the data we’re seeing in (New Hampshire).”

Kevin Richard, SAU 9 schools superintendent, agreed. “It’s just like you were saying, the younger people — they’re done (with staying home). They’re out, they’re partying, they’re doing their different things, and it’s really unfortunate.”

Richard said Kennett High School in North Conway recently saw its highest numbers for the year. The school is currently on remote learning with 14 active cases.

Memorial President Art Mathisen acknowledged there is general COVID fatigue in the community but the hospital is still encouraging people to wear masks, stay in pods and take other precautions, like social distancing.

“This is not the time to relax because there’s nothing I am more concerned about than having this continue to go up and we’re back having daily calls with the state because our hospitals are full with COVID patients,” he said.

Another factor in the increase in cases across the country may be variants in the virus.

Dunn noted the UK variant is known to be high in Michigan, Illinois, California and Florida. But, he said, “We in New England, with the exception of Massachusetts, are in the moderate numbers category.”

Dunn said all three vaccines that have been available likely provide some immunity to the variants.

“Both Pfizer and Moderna said they have high activity against (the UK variant) so we can be very confident about that,” he said, adding that Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials were conducted after variants were already known.

Dunn said people should get vaccinated even if they have had COVID-19 and said they may develop better immunity to the virus from the vaccine than from having the infection.

“What we’re not seeing is sustained immunity from people who’ve had COVID,” he said. “And we’ve seen some reinfections. Some people may develop great immunity after a COVID infection, but we know from experimental data that people develop pretty robust immunity due to the COVID vaccines.”

People who have had COVID-19 should generally wait until symptoms resolve and they are no longer isolating — generally 10 to 14 days after contracting the virus — before being vaccinated, hospital officials said.

Vaccinations are continuing at a steady pace at Memorial’s clinic set up at the former Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, with over 300 per day, and the hospital reported it had passed the 10,000 total vaccinations last week.

Owen said although the appointments at the clinic are booked “pretty solid” through the end of April, they taper off after that.

“That’s not just us, but that’s across the state,” he said. “We’re wondering if some of this is this younger group, who don’t really know what they’re going to be doing on May 3 and they’re not going to commit to a vaccine appointment on May 3,” Owen surmised. “They’re going to wait until two or three days out and pick up appointments at the last minute. But we’ll see.”

In coordination with the state, the hospital was able to increase vaccine appointments by 150 per week, and those appointments, too, are filling up quickly.

“Which again leads me to believe people just want to schedule it now, they don’t want to schedule it a month from now,” Owen said.

As of Thursday, the state reported 587,000 people have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine (43 percent of the state’s population) and 338,000 or 25 percent are fully vaccinated.

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