COVID update: Highest daily death total reported; online scheduling for testing to start

  • Courtesy—Carsey School UNH

Monitor staff
Published: 5/5/2020 11:00:13 PM

New Hampshire officials say the state has finally received enough testing material from the federal government to roll out a series of new schedules and procedures, focusing on long-term care facilities but also available to many people without a physicians’ referral.

The announcement came Wednesday afternoon along with news that 19 more deaths were reported, by far the highest ever, all from long-term care facilities.

According to Gov. Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Director Lori Shibinette, a website (nh.gov/covid19) and phone number, 271-5980, will go into effect Thursday allowing many people to schedule a COVID-19 test at one of a number of facilities without a physician's referral. They will need to meet certain criteria, such as being older than 60, or a health-care workers, or have certain underlying conditions, and must attest that they have one of the various symptoms of the disease.

As for long-term care facilities, Sununu and Shibinette discussed new programs to greatly expand testing.  About 80% of the 111 COVID-19 deaths so far in the state have happened to residents of nursing homes and similar facilities.

They said the testing expansion was possible because of the arrival of material from federal government, including viral transport medium, as well as the vindication of a less-invasive test called interior nasal swab.

That new test, Shibinette said, is simple enough that it can be performed by staff at long-term care facilities. This means state employees will no longer have to visit facilities to do testing.

“We’re very wary of sending testing teams into facilities that have no signs of disease,” said Shibinette. Over the next two weeks, she said New Hampshire would be sending out material allowing “the facility staff take the swab and then send it back (to a laboratory). This is a great advance for our ability to test our long-term care residents.”

Later, she said, the state will launch a “sentinel surveillance project,” in which 10 randomly selected facilities will be chosen and swabs taken on 10% of their resident population to determine if the disease has arrived via a non-symptomatic person.

As for staff at these facilities, Shibinette said the state would be launching a “serial testing program” with several mobile tests, including National Guard members and private companies, that will “go statewide and offer testing to all long-term care nursing home staff members every 7 to 10 days.”

Survey: N.H. has confidence in science

Surveys of 650 state residents taken in March, before Gov. Sununu’s stay-at-home order was issued, and again in mid-April indicate that confidence in “science agencies” has stayed high while confidence in the federal government’s handling has not increased.

The study from the Carsey School of Public Policy found that 72% of people trusted science agencies while only 47% said they were “very” or “somewhat” confident in the federal government’s handling of the crisis. Those numbers were roughly the same in both surveys.

“The world had changed … but the survey responses changed hardly at all,” said Lawrence Hamilton, a senior researcher at the Carsey School, who wrote the study along with fellow researcher Thomas Safford.

Hamilton noted that this study and an earlier one reflect strong differences in opinion depending on people’s political standing: conservatives are less trusting of science and more confident in the Trump Administration than liberals.

“Longstanding political divisions on science … will now shape how and whether this country recovers from the pandemic,” Hamilton said.

The study can be seen at the Carsey School website.

Hamilton posed a video discussing the study on YouTube.

State Surplus Auction postponed

The New Hampshire State Surplus Auction at the White Farm in Concord, scheduled for Saturday, May 16, has been postponed until further notice. The state sells surplus vehicles, office supplies and confiscated property.

The retail store has been closed to the public in response to recent health and safety initiatives.




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