COVID update: Reusable bags return; wild swings in daily data shows testing-report limits

Monitor staff
Published: 7/28/2020 7:50:29 AM

New Hampshire just saw a good example of how daily COVID-19 results should be taken with a grain of salt: Monday’s result was the lowest almost since testing began, yet it followed last Friday’s result that was the highest in two months.

Since it’s extremely unlikely that the disease surged one day and almost disappeared two days later, this reflects that the half-dozen labs which report tests to the Department of Health and Human Services can be erratic when reporting results of testing from scores of locations around the state.

The Monitor smooths out these perturbations by averaging results over the previous 14 days when examining trends. Other places use a 7-day average, which is better at spotting sudden spikes but also is more affected by one or two days of erratic responses. This helps explain why the New York Times reported Monday that New Hampshire cases were increasing while the Monitor said they were relatively stable.

On Monday the DHHS said just 7 new cases were confirmed, the first time the daily number was in single digits since mid-March, when testing was just getting started. But on Friday the state had reported 59 cases, the highest since June 6 and more than twice the number that had been reported on recent days.

The 14-day average of new cases is 30. That is slightly higher than the average in mid-July, which will be worrisome if the trend continues.

Bags are back

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday lifted a ban on reusable shopping bags at grocery stores and other retail outlets.

The bags had been banned since March because of concerns that they’d be a vehicle for transmitting the coronavirus. Stores were required to provide new, single-use bags instead.

“We looked at the latest data, consulted with officials at public health and ask individuals to be courteous and respectful to retail/grocery workers by cleaning your reusable bags,” Sununu said on Twitter.

Working out

The “Judgement Free Zone” won’t be free of face masks starting next month.

Planet Fitness said Monday it will require all members and guests to wear face masks starting Aug. 1, joining a growing list of companies and retailers enacting such mandates to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

The New Hampshire-based company already required masks for employees at its 1,450 locations in 46 states, Washington, D.C., Canada and Australia.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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