Count of new COVID cases in N.H. is almost as bad as at the earlier peak in May

  • NHDRA—Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 10/21/2020 6:40:44 PM

As COVID-19 keeps spreading in New Hampshire, the state is getting close to an unpleasant milestone: Within a week we might be seeing more new cases each day than we saw at the height of the pandemic’s first wave.

This comparison isn’t entirely accurate because the state is doing far more testing now than it was in early May, conducting several thousands of tests each day, both PCR and antigen tests, compared to a few hundred PCR tests back then. It is likely that New Hampshire had many cases of COVID-19 in the spring that didn’t show up on the tallies.

Nonetheless, the recent increase in cases has led the Department of Health and Human Services to issue warnings about community spread in the state’s southern tier.

As of Wednesday, New Hampshire’s two-week average of positive test results for COVID-19 was 83 a day. The average has been rising sharply all month, increasing by 12 just in the past week, and the increase shows no sign of slowing.

The peak of new cases during the first wave of the pandemic was 91 per day, which we hit on May 13. At the current rate of increase we will pass that figure well before Halloween.

One bright spot is that hospitalizations, which back in May were rising along with the new-case counts, remain stable right now at a very low rate of barely one a day. For reasons that are somewhat unclear, even though more people in the general population are getting sick, most are not getting seriously sick at the moment.

That’s not the case in long-term health care facilities, however, which have seen a sudden increase in deaths after they opened up to visitors, which presumably has sometimes brought the coronavirus into the vulnerable elderly populations. About 10 people have been dying each week recently in the state, virtually all of them over 60 and in such facilities, compared to less than one a week in early September.

If hospitalizations do start to rise, the state’s health care system is better prepared than it was back in the spring. Concord Hospital, for example, has created 62 negative pressure rooms, which prevent the airborne virus from escaping, set up to handle a resurgence in the pandemic. As of earlier this week, it didn’t have a single COVID-19 patient.

Officials have long expected that most of the Northern Hemisphere would see an increase in COVID-19 as cold weather arrived and people stayed more indoors, able to spread the virus. That is what happens each fall with influenza.

Interestingly, the flu season in the Southern Hemisphere, where seasons are reversed from here, was quite mild in March through June, which is usually when it peaks. The reason is that people were in lockdown due to COVID-19 and less able to spread the influenza virus than usual – a sign of how lockdowns can keep a pandemic under control.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, 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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