COVID tracker: Numbers indicate New Hampshire is on the right path

Monitor staff
Published: 7/26/2020 8:20:29 PM

It’s a journalistic truism that, human nature being what it is, bad news sells papers.

From that viewpoint, this week’s update of the Monitor’s four metrics related to COVID-19 is a circulation-boosting dud. All four metrics are pretty good this week, including the most problematic one, the number of tests being run.

That doesn’t mean we should be complacent, of course. The alarming rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in many Southern states where COVID-19 numbers were low just a month ago shows how quickly this pandemic can turn bad.

It looks like what we’re doing right now is working and the SARS-CoV-2 virus is barely spreading through New Hampshire’s population. Which means, alas, that we need to keep doing it, as much as we’d all love to toss aside those annoying masks and gather with strangers again.

Here’s the weekly updates:

Goal 1: Conducting at least 150 PCR tests, which spot current COVID-19 cases, per 100,000 people per day. New Hampshire has 1.35 million people, so that works out to 2,000 tests per day.

Have we met this goal? Yes.

More than 2,000 test results were reported every day but one in the past week and the average rose to 2,600 a day. As I’ve noted in the past, the actual number of people tested in much less because of multiple tests to individuals working in health care or high-risk situations, but it still meets the mark.

Goal 2: A two-week drop in cases as measured by the 14-day running average, which would indicate that the virus is not spreading.

Have we met this goal? Sort of – the average has plateaued.

The average number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the prior two weeks has been hovering around 26 since July 12, so it’s not declining like it had been.

On the other hand, that number is comparatively very low – it was as high as 90 per day in May and still in the 60s in June – and that means continued improvements get harder and harder.

Short of new cases disappearing altogether, which seems virtually impossible in the U.S. until a vaccine is widely distributed, I don’t think we’re going to see this number go down very much. So I’m willing to count stagnation as a qualified success.

Goal 3: Fewer than four new cases per 100,000 people each day, or 54 new cases a day, which would show that the disease is below dangerous levels.

Have we met this goal? Yes.

As noted above, New Hampshire has been below 54 new cases a day for at least a month.

Goal 4: A positive rate of PCR tests below 5%, indicating that the virus is not spreading rapidly in the general population.

Have we met this goal? Yes.

The positive rate has been around 3% as measured by the Department of Health and Human Services for two months.

Two other metrics that I don’t follow because the numbers are so small are hospitalizations and deaths. Hospitalizations have been stable at very low rates, barely one a day, for several weeks.

Deaths were also declining until the middle of last week when they started to rise slightly. The numbers are still very small – just about one death per day on average – but this is a measure where we could hope that numbers actually will fall to zero.

I update three charts each weekday on the virus in New Hampshire: New cases; new hospitalizations; total deaths.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or 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, 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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