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Friday COVID Update: Laconia hospital furloughs workers, gets state help to stay open; N.H. has 5th death

  • Courtesy—NH DHHS

Staff and wire reports
Published: 4/2/2020 7:55:42 PM

Lakes Region General Hospital is furloughing 500 full-time employees, LRGH President and CEO Kevin Donovan said Friday, and will received $5.25 million in a no-interest loan from a new state fund providing emergency aid to medical facilities.

The hospital will keep its emergency department, critical care and coronavirus treatment services open as it deals with the financial fallout of the pandemic, Laconia Mayor Andrew Hosmer told the Laconia Daily Sun.

The loan to LRGH Healthcare, which owns the Lakes Region and Franklin Memorial hospitals, is the first given under the state’s $50 million program to support health care facilities during the pandemic. Sununu said it would allow the workers to keep their benefits and apply for unemployment.

They may also be eligible for a new health workforce flex system being started by New Hampshire Employment Security “that allows furloughed health care workers to be redeployed” to other hospitals if needed, Sununu said.

LRGH is the largest employer in the Lakes Region.

The hospital was struggling with a high debt load and major revenue issues before the pandemic, which exacerbated its problems as elective surgeries and other profit-driving procedures had to be canceled to prepare for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

Fifth death in N.H.

A fifth person in New Hampshire has died from COVID-19, the state announced Thursday, and 64 new positive test results have been found, the most of any day.

There have now been 479 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in New Hampshire, with 73 of them, or 15%, hospitalized.

Thursday’s new cases are 42 adult females and 22 adult males. All counties except Coos have seen cases, and seen community-based transmission.

The fifth death related to COVID-19 was a man living in Hillsborough County under the age of 60 years old with underlying medical conditions. He is the first fatality from the disease who is younger than 60.

No quick end to COVID

Gov. Sununu had sobering news Friday for those hoping  that the COVID-19 situation will ease before summer.

Even after the expected “surge” of COVID-19 cases passes through New Hampshire, he said – something that probably won’t happen until late April in southern New Hampshire and later in rural areas – there will be a long period when the number of new cases is declining but concern about spreading the coronavirus must remain high.

“More likely there will be a steep inflexion point – it crests out, then probably a long tail at the end. Managing ourselves through that long tail will be one of the most challenging things the state has,” Sununu said during the daily news conference about the virus.

“Is that six weeks away?” he said of the end of that period. “Probably not; two (or) three (or) four months away is more likely.”

COVID & unemployment scams in N.H.

The state attorney general is warning that scam artists are using COVID-19 to try to trick people into giving up financial information.

They remind people that they should not provide personal information over the telephone or via email by entities claiming to provide unemployment benefits as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Other warning signs:

New Hampshire Employment Security will never send a text asking for information. They only use phone calls or email.

The state never partners with another company to process payment. 

N.H. Employment Security will never ask for your credit card information. “If such a request is made, immediately hang up the phone or close the website and browser and then delete your browsing activity from your PC or smartphone,” they caution. 

Caller ID can be fooled so beware of incoming calls.

Filing for unemployment benefits is free, so if a caller says you have to make an initial payment to get your benefits, it’s a scam.

If concerned, call the unemployment assistance hotline 603-271-7700, to ensure you are speaking with a real representative from New Hampshire Employment Security. Because of high call volumes right now, you might get a call back outside regular business hours.

Rest areas closed

New Hampshire’s Rest Areas and Welcome Centers will temporarily close facilities at its 12 locations beginning at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 5. New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs employees who support these locations will transition duties to support other essential state services during this time.

 “We recognize that New Hampshire’s rest areas and welcome centers are a valuable resource for visitors and are confident that they can access amenities located outside of the buildings on a temporary self-service basis while staff transition work duties to support other essential state services,” said BEA Commissioner Taylor Caswell.

All of the rest areas are equipped with portable toilets. The facilities are cleaned and serviced on a regular basis.

The private firm Granite State Hospitality operates the restroom facilities located in Hooksett along Interstate 93, so those will remain open.

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