We are all in the midst of unprecedented, uncertain, and worrisome times with the transition to remote learning for high schools and universities, business closures, and the implementation of physical distancing as a result of the novel coronavirus. Like most of the country who has their eyes and ears glued the tv and podcasts for COVID-19 updates, I too spend a large portion of my time tracking these events.
Today, April 14, 2020, I listened to New Hampshire Governor, Chris Sununu’s, press conference to provide an update on the state’s response to COVID-19. During the press conference, Governor Chris Sununu addressed many concerned with the announcement of a new stabilization program. But before we get to that, Dr. Chan spent approximately 6 minutes to brief the citizens of New Hampshire on the statistics as of today. To date there have been 11,847 individuals tested for COVID-19 in the state and there are currently 73 undergoing testing. There have been a total of 1,091 confirmed cases, that includes the increase of 73 individuals reported yesterday. Dr. Chan explained during the press conference that we will continue to see these numbers fluctuate and that is mostly due to batch testing from other states. For example, 30 of the 73 cases reported yesterday were reported from the Massachusetts Public Health Laboratory. Because of this reason, the state of New Hampshire is working very closely with Massachusetts and its laboratories to ensure accurate reporting of cases to the public. This is just one instance where different states have been working together during the pandemic.
While 1,091 confirmed cases of COVID-19 appears to be a large, alarming number, only about 168, 15% of those confirmed cases have required hospitalization. Also, out of those confirmed 1,091 cases, unfortunately a total of 27 individuals have died. All of the fatal cases have been in those with multiple, chronic pre existing medical conditions. Out of the total 27 deaths as a result of COVID-19, 4 were announced this past Tuesday. These 4 individuals were linked to outbreaks at long term care facilities. According to Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette, “three of the people who died were residents of Hanover Hill Health Care Center and one was a resident of The Huntington at Nashua. She said the people did not die recently, but the deaths were just confirmed to be related to COVID-19” (Sexton 1). It is frightening to see these numbers increase week by week, but during the press conference, Dr.Chan shared some evidence that physical distancing has been having a positive effect on the numbers. The state of New Hampshire has been releasing weekly epi reports. These reports breakdown the numbers by age and give information on risk factors and the epidemic curve. The epidemic curve takes a look at the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 daily. According to these epi reports and reports from the New Hampshire Hospital Association, that daily number has started to level off. In the past week New Hampshire hospitals have been averaging about 70 patients per day. The fact that this number is remaining consistent, according to Dr.Chan, “ means that the number of new patients being admitted with COVID-19 has equilibrated or has been about equal with the number of new patients with COVID-19 that are being discharged. This is an indication that our health care facilities are not seeing a massive surge or exponential increase in the number of people requiring hospitalization” (Full Video: Gov. 2020). Due to the positive effects that physical distancing is having on the numbers, Dr.Chan encouraged all of us to continue.
When Governor Chris Sununu returned back to the podium, he addressed 2 major concerns by announcing a new stabilization program. The concerns he spoke about were the health of long term care residents and the financial instability of long term care workers. Sununu announced his new long term care stabilization program which he described would “ provide 300 dollar weekly stipends for frontline workers, and NH medicaid funded residential facilities, and social service organizations, many of whom are struggling to retain the workforce they need to meet the demands associated with COVID-19. The program will directly benefit frontline medicaid workers that provide long term care facilities in facility based settings as well as in the home and community” (Full Video: Gov. 2020). In order to participate, qualifying organizations can file online starting tomorrow and must agree to give 100% of the stipends to employees that are on the frontlines of the pandemic. This does not include employees who are working remotely from home. In order to fund this program, Governor Sununu is working with the department of employment security. General funds will be used and then backfilled with the federal CMS waiver.
A third concern that Governor Chris Sununu addressed during the press conference was the importance that frontline workers receive all of the necessary protections, which includes testing. Partnering with Convenient MD in Hillsborough and Rockingham county, testing sites will be located near long term care facilities where frontline workers can get tested. The state will bear all of the costs to make this happen until all 6,600 long term care workers in Hillsborough and Rockingham county are tested and accounted for. The last and final thing that Governor Sununu updated the citizens of New Hampshire on was his collaboration and communication with Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, Governor Janet Mills of Maine, and Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts. Sununu stressed the importance of regional partnerships because what happens here impacts the entire region. While doing everything the same way was not of importance to Governor Sununu, understanding what place the entire region is in was important to him, especially when the conversation of reopening the economy, businesses, schools, etc is ready to be heard.
“Full Video: Gov. Sununu, State Officials Update Public about Latest COVID-19 Updates.” WMUR, WMUR, 14 Apr. 2020, www.wmur.com/article/full-video-gov-sununu-state-officials-update-public-about-latest-covid-19-updates/32146920.
Sexton, Adam, and Tim Callery. “4 More Deaths Linked to COVID-19 Outbreaks at Long-Term Care Facilities in NH.” WMUR, WMUR, 14 Apr. 2020, www.wmur.com/article/new-hampshire-coronavirus-update-april-14-2020/32143455.