PAULA TRACY and NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
MANCHESTER – The fourth man to test presumptive positive for COVID-19 in New Hampshire is from Rockingham County, but provided his specimen at the Elliot Hospital emergency room in Manchester, entering through the back door and doing all the right things to protect others, officials said.
Martha Leighton, chief of nursing at Elliot Hospital, which is in Hillsborough County, said the man who was experiencing symptoms called his doctor first who notified the state Department of Public Health and notified the hospital to prepare for him on Friday.
The man’s condition was assessed first by phone. He wore a protective mask and the staff wore appropriate protective gear.
Staff members met him at his car late Friday afternoon, escorted him in the back way to the emergency room, Leighton said. The man had no contact with any other patients, she said, and was escorted back to his car. He was found to be presumptive positive on Saturday and is self-isolating at home.
“It’s vitally important for people to call their doctor first and not show up at an emergency room or waiting room so we can prepare the staff and everyone else and keep everyone safe,” Leighton said.
As the state ramps up its response to the now four men who have tested positive in New Hampshire in the last week, Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State William Gardner issued a news release telling people events like Tuesday’s Town Meetings are still going ahead.
On Friday, Gardner distributed to all election officials guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html). That guidance contains techniques and precautions that can be implemented at the polling place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Gardner also distributed a Frequently Asked Questions document published by New Hampshire Division of Public Health (https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/documents/covid-19-faq.pdf). The information provides preventative actions election officials can take to operate polling places with reduced risk of exposure.
“The New Hampshire Division of New Hampshire Public Health is not recommending the cancellation of events at this time,” the release said.
They encourage people to continue with their everyday activities but take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19 and the many other viruses circulating in New Hampshire this time of year, including influenza.
Individuals have a role in helping protect themselves by staying home when they are sick, washing their hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and practicing social distancing, the release states.
Polling places have a role in prevention as well and are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance that was distributed this past weekend and is also available online.
Following the recommendations of the CDC and state public health officials can help election officials run safe elections. If you have specific questions, the Attorney General’s Office encourages both the public and election officials to call its Election Hotline at 1-866-868-3703.
The Attorney General’s Office will be operating the Election Day hotline from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Voters and Election Officials with concerns or questions are encouraged to call 1-866-868-3703. In the event a caller receives voicemail, they should leave a message and attorneys in the office will address each message received.
Newmarket schools were closed Monday as a precautionary measure after a member of the staff was advised by the Centers for Disease Control to self-quarantine after traveling on a bus with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
The staffer who was allegedly exposed was not symptomatic and joins about 150 individuals in the state who are self-monitoring for symptoms, state officials said.
With the number of presumptive cases of COVID-19 doubling in the state over the weekend – from two to four- state health officials were actively investigating and reaching out to people who may have been exposed.
Three are in Grafton County and one in Rockingham County.
Jake Leon, director of communications for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the department is currently working with the state Department of Education to assess risk levels at schools, mindful of a balance that needs to be struck between “continuity” of education and risk levels due to the virus.
If risk levels are low, the schools should remain open, he said.
He urged those who are concerned they might have the virus to call 603-271-4496 any time 24-hours a day rather than showing up unannounced at an emergency room or medical care provider’s offices.
The idea, he said, is to call and have an over-the-phone assessment made before potentially spreading the virus in the public and allowing that facility to prepare before arriving there.