By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – As six new deaths and 99 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in New Hampshire on Wednesday, U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster told thousands of residents on a telephone town hall that universal testing is absolutely essential to reopening businesses.
The Democrat from Hopkinton was joined by fellow Democratic Congressman Chris Pappas of Manchester, who said they would be voting this week on efforts to help with increased funding for testing, more business relief, and bailouts for hospitals.
The telephone town hall attracted tens of thousands of callers in which some can ask questions each week.
This was the seventh telephone town hall and over the course of those weeks more than 60,000 people have called in.
Many callers said they were desperate for financial help and were looking for extended programs and relief.
There were also concerns about health and finding a better understanding of community health testing.
Dr. Michael Calderwood, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Epidemiologist, answered a question from Jenny who wanted to know about testing.
Calderwood said more testing is definitely needed, but it is getting better every week. There are new fast testing methods but they have a higher false negative.
If someone has antibodies because they have been exposed unknowingly to the virus, medical providers still don’t know if that protects them from getting it again or how long it would last.
New Hampshire likely has a lower number of “herd immunity” than Massachusetts, which has a higher number of cases, he said.
In New Hampshire, 1,588 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. More than a third of the people who’ve gotten the virus have recovered.
Calderwood said COVID-19 is much more deadly than the flu and he dismissed comparisons.
Linda wanted to ask Employment Security Commissioner George N. Copadis about her case. She said she and her partner have been battling to get financial help and they have had no straight answers.
“We need to know what to do here,” Linda said. Copadis offered to get information from her offline to help resolve the problems and apologized for the delays in relief.
Richard Lavers, Deputy Commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security, said people should call after 5 p.m. when there are fewer calls but still people to take the calls. He noted that there was only one person waiting on hold as he spoke.
Pappas heard from a restaurateur in Hampton and because he has been in that business noted that the pandemic has devastated business.
“There have to be fundamental changes to the paycheck protection program or PPP,” he said.