By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – The state reported 149 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, eight new deaths and outbreaks of the highly contagious virus at two new long-term care facilities.
The outbreaks were reported at Community Bridges developmental disabilities residential facility in Belmont, with two residents and four staff members testing positive, and Greenbriar HealthCare nursing home in Nashua with 10 residents and no staff being positive.
Of the 149 new cases, 51 were staff and residents at Villa Crest in Manchester, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.
The state continues to increase its daily testing for COVID-19 and now is averaging 2,000 tests a day with two new testing sites expected to open up in Londonderry and Keene by Sunday.
Shibinette said one percent of the state’s licensed long-term care bed capacity has been lost to death from COVID-19, up from .7 percent last week. Rhode Island reported 5.7 percent and Maine .4 percent, she said.
Shibinette reported eight new deaths with six at long-term care facilities.
Today, about 28 percent of New Hampshire’s 74 long-term care facilities have at least one case of COVID-19, while Massachusetts, by comparison, has 50 percent.
Shibinette said about 60 percent of the residents of the state’s nursing homes have been tested for a baseline and thousands of care providers. She said she is hoping that will be completed in the next week.
She also noted that the state is developing a team that could be deployed in an emergency to nursing homes when staff is highly impacted by COVID-19 and there are not enough workers to care for all the residents.
Shibinette said the idea for the team came from shared information between states and it is intended for use in a crisis. She is hoping to have a company that can supply such a team of eight to 10 people who will be able to respond to a nursing home without adequate staff by next week.
Nursing homes have had a hard time finding enough workers, she said, and this is not about helping that effort. It’s about ensuring basic care in a COVID-19 related event and the state continuing to look for and find ways to help out.
The state has offered additional weekly pay for nursing home workers in an effort to incentivise them to stay. About 25 percent of the overall cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire have been among health care workers.
Overall, the state has been able to test about 56,000 of its 1.3 million residents and 3,868 have tested positive.
Sununu said he expects to have new opening guidance for various sectors of the state’s economy when he holds his press conference on Friday afternoon.
He said he is still awaiting proposed guidance to open churches from various faith leaders and there may be ways to incorporate wedding and funeral services in such guidance going forward but he did not commit to opening churches this weekend.
Sununu said this is one area where states in the region are “not on the same page” with various states, like Massachusetts, allowing for services and others not. It is better to wait and get it right, he said.
Noting COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred following church services, “you are talking about lives,” he said, “We appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Sununu said the state continues to expand the criteria for getting COVID-19 testing and now he is urging all staff of childcare centers to get a test before reopening if they have not yet had a test and also to allow for testing of family members of those who are at a higher risk for COVID-19.