By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Reporting a record 252 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, two deaths, and outbreaks at three new locations, state leaders urged the public to re-up their efforts to protect themselves and others from the virus which has now killed 486 New Hampshire residents.
Gov. Chris Sununu, just re-elected to a new term, congratulated Secretary of State Bill Gardner with pulling off another successful election in the state and said he would be supporting another term for him when the new majority of Republicans gather at the State House.
Sununu said he has discussed with Attorney General Gordon MacDonald his interest in renominating him to become the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court now that he has a Republican majority on the state’s Executive Council.
Sununu also urged the public to remain patient as votes are counted in the Presidential race and said neither side, including his favored candidate President Donald Trump, should declare victory before all the votes are counted.
“We would all like to know the winner,” Sununu said, but ballots cast should be counted in accordance with that state’s rules.
Forty-four people are currently hospitalized in the state, a jump from the past eight months, but the governor noted there is the capacity for more bed space in hospitals.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, said the 252 new people listed today is actually about 50 higher than it should be due to a computer reporting glitch a couple of days ago.
He said 204 tested positive through the gold standard PCR test while 48 tested positive by antigen testing.
Still, in the last week, the state has averaged 150 new cases per day and now has 1,546 active cases with the 14-day rate at 123 positives per 100,000 tests and the state’s positivity rate is creeping up from about 1 percent to 1.8 percent.
Chan said the state recorded two deaths Thursday, and they weren’t associated with long-term care facilities.
“We continue to see increasing community transmission,” throughout the state, Chan said noting seven different counties are characterized as having a substantial level of community transmission with the remaining three, Carroll, Sullivan, and Cheshire counties considered at moderate levels.
Commissioner of Health and Human Services Lori Shibinette said the state is opening new outbreak studies at St. Anne’s in Dover involving 14 cases, at Woodlawn in Newport involving 11, and in Plymouth at a residential school, Mount Prospect Academy with 20.
CARES Act Update
With the last few weeks before what is left of the $1.25 billion CARES Act money has to be spent, or returned to Washington, Sununu said just over 4,000 new applications have been submitted to the second round of Main Street business funds and 3,000 are eligible.
Those who didn’t make the cut for the $100 million include new businesses this year and those based out of state.
He said some are businesses the first wave of grants will go to those who did not get money in the first round.
Earlier Thursday, the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR) notified applicants of the Live Venue Relief Program regarding their application status. A list of awards can be found by clicking here.
Note: More details regarding the program can be found on the GOFERR website or by clicking here.
About 75 percent of the schools have applied for the additional $200 per pupil federal funds but time is running out to apply for the $25 million, Sununu said.
They have until Friday to get their final budget into the state Department of Education.
“I don’t want to see districts leave money on the table,” Sununu said, noting this is an opportunity for cities, town, schools, kids, and taxpayers to get some relief.
While Massachusetts begins a curfew this weekend and it may impact more out-of-state visitors, Sununu said there are no immediate plans to change guidance here.
He said he continues to look at numbers daily, and he has an advisory committee looking at changes as well as input from health professionals. The state remains flexible on a case-by-case basis to both expand opening and restrict or reduce capacity, Sununu said.
He continues to look at New England on a regional basis as the numbers climb and said we know a lot more about the virus than we did eight months ago.
Chan said we know how this virus spreads and we know how to prevent it from spreading. Earlier, it was travel-related but what we are seeing now is that transmission has moved to the general community and close contact.
“This is a virus that likes to take advantage of crowds,” he said, adding gatherings in indoor spaces are increasing because of the weather and likely in the future because of the holidays.