By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
President Joe Biden said Thursday the government is making four COVID-19 rapid virus tests for free per household at covidtests.gov starting today along with detailed plans to limit a possible winter surge.
The winter plan from Biden includes recommendations for hospitals, nursing homes, and state leaders. https://indepthnh.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Fact-Sheet_-Biden-Administration-Announces-COVID-19-Winter-Preparedness-Plan-_-The-White-House.html
Overnight, Rockingham County reported medium community levels of COVID-19 with the rest showing low levels. All 10 counties had low coummunity levels on Wednesday.
In New Hampshire, 8 people died from COVID-19 during the last week and the number being treated in hospitals specifically for the virus jumped to 35, up from 20 last Thursday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services weekly report.
DHHS said it plans a new effort to track trends in COVID-19 by implementing a wastewater surveillance program while urging people to get their free vaccinations and boosters against the highly transmissible respiratory virus as the holiday season approaches.
State public health laboratories will monitor COVID-19 levels in New Hampshire communities. The program will collect data to help track trends in changing levels of COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) over time in our communities, and potentially provide an earlier warning signal of rising levels.
The communities to be studied include water from treatment facilities in Berlin, Dover, Durham, Hampton, Keene, Manchester, Merrimack, Newmarket, Newport, Pease Wastewater Treatment facility, and Peirce Island in Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Sunapee.
People who are infected with the COVID-19 virus, whether they have symptoms or not, can shed the virus in waste. Viral fragments in a community-wide sample collected from wastewater treatment facilities can help determine if the levels of COVID-19 are going up, down, or staying the same.
“This is another tool we can use to help monitor COVID-19 spread in our state,” said Patricia Tilley, director of the Department of Public Health within DHHS.
“Wastewater surveillance does not depend on individuals testing for COVID-19, so this new program has the potential to provide additional and earlier insight about COVID-19 in our communities.”
This wastewater data will soon be published on the NH COVID-19 website which is updated every week on Thursdays.
The wastewater surveillance program is funded by a grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jake Leon, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said vaccinations are widely available and the best source available to make an appointment is by going online to https://www.vaccines.gov/.
At Rite Aid in Plymouth, walk-ins were being accepted for the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters without an appointment, although they were also offering appointments at the pharmacies’ national website.
Many of those seeking boosters, staff said, are primarily elderly.
According to the CDC, 71 percent of New Hampshire residents have completed their primary series of vaccinations and 19 percent have received the new bivalent booster, Leon said.
The state’s Universal Practices for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 are here and they have changed over time. https://www.covid19.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt481/files/inline-images/universal-best-practices.pdf
“We’ve seen a pretty sharp uptick” in COVID-19 hospitalizations said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association.
He said the association numbers were expected to increase to just over 100 hospitalizations Thursday because they include all people in the hospital with COVID-19.
Ahnen said he doesn’t know the cause for the increase, but it is not unexpected with people gathering indoors for the holidays.
“COVID hasn’t gone away. It’s going to be with us for a while and we have to manage it,” Ahnen said.
That includes all of the prevention methods people have been talking about since the beginning – hand washing, test if you have symptoms, vaccinate, stay home if you are sick.
He reminded people that there are medications to help prevent serious illness from COVID-19.
Ahnen said the hospitals have been incredibly busy with well above 90 percent of the beds in use for the last few months.
Hospitals are further challenged, Ahnen said, because of workforce shortages.
“This could potentially be one of most challenging winters of the pandemic…It’s a very serious disease,” Ahnen said.
Biden’s plan includes asking governors for their assistance in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates for long-term care residents and staff and encouraging hospitals to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients before discharge, especially if they are headed to a nursing home.
It also includes expanding access to high-quality masks in communities. To expand access, HHS will offer guidance to participating pharmacies and grocery stores on how they can work with local health clinics, aging and disability networks, community-based organizations, and health departments to distribute these masks more widely, so that any spare inventory can be utilized through distribution to even more locations.
DHHS: New Hampshire Institutions Associated with a COVID-19 Outbreak (as of 12/15/2022)
|Current COVID-19 Outbreaks||Resident Cases||Staff Cases||Under Investigation||Deaths|
|All American Assisted Living||36||6||0||0|
|Alpine Health Center||34||12||0||0|
|Bowman Place at Olde Bedford||29||7||0||0|
|Courville at Manchester||19||10||0||1|
|Epsom Health Center||44||18||0||0|
|Fairview Nursing Home||19||9||0||0|
|Golden View Health Care Center||9||2||0||0|
|Hanover Terrace Health and Rehabilitation Center||7||3||0||0|
|Hillsborough County Department of Corrections||31||1||0||0|
|Inn at Deerfield||8||2||0||0|
|Langdon Place of Dover||15||13||0||0|
|Merrimack County Nursing Home||53||21||0||1|
|Mountain Ridge Center Genesis Healthcare||61||24||0||4|
|Pines of Newmarket||11||9||0||0|
|St. Joseph Residence||10||7||0||0|
|Sullivan County Health Care||64||23||0||2|
|Wolfeboro Bay Center Genesis Healthcare||10||6||0||0|