CONCORD, NH – On the first day of re-opening malls, golf courses, salons and retail shops in his “Stay-at-Home 2.0” order, there were no new deaths from COVID-19, but a number are still under investigation, officials reported at Gov. Chris Sununu’s Monday news conference.
Two new outbreaks were reported at residential facilities, one at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown that involves 12 residents and two staff members.
The second is at the Community Resources for Justice Center, transitional housing for adults in Manchester, which has 11 new resident cases and three staffers, said Lori Shibinette, commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services.
A total of 133 residents have died from the disease in New Hampshire since March, about 80 percent in extended-care facilities.
He said if there is a surge in cases, “we can take steps backward.”
“My job is to really plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Sununu said adding that there are some tough decisions that have to be made.
While nothing is set in stone, Sununu said there could be more announced flex openings of businesses later this week as his task force works with daycare centers, gyms, lodging, and the arts community to find ways they can join golf courses, retail and hair salons which now can open with restrictions.
A complete list of openings and guidelines for “Stay-at-Home 2.0” are here https://www.governor.nh.gov/news-media/press-2020/20200501-stay-at-home.htm
Businesses that choose to reopen and are under the guidelines may request free face coverings from the state at nheconomy.com/covid19 and they can pick their order up at their closest DMV office.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, stressed the continuing need for ongoing social distancing and staying at home. He noted that globally there are 4.1 million cases and in the United States alone 1.3 million.
Testing has ramped up in the state and now 34,000 people have been tested, many in the last week with over 1,200 tests per day being averaged since the state opened up five new testing sites and one mobile unit. It just stood up a new facility in Milford and plans a new one this week in Concord.
Chan said it is important for businesses that are reopened to comply with guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“People still need to stay at home as much as possible. There is a need to maintain social distancing in public as much as possible and … we recommend people wearing a cloth mask,” Chan said.
Sununu noted that he exchanged letters with David Simon, the owner of Simon malls across the state, and that the malls themselves have a plan to enforce social distancing guidelines that do not require public law enforcement.
But he said the state would be ready to help if too many teens, for example, congregate together in the malls.
Shibinette talked about long-term care facilities and comparisons to neighboring states in terms of statistics and resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
While she noted last week that the state has among the highest percentages of fatalities at nursing homes per capita in the nation she looked at data from other states in terms of the percentage of nursing homes with cases of COVID-19.
About 21 percent of long-term care facilities in New Hampshire have COVID-19 cases. That compared to Rhode Island at 33 percent, Maine at 43 percent and Massachusetts at 49 percent.
She noted also that data on the death rates by state in extended-care facilities show Rhode Island has lost 5 percent of its residents to COVID-19, Massachusetts 4.6 percent, Connecticut 3.2 percent, New York 3 percent, and New Hampshire 0.7 percent.
She said she has maintained throughout this crisis the need to “stop the virus at the door” of long-term care facilities.
“What is important here is that the (state health) department develops and uses relevant data to change the narrative. It is not whether New Hampshire is the worst or the best when it comes to the number of long-term care deaths. Every death is unacceptable, every death represents a grieving and devastated family,” Shibinette said.
She said the data really needs to inform how we strategize and develop solutions.
“We have really worked hard at developing an aggressive… containment strategy. Stop it at the door, screen everyone that comes in, test everyone in the unit when someone comes back positive,” Shibinette said. “I know all our health care partners are working very hard to prevent every single one of those (deaths).”
Late Monday afternoon, the governor also issued an emergency order which allows individuals with training to work in nursing homes.