CONCORD, NH – The state’s stay-at-home strategy appears to be working, but it’s too early to say if New Hampshire has seen the worst of COVID-19, officials said at Gov. Chris Sununu’s news conference on Thursday.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan called it a “period of uncertainty” as the state unveiled data showing how the efforts of citizens are helping to flatten the curve of the virus’s spread.
There are hopeful signs, although he and Sununu both stressed the need for continued vigilance in social distancing and other mitigation measures because there are likely many more weeks to come.
“The stay-at-home order is working,” Sununu said.
When will the state have a day when there are no new positive COVID-19 cases?
“When it hits zero, we don’t know,” said Sununu. “We saw in the presentation that these sacrifices add up in an incredible way with ‘real results. We have a long way to go.”
But the state also offered some sobering facts, reporting three new deaths to COVID-19, bringing the total to 21, and said 31 more positive tests overnight mean the state has 819 in all. It was the fifth day in a row that the number of new cases dropped below 50.
A few certainties, according to the state’s PowerPoint presentation: This epidemic will last many more weeks and the state’s strategy appears to be working.
Chan and Sununu both restated the importance of people continuing to stay at home, follow emergency order directives and the need to protect older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
Early intervention in “community mitigation,” like closing schools, non-essential businesses, encouraging telecommuting, canceling events and social distancing in grocery stores have likely helped reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19, Chan said. And they are intended to reduce deaths in the long run, he said.
Using a University of Washington model on when the country might peak with COVID-19, Chan said it seems that the preliminary projections for the state were more dire than what we are seeing.
Still, there have been a total of 21 deaths in the state, with 10 of them residents in three long-term adult care centers.
And more than 100 people hospitalized with some in intensive care on respirators helping them to breathe. Sununu warned the downward trend could spike up at any given moment, “if we get too lax in our behaviors.
“We have to be incredibly careful.”
A lag in test results, the number of tests administered and other delayed reporting might be factors in understanding the true picture, but “I think based on what we are seeing with the data, our New Hampshire strategy is showing some signs of impact,” Chan said.
“We still, however, need people to stay at home. Now is a critical time to continue with our social distancing and community mitigation strategy,” Chan said. “Please continue with the measures to bring the virus under control.”
A few weeks ago, the state put out a call for people to give and more than $3.2 million has been raised and will help the neediest and most vulnerable, Sununu said.
“It’s a terrific start,” Sununu said. “It goes to the charitable nature of the state.”
He also noted that the New Hampshire Non-Profit Response Fund will be offering up to $100,000 of working capital for non-profits, some of whom are “on the front lines of this epidemic,” and play a critical role in making that one-to-one connection to those in need.
He thanked both the Community Development Finance Authority and the Business Finance Authority for getting behind that effort.
Also, folks answered the call to volunteer and there are now 1,300 people who have “stepped up” and will be paired with volunteer opportunities that suit their talents. He urged people to call 271-7200 to volunteer or to visit volunteernh website.
At the state’s border on the inbound side of interstates 93, 95 and 89, signs include messages aimed at out-of-staters telling them to quarantine for 14 days if they are coming for an extended period of time. The hope, Sununu said, is to prevent further spread of the virus.
The shopping is going pretty well for Professional Protective Equipment for first responders and health-care workers, Sununu said, adding he is not focused on waiting for the federal government to dole out the items, but instead shopping for it.
“We have been scouring since day one and I think we are really in pretty good shape,” Sununu said, noting no health-care facility or hospital has said they are out of the protective equipment.
“We keep doling out what CDC has given us,” he said. “We are turning over every stone and having some success.”