State confirms active COVID-19 clusters in schools on the rise

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Dr. Beth Daly is pictured with Gov. Chris Sununu behind her at a news conference update on COVID-19 in Concord. Daly said Wednesday she is leaving state employment. Photo/Paula Tracy

CONCORD, NH – State epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan did not sugar-coat the situation in schools and child-care centers after Thanksgiving as COVID-19 cases soar across the state.

The state announced a total of 1,365 new COVID-19 cases, nine deaths and 403 hospitalizations Wednesday.

Chan said since the beginning of the school year, there have been 313 COVID-19 clusters in K-12 schools.

There are now 124 active and two weeks ago there were 110 active clusters of COVID-19 in K-12 schools, Chan said.

Chan and his staff in their bi-monthly meeting with school nurses, administrators, and child-care center operators, said the average number of infections in New Hampshire is dipping a little bit, but there are still about 1,000 new cases a day.

The highest levels of community transmissions are occurring now and especially with the holidays, the risk will only increase.

Chan said there is a general expectation that the numbers will increase. How high, he said, is uncertain.

The test positivity rate in the state, on average over seven days has increased and is now at 12 percent, Chan said.

All regions of the state have a substantial level of community transmission and the rate over 14 days has increased.

The number of clusters in schools is on the increase, he said. The average number of cases per cluster is slowly increasing.

Chan said he is seeing a high burden in the K-12 schools and 25 percent of infections are in children 18 and younger.

Child care clusters are not as bad, he said.

Stephanie Locke, of the Department of Health and Human Services preparation and response team, discussed testing information going on in schools and homes including the in-home testing “Say Yes” program which went live Monday and has already exhausted its current supply.

Chan also announced that Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the bureau of infectious diseases at the department, is leaving state service to go to a national job.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with her,” Chan told educators and child-care providers.

Daly thanked Chan and said she will leave this week to take a position at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and she said she will continue to work on infectious diseases.

“It is bittersweet because I have enjoyed my work here,” Daly said.

Chan said they will cancel the call the week of  Dec. 15 because of conflicting schedules. The next one will be on Jan. 5, 2022.

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Paula Tracy

Veteran reporter Paula Tracy writes for