New Hampshire

Weekly Report: NH COVID-19 hospitalizations spike; Biden offers four free tests and winter plan | News, Sports, Jobs

President Joe Biden said Thursday the government is making four free rapid COVID-19 virus tests per household at starting today, along with detailed plans to limit a possible winter surge.

Biden’s winter plan includes recommendations for hospitals, nursing homes and heads of state.

Overnight, Rockingham County reported moderate levels of COVID-19 in the community while the rest had low levels. All 10 counties had low community scores as of Wednesday.

In New Hampshire, 8 people died from COVID-19 in the last week, and the number being treated in hospitals specifically for the virus rose to 35 from 20 last Thursday, according to the weekly report from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

DHHS is planning a new effort to track trends in COVID-19 by implementing a wastewater monitoring program and urging people to get their free vaccinations and booster shots 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 track trends in changing levels of the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) in our communities over time and potentially provide an earlier warning of rising levels.

Communities to be studied include water from treatment plants in Berlin, Dover, Durham, Hampton, Keene, Manchester, Merrimack, Newmarket, Newport, Pease and Peirce Island Wastewater Treatment Plants in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Sunapee.

People infected with the COVID-19 virus, whether they have symptoms or not, can shed the virus in the waste. Virus fragments in a community-wide sample collected from sewage treatment plants can help determine whether COVID-19 levels are rising, falling, or staying the same.

“This is another tool we can use to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” said Patricia Tilley, director of the department of public health at DHHS.

“Wastewater monitoring does not depend on individuals being tested for COVID-19, so this new program has the potential to provide additional and earlier insights into COVID-19 in our communities.”

This wastewater data will be published shortly on the NH’s COVID-19 website, which is updated on Thursdays each week.

The wastewater monitoring program is funded by a grant from 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 available resource for making an appointment is to go online at

At Rite Aid in Plymouth, walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot were accepted without an appointment, although they also offered appointments on the pharmacies’ national website.

Many of those seeking boosters are primarily elderly, according to staff.

According to the CDC, 71 percent of New Hampshire residents have completed their primary vaccination course and 19 percent have received the new bivalent booster, Leon said.

The state’s universal practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19 are there and have changed over time.

“We’ve seen a pretty strong uptrend” in COVID-19 hospitalizations, said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association.

He said the association’s numbers are expected to rise to just over 100 hospital admissions on Thursday as they include everyone hospitalized with COVID-19.

Ahnen said he didn’t know what caused the surge, but it wasn’t unexpected that people would congregate indoors over the holidays.

“COVID has not gone away. It will be with us for a while and we have to deal with it.” said ancestors.

This includes all the prevention methods that have always been talked about – washing hands, testing for symptoms, vaccination, staying at home when you are sick.

He reminded people that there are medicines that help prevent serious illness from COVID-19.

Ahnen said hospitals have been incredibly busy in recent months with well over 90 percent of beds occupied.

Hospitals are still challenged due to the lack of staff, said Ahnen.

“This could potentially be one of the most challenging winters of the pandemic… It’s a very serious disease.” said ancestors.

Biden’s plan includes asking governors for their support in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates for residents and long-term care workers and encouraging hospitals to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients before they are discharged, particularly if they are placed in a nursing home will.

This includes expanding access to quality masks in communities. To expand access, HHS will provide guidance to participating pharmacies and grocery stores on how to work with local health clinics, elder and disability networks, community-based organizations and public health officials to further distribute these masks so that any replacement stock is available through distribution to yet more locations are used.


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