NH commissioner: Virus to peak between late April, early May

CONCORD (AP) — New Hampshire officials reported 29 new positive tests for the new coronavirus Wednesday and said they expect to see cases peak in late April or early May.

In the meantime, state officials are looking to secure more ventilators, and Gov. Chris Sununu has decided it isn’t yet necessary to order people to mostly stay at home.

A look at developments in New Hampshire:

PROJECTING A PEAK

Coronavirus cases are expected to peak in the state sometime between the end of April and early May, the state’s health commissioner told the Executive Council on Wednesday.

“We’ll know and have more accurate numbers in the coming week or two on how much and when we expect that peak to be,” Commissioner Lori Shibinette said during the meeting, held by audio conference. “We’re watching numbers every day for that.”

Regarding personal protective equipment supplies, Shibinette said the state has a total of 1,000 ventilators or machines that can be converted to them and has ordered 45 more ventilators. She said the state also is going through its warehouse for equipment that could be resurrected.

Under normal circumstances, New Hampshire would rely on the Strategic National Stockpile for such supplies, she said.

“Tapping into the strategic national stockpile for everything we need has been challenging and we have not been able to get ventilators from them, so we have ordered some on the commercial market,” Shibinette said.

The 29 new cases brought the state’s total to 137, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The new cases include 16 women, 12 men and one female under age 18. They live in Rockingham County (14), Hillsborough County other than Manchester and Nashua (8), Strafford (2), Belknap (1), Grafton (1), and Merrimack (1) counties, and in Manchester (2). Six of the new cases are currently hospitalized.

Thus far, 19 patients of the 137 cases have been hospitalized.

Thirteen of the new cases have no identified risk factors. Community-based transmission continues to increase in the state and has been identified in the majority of counties, officials said. The remaining cases have either had travel to domestic or international locations or have had close contact with a person with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

STAY-AT-HOME DEBATE

New Hampshire Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli asked Sununu to issue an emergency order for residents to stay home as the state deals with the coronavirus, noting many of her constituents have called for that.

Pignatelli, a Democrat, said to her, such an order “closes non-essential businesses, and prohibits their employees from leaving their homes to work,” yet is not a complete lockdown. “You shouldn’t go to the hair or nail salon, you shouldn’t do things like leave town,” she said.

Sununu, a Republican, said the majority of those types of businesses in the state have closed voluntarily and that other major steps taken — remote learning, a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, and restaurants only offering takeout — puts New Hampshire on the right path and in line with the region.

He noted Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, ordered in-person operations of non-essential businesses to close and Vermonters to stay home to help prevent the spreads of the coronavirus.

“They have about half our population and the same number of identified cases, and we’ve tested a lot more than they have, so they have quite an issue,” Sununu said. He said the state could potentially take more steps, as necessary.

LIQUOR CURBSIDE PICKUP?

Sununu said Wednesday state officials are exploring the option of offering curbside pickup at New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He said the details were still being worked out.

Restaurants and other businesses are offering drive-by services and curbside pickup services.

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