COVID-19 Update April 20

COVID-19 Update April 20

Yesterday was a fairly quiet day for news. There aren’t a lot of news stories today, but there is some pretty complex information. The lawsuit against Governor Sununu deserved more than one paragraph.

Stay safe, and, always, be kind. Remember, this is all temporary.

 

Key points covered in today’s report:

  • Some of the issues in NH are revealed
  • UNH and Dartmouth College did a survey about thoughts on social distancing.
  • A summary of the 9th Emergency Operations Center Report
  • Recommendation for all Granite Staters to wear masks
  • A lengthy summary of the ongoing lawsuit brought against Governor Sununu, to determine who will decide how the $1.25Billion coming to NH will be spent. It’s complex.
  • The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee
  • NH Court System is overloaded.
  • I added a new resource for Nonprofit businesses

Click on the calendar to enlarge
https://www.bonnie4salem.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/april20-calendar.jpg

 


Q: How is NH doing in comparison to our neighboring states?
A: We aren’t doing enough tests!
WHY???

Over the last four days, NY’s test per 100,000 residents increased by 42.1%; MA saw a 97.6% increase in test per 100K, and Vermont saw a 32.7% increase. Why was NH’s increase only 1.4%???


The following charts are from NHPR

#End of NHPR’s charts.

Additional charts can be found at https://www.nhpr.org/post/updated-tracking-covid-19-cases-and-testing-new-hampshire


COVID Symptom Tracker: This is a project of Mass General Hospital. In the absence of proper testing, this may be the best way of tracking how we are doing. I’m keeping it near the top, so I’ll remember to log in each day.
https://covid.joinzoe.com/us?fbclid=IwAR2IsoxZ9RBKC4uPQscKiuUUTJCA3cCt3dUr9tjNSsFqOU1rv10jmysmt4Y


Today’s COVID-19 news:

  April 20 April 19Change from yesterday
Total Confirmed Cases1,4471,392+55
Recovered52136% (was 37%)
521+0
Deaths Attributed to COVID-19
423% 41+1
Active Cases884830
+54
Total Hospitalized20114%
198+3
Current Hospitalized7879
-1
Tested Negative12,84812,726122
Persons with specimens submitted to NH PHL6,6716,472199
Persons with test pending at NH PHL244298-54
Being Monitored (Approximate)2,4002,300+100
Total Tested (Confirmed Cases + Tested Negative)14,29514,118+177

Salem’s confirmed cases: 

  • April 3: 25 cases (Range 20-40)
  • April 6: 33 cases (+8 in 3 days)
  • April 8: 20-40 cases
  • April 9: 20-49 cases (between +1 and +9 in 1 day)
  • April 10: Over 50 (at least +1 in one day, at least +10 in 2 days; at least +25 in 7 days, and this is before the 4/16 outbreak at The Residence at Salem Woods.

Salem, Manchester, Nashua, Derry and now Dover are the only NH municipalities with more than 50 confirmed cases.  With 272 confirmed cases (up +14) from yesterday), Manchester appears to be the municipality in NH with the most confirmed cases. Nashua has 135 (+4) confirmed cases. We don’t have the numbers for the other three hottest spots, Salem Derry or Dover. Bedford, Concord, Hudson, Londonderry, Pelham, Portsmouth, Seabrook and Windham are the only communities in New Hampshire with 20-49 confirmed cases.

Hillsborough County, which includes Manchester and Nashua, has 604 (+23) confirmed cases. Rockingham County is second, with 489 (+10) confirmed cases. These two counties make up over 70% of all confirmed cases.

Today, Methuen has 390 confirmed cases (+6) or 1.0% of its 2019 population of 39,498 people. On April 19, I compared Methuen’s 384 confirmed cases to Salem and Manchester. Salem’s population in 2019 was 29,133. If 1.08% of Salem’s population had COVID-19, we would have 283 confirmed cases. How can our neighboring town have so many cases, but we don’t? Massachusetts has much higher testing rates.

I also looked at Manchester NH in comparison to Methuen. Thirty miles away from Methuen, Manchester’s population in 2018 was 112,525. With 258 confirmed cases on April 19, only 0.2% of their population has been diagnosed. If Manchester had the same infection rate as Methuen, they would have 1125 cases! New Hampshire NEEDS more testing!

Of the confirmed cases in NH, about 15% have required hospitalization. Over 30% of the confirmed cases are healthcare workers. Most of those with mild symptoms have not been able to get tested.

We need proper testing to fight COVID-19


The NH Division of Public Health Services, Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, has announced a Weekly Summary Report, with more details than I see in the daily reports from the Department of Health & Human Services. See the report or my summary of the key points in my report on April 13.


NH News relating to COVID-19

Issues in NH are revealed

A person involved with a group that does testings and trains others to do the testings shed some light on some of the issues here in New Hampshire: “The problem right now is training. Before it was test availability, then PPE shortages, now it is the level of training to decrease the false negatives that are showing up a lot.”

Survey on Social Distancing

There was a new survey released today from UNH and Dartmouth College. As reported by NHPR:
  • 1/3 of working New Hampshire residents have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut
    • Younger workers and those with less education have been the hardest hit.
    • Workers without college degrees have been the hardest hit.
  • Of those with a high school diploma or less:
    • 17% of workers have lost their job,
    • 25% said their hours were cut.
    • More than double the rates of people with postgraduate degrees.
  • 2/3 of all respondents said that maintaining social distancing was more important than restarting the economy.
    • People over the age of 60 are significantly more likely to prioritize social distancing than people between 18-29 years old.
    • Only 41% of registered Republicans prioritized maintaining social distancing over restarting the economy compared to 91% of registered Democrats.
    • 72% of respondents who lost their job said social distancing is more important than restarting the economy.

9th Emergency Operations Center Report

Chief Larry Best, Director of EOC:
  • Salem is one of four communities in NH with 50+ confirmed cases.
  • DHHS puts out a daily map that shows that COVID-19 is widespread in southern NH.
  • He suspects that there are many more that haven’t been tested.
  • He gets many questions about the surge/peak. Info from the models they are using show we could be in the peak now, or next 1-3 weeks.
  • He is watching the numbers and the disparity between NH and MA test results, especially Essex and Middlesex Counties. Middlesex has 2K more confirmed cases than a week ago. Chief Best says our numbers are low because of the number of tests being given. [Edited to share that Middlesex County, including Dracut and Lowell,  has 8,737 cases; Essex County, including Methuen, Haverhill and Lawrence, has 5,153 confirmed cases.]
  • The Fire Department is responding to 13-14 calls per day. In the past week, they have had 90 incidents, of which 56 were EMS calls. 60% of the calls were simultaneous modes, meaning two calls at the same time. There are more serious EMS calls related to COVID, including several cardiac arrests. 40-45% of their calls are screened as possible COVID.
  • Help them not have unnecessary calls: If you are sterilizing a safety mask in microwave, be sure there are no metal parts, and stay with it.
  • The Fire Department is doing daily health checks for members.
  • They are In regular communication with long-term care facilities providing assistance as needed, including helping them obtain appropriate PPE.
  • If you have symptoms, call your PCP before going there.
  • It will take a while to return to what will be the new normal.
Brian Lockard, Salem’s Health Officer
  • When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, they are assigned a nurse, who will oversee that proper quarantine is observed. These nurses also do contact investigations.
  • There is no evidence of food packaging exposure.
  • When grocery shopping, buy 1-2 weeks of food at a time; try to reduce the number of trips.
  • When you have to go, wear a mask, and stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Carry your own wipes and wipe the cart.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds after putting groceries away.
  • Rinse fresh fruit and veggies
  • When asked by the Selectmen if we are doing everything we should, Mr. Lockard said it appears so.
  • We can’t require that folks wear masks, but it’s a good idea.
  • Gloves give a sense o false security.
  • Continue to social distance.
  • Cathy Stacey asked about requiring grocery store employees to wear masks.
  • It has been recommended to the stores that they have their employees wear masks. The town can’t require that they wear masks, because some people have physical limitations.

Recommendation for all Granite Staters to wear masks

The Division of Public Health Services of the New Hampshire Department Health and Human Services is now recommending all Granite Staters wear “cloth face coverings” when outside of their homes in an effort to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Legislators vs. Sununu

NH received half of the $1.25 billion that is earmarked for NH as part of the federal CARES Act on Friday. The remainder is expected to arrive on Friday of this week. Who will get to decide how this is spent? This was debated today in a 2-hour hearing, with only the judge and court personnel in the Court House, and all others participating remotely.

Governor Sununu claims that he has clear authority under a 2002 state law to bypass the lawmakers in an emergency, to quickly deliver important funds to address the fallout of the pandemic. He is asking that the suit be dismissed.

The legislators who filed the suit argue that under the state constitution and state law, Sununu must receive approval of the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee before spending the funds. They are seeking a preliminary injunction to block Sununu from spending money without committee approval.

State Solicitor General Daniel Will is representing Governor Sununu, and argued that a 2002 law provides the governor with “extraordinary powers” in an emergency – including the authority to accept federal funds and spend that money without legislative approval. Will said the fiscal committee can’t respond quickly enough to opportunities for equipment that come to the state on very short notice. “To argue that (the fiscal committee) is nimble enough and it can operate quickly enough to approve those sorts of expenses, I just don’t think it’s realistic,” Will said. He also claims that the legislators do not have the right to bring suit against the Governor.

Will noted that the 2002 law lays out specific actions the governor may take in an emergency, but it also includes a broad provision allowing the governor to “perform and exercise such other functions, powers and duties as are necessary to promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population.”

State Senate Legal Counsel Greg Silverman claims that Governor Sununu is trying to usurp the Legislature’s “power of the purse.” He said the bipartisan Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee has the authority to waive its required 24-hour meeting notice and has the ability to meet “at a moment’s notice to review an appropriation request” from the governor. “We don’t believe the emergency allows the governor to ignore the constitution or the law,” Silverman said.

Silverman countered Will’s claims by saying, “I have not seen anything in those documents to suggest that the Legislature intended to relinquish its power of the purse to a governor or the executive branch in a state of emergency.” “There is no language that says the governor may spend funds unappropriated by the Legislature” in the statutes cited by Will.

Court Judge David Anderson, promised to rule as quickly as possible but noted the complex nature of the case. “If you look at the two parties’ positions, there seems to be a wide gulf in the middle,” he said. “On the one hand, the governor is arguing there are all these … discreet decisions that have to be made on a quick basis. I’m not sure the four plaintiffs disagree with that so much. They seem to be arguing that doesn’t justify giving the governor carte blanche to spend $1.25 billion however the governor chooses. …There must be a sort of middle position here, somewhere,” the judge said. Before he makes a determination on the merits, the judge will have to determine if the legislators have the standing to sue. He indicated that he does understand that time is of the essence.

Plaintiff’s Press Release: “Today we presented our case to the court in our pursuit to ensure that public dollars are properly and swiftly provided to Granite Staters who need them now. The legislature seeks to fulfill its constitutional role in the disbursement of federal funds during an emergency.

“The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee is the rightful authority to have oversight of these critical funds and provide advice and consent to the executive branch when allocating these funds to support our neighbors who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. We look forward to a swift ruling in this response.”

Gov. Sununu said in a statement: “Solicitor General Dan Will did a fantastic laying out the well-founded legal arguments that support the merits of our case. In this unprecedented public health emergency, we will continue to focus on getting relief out to New Hampshire families in rapid fashion.”

Read more on WMUR

Fiscal Committee approves replacing $26M in transferred funds

Today the Legislative Fiscal Committee met electronically and voted use $26 million of the $625 million that was delivered on Friday to replace funds in the state Department of Health and Human Services’ budget transferred for COVID-19-related spending.

Court System Overload: New Hampshire’s circuit courts have canceled, but not yet rescheduled, approximately 17,745 hearings since March 16. About 40 jury trials were not able to move forward in the state’s Superior courts because of the coronavirus outbreak, and another 5,100 hearings in those courts are on hold. Read more.

Salem Government

The Town of Salem’s Emergency Operations Center Team (EOC) will be making weekly reports every Monday evening at 7:00. Their reports can be seen at http://sctv-17.com/CablecastPublicSite/?channel=1

Find other Salem Government board meetings: https://www.townofsalemnh.org/boards

To watch past or live viewings:

State Representation:
Salem has nine State Representatives. If you are having issues connected to COVID-19, they have access to the people who can get you the help you need. You can find contact info for our reps here: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/default.aspx

Our Senator, Chuck Morse, can be contacted at Chuck.Morse@leg.state.nh.us His Concord office phone is 603.271.3207.

Disclaimer:

On April 7, NH scientist and politician, Mindi Messmer, PG, CG wrote on her Facebook page: “… testing has pretty much stopped at the NH PHL. The testing penetration is so low in NH, only 1/2% of the 1.3M people, meaning 99.5% of the 1.3M have not been tested, that I am not putting up projections or tests for NH because the graphs would be meaningless and I don’t want to give the false impression that we know what’s going on in NH.”

On April 8, the National Academy of Sciences reported that 16 out of 51 tests were inaccurate. (false negatives). Others also have concerns about both false negatives and false positives.

Please keep these ideas in mind as you review the information on this page or any other page.


Resources to help in these challenging times:

Do YOU think you have COVID-19?

To report suspected cases, contact the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at  603-271-4496, (603-271-5300 for after hours), or nhbidc@dhhs.nhs.gov.

The IRS has released its new app to track stimulus payments, Get My Payment.” which had been scheduled to be released on April 17. Expect to wait. (And possibly, like me, be disappointed.) If your info isn’t available today, try again tomorrow, as info is going to be updated every night.

How You Can Help Others:

Masks:

There is no excuse for not having a mask!!!

Salem:

New Hampshire:

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services:

Office of the Governor: https://www.governor.nh.gov

Mindi Messmer: A scientist who is reporting frequently on COVID-19, Mindi is also a candidate for Executive Council, District 3 (including Salem). https://www.facebook.com/Mindi4NH/ Sign up for her “Daily or So COVID-19 Updates” https://actionnetwork.org/forms/daily-or-so-covid-19-updates

More info about COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:


COVID Symptom Tracker:
This is a project of Mass General Hospital. In the absence of proper testing, let’s let them know how we are doing. https://covid.joinzoe.com/us?fbclid=IwAR2IsoxZ9RBKC4uPQscKiuUUTJCA3cCt3dUr9tjNSsFqOU1rv10jmysmt4Y

Tuft’s University: COVID-19 Convalescent (Recovered) Patient Registry

Trackers (Cases)

The World Health Organization:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Media with NH COVID-19 news:

Housing

Unemployment

Financial Assistance

Link to other  NH benefits:

Businesses and Employers: Guidance for Small Businesses 


Sources for data included in these reports:

Please report any errors or omissions to bonnie@bonnie4salem.us. Thank you.