Cheshire Medical Center is continuing to break its own COVID-19 records, with the Keene hospital reporting its highest proportion of positive tests to date Tuesday.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health affiliate reported a positivity rate of 23.5 percent during the week ending Dec. 30, compared to the week before when it was 19.7 percent.

Before the current COVID-19 surge, which began right after Thanksgiving, the hospital’s highest test positivity rate had been in September, at 11.3 percent, according to Dr. Aalok Khole, an infectious-disease physician at Cheshire Medical.

The number of inpatients with COVID-19 also remains high.

Cheshire Medical had 24 COVID-19-positive inpatients as of Tuesday morning, with six of them in the ICU requiring intubation, according to Khole. Of those, a majority (14) were unvaccinated, as has been the case in previous weeks.

The number of COVID-positive inpatients is down slightly from 27 last week — the highest number Cheshire Medical has seen at one time — but this is still a lot for the hospital to manage, hospital officials say, especially as it anticipates another surge throughout the next week caused by holiday gatherings.

“If there is a surge on top of the surge, we will struggle to provide the level of care the community is used to ...,” said Dr. Don Caruso, president and CEO of the hospital. “There will be more impact to care.”

Caruso said last week that the hospital had transferred about 30 nurses who work in outpatient departments to the inpatient settings to prepare. The hospital also converted more standard rooms to those capable of providing intensive care.

In addition to those still considered positive for the viral disease, Cheshire Medical has an elevated number of recovering COVID-19 patients, those who are no longer infectious but still require hospitalization to recover from the virus.

Cheshire Medical had an additional 16 patients who fall under this category as of Tuesday morning, according to Caruso. Most of them had experienced respiratory system or other organ failure, he added.

The strain Cheshire Medical Center is weathering is occurring statewide.

Data from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services show that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped in recent weeks. At the end of last month, 353 patients with active COVID cases were in New Hampshire hospitals, down from more than 450 two weeks prior.

However, as first reported by N.H. Public Radio, data as of Monday from the N.H. Hospital Association show Granite State hospitals were treating another 128 patients recovering from the virus.

Caruso said this isn’t the first time Cheshire Medical has cared for recovering COVID-19 patients, but usually it was one or two at a time.

“But with the surge now, it’s a large number,” he said. “A lot of them, because they are really sick, are still requiring high levels of care.”

Cheshire Medical continues to urge people to practice COVID-19 safety measures, such as wearing a mask in public, staying home when sick and washing hands frequently, especially as New Hampshire sees very high case numbers.

Those who haven’t done so are also encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot, as it’s the best way to protect yourself and others from the viral disease, health experts say.

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine or booster appointment, visit vaccines.nh.gov or call 2-1-1.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.

Olivia Belanger is the health reporter for The Sentinel, covering issues from the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to mental health services in the region. A N.H. native, she joined The Sentinel team in August 2019.