A scary number showed up recently on the state’s daily COVID-19 report: 58.
It was scary because New Hampshire hadn’t seen a daily COVID-19 case count starting with a “5” since mid-June. We have gotten used to daily tallies in the 30s or 20s or teens — occasionally even single digits — but on Sept. 5 there were 58 new cases reported, and then on Sept. 10 there were 56.
The cause, of course, was outbreaks at colleges, in particular the university of New Hampshire, the state’s largest campus, and at public and private schools, notably an outbreak at Windham High School that scuttled plans for in-person classes at the last minute. Those numbers seem to say that the long-feared autumn resurgence in COVID-19 has begun.
The question now is how bad this will be. Cold weather will keep more of us indoors, making it easier to spread the virus. But if we stay vigilant then maybe things won’t get too bad.
New Hampshire has done well controlling the virus this summer. In particular, the effort to test and control cases in long-term care facilities, where three-quarters of COVID-related deaths have occurred, appears to have paid off.
We had a small rise in new cases in June as businesses opened up, but then numbers went back down even as people went to restaurants and beaches. If we can keep up our guard – masks, social distancing, being intelligent about gathering together, state health officials say, then we won’t have to shut back down.
For the moment, however, the Monitor’s weekly measure of the state of the virus in New Hampshire by looking at four goals is no longer totally positive.
A two-week drop in cases, showing that the virus is not spreading.
Have we met this goal? No.
Back on Aug. 30, the 14-day average of new cases had fallen to 19, the lowest since early in the pandemic. But two weeks later that average had risen by more than 50 percent, to 29 on Sept. 10. If that pattern continues, we could see the sort of exponential rise that occurred in April.
Fewer than four new cases per 100,000 people each day, or 54 new cases a day, which would show that the disease is below dangerous levels.
Have we met this goal? Yes. Our number of new cases has been below this level for more than two months.
But if new case numbers keep rising as they have so far in September, we’ll miss this goal soon.
Conducting at least 150 PCR tests per 100,000 people each day. That works out to 2,000 tests per day.
Have we met this goal? Yes.
The average number of test results reported each day was over 2,000 last week and frequently tops 3,000. With UNH launching its new testing lab these numbers should stay high — although since the UNH tests will be largely confined to the campus community, they won’t help us know if the virus is spreading throughout the state as a whole.
A positive rate of polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests below 5 percent, indicating that the virus is not spreading rapidly in the general population.
Have we met this goal? Yes.
As measured by the state Department of Health and Human Services, the positive rate has been below 3 percent for most of the summer.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Sunday the two-week average of new cases each day in New Hampshire surpassed the high for the summer, hitting 34 — an average we haven’t seen since June 28.
This article is being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.