New COVID cases

New COVID-19 cases in the Granite State fell to a seven-day average of 257 as of Friday.

New COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire have continued to drop, falling to a seven-day average of 257 as of Friday, as the state’s vaccination campaign moves forward.

That’s down from an average of 338 new cases per day a week ago and 442 earlier in April, when the latest spike in cases peaked. That springtime uptick came after two months of decline from the winter surge.

The rate of new cases is now nearly back to where it was in early March, when it bottomed out at 239.

Hospitalizations have also drifted down since last week. As of Friday, New Hampshire’s hospitals held 94 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to 108 a week earlier.

At a news conference Thursday, Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, said the trends have continued in the right direction. He encouraged people to keep taking precautions to prevent another increase.

“The spring and April vacation, and the travel that is potentially occurring, could pose a risk for our numbers going back up again,” he said. “So we continue to stress the importance that people wear their facemasks when in public locations, practice social or physical distancing, and avoid large group gatherings as ways to bring the numbers down further.”

Chan and other state officials also encouraged people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

As of Thursday, almost 800,000 people, equivalent to 59 percent of New Hampshire’s population, had had at least one dose, according to data from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. About a quarter of the population — more than 351,000 — were considered fully vaccinated.

“This is a really great start, and we’d love to see more people make this choice,” Elizabeth Daly, the chief of the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, said at the news conference. “We still have thousands of open vaccination appointments across our state at over 300 different locations.”

Daly said that even people who were previously infected with COVID-19 should get vaccinated to protect themselves against potential re-infection, as well as new variants of the novel coronavirus that are circulating.

She also urged people who see themselves as less vulnerable due to their age to get vaccinated, noting that the disease can have serious consequences regardless of age.

“We have seen even young people get hospitalized, or have weeks or months of breathing problems that impacted their ability to play sports or exercise, or live a normal daily life,” she said.

State stats

New Hampshire had 2,514 known active cases as of Friday. The seven-day test positivity rate was 3.5 percent.

In all, almost 95,000 Granite Staters have tested positive since the pandemic began.

The state announced 14 new COVID-related deaths over the past week, bringing the total to 1,303. Two of the people who died were younger than 60. None of the 14 were residents of Cheshire County.

The local picture

Cheshire County had 106 known active cases as of Friday, down from 132 a week earlier and the lowest in the state when adjusted for population size.

Among communities in The Sentinel’s coverage area, the following had active cases: Keene (48), Rindge (16), Jaffrey (13), Antrim (11), Swanzey (10), Charlestown (8), Peterborough (6), Troy (5) and Acworth, Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Hinsdale, Marlborough, Marlow, Langdon, Stoddard, Sullivan, Surry, Walpole and Winchester with one to four each.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS