Coronavirus

The state announced 64 new positive tests for COVID-19 over the weekend, including one in Cheshire County. The state also reported two deaths from the disease.

The victims — one male and one female — were both age 60 or older and residents of Hillsborough County, according to the state.

The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services reports 930 current cases in the state, with 11 in Cheshire County, six in Sullivan County and 364 in Hillsborough County, excluding the cities of Manchester and Nashua, which have 168 and 59 active cases respectively.

The good news, according to Dr. Antonia Altomare, infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, is the numbers are trending downward. “I’m happy to say, in New Hampshire, our numbers have been steadily going down,” Altomare said in a Keene Sentinel Facebook Live Q & A on June 18.

Altomare and other experts say they will be watching how the state’s reopening and recent protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd affect the curve.

New Hampshire has confirmed a total of approximately 5,544 cases of COVID-19 since tracking began March 2 with identification of the state’s first case. This represents just a fraction of a percent of New Hampshire’s population of approximately 1.36 million.

But only a small segment of the population — about 126,000, according to state figures — has been tested for the disease, and many who have COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, meaning they might not even know they have it.

Some 339 New Hampshire residents have died from the disease, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. This represents about 6 percent of confirmed cases.

About 553, or 10 percent of confirmed cases, have been hospitalized. Some 4,275, or 77 percent, have recovered.

Cheshire County has seen a total of 64 cases to date, according to state statistics.

New Hampshire is faring better in the battle against the pandemic than neighboring Massachusetts but worse than Vermont and Maine. In fact, Vermont has been held up as a model of success in addressing the pandemic.

In a recent Washington Post article, Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the coronavirus’ trajectory in Vermont stands out because the number of cases spiked in April and then fell sharply — a sign, she said, “they did something right. Most states don’t look like that.”

With a population estimated at 624,000, Vermont has recorded 1,159 total cases of COVID-19 as of June 21 and 56 deaths related to the disease.

Maine, which has a population similar to New Hampshire’s at an estimated 1.3 million, has tallied about half the number of cases as the Granite State — 2,629 total confirmed cases as of June 21. Maine reports that 102 of its residents have died from COVID-19. That’s about one-third the number of deaths New Hampshire has reported.

Massachusetts, on the other hand, ranks among the hardest hit states in the nation. With a population estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau at 6.9 million, Massachusetts has tallied 107,061 cases of the COVID-19 as of June 21 and reported 7,858 virus-related deaths.

Nationally, nearly 2.2 million cases of the virus have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and more than 119,000 people have died from COVID-19 so far this year.

That’s more lives lost in less than six months than the flu claims annually. Since 2010, between 12,000 and 61,000 people have died each year from seasonal influenza, according to the CDC. Between 9 million and 45 million have contracted the flu each year since 2010, the CDC estimates.

“It is more severe than influenza,” Altomare said of COVID-19. “It’s more contagious than influenza but perhaps not as contagious as a disease such as measles.”

Statistics show the death rate for COVID-19 is higher among those age 60 and older and for minority populations. Those with pre-existing medical conditions are particularly at risk, data show.

Despite New Hampshire’s encouraging numbers, Altomare recommends continuing to practice social distancing, proper handwashing and mask wearing when in large groups or when maintaining a six-foot distance isn’t possible.

“This may, in fact, be a virus that sticks around long term,” she said, “but looking forward to the future, if we have an effective vaccine, it wouldn’t be as worrisome as it is right now.”

See the full Q&A with Dr. Altomare here.