The rate of new COVID-19 cases has fallen substantially, New Hampshire’s top infectious-disease doctor said this past week.
“We’re making great progress in bringing the number of new infections down,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said at a news conference Thursday.
As of Friday, the seven-day average for new cases was 51, down 37 percent in the last week. Chan also pointed to other improving metrics, including the less than 2 percent of tests coming back positive and the number of new COVID-linked deaths, which are now averaging less than one per day.
“All of these numbers point to dramatic decreases in the level of COVID-19 in our communities,” Chan said.
Hospitalizations have also decreased, with 32 confirmed COVID patients in Granite State hospitals as of Friday, down from 53 a week earlier.
New Hampshire exceeded 800 cases and 10 deaths per day at times during the winter surge, before both started falling sharply in January. Cases rebounded somewhat during March and April, hitting a daily average of more than 400, but have now been dropping steadily for more than six weeks.
Deaths have been fluctuating since early March, typically averaging between one and two reported per day, but did not see a large spike this spring as cases did. Many of the state’s more vulnerable residents had been vaccinated by then.
New Hampshire announced four new deaths over the past week, none residents of Cheshire County.
Vaccine supply outstrips demand
To keep cases down, Chan urged Granite Staters to get vaccinated, stressing that it protects them as well as others in the community.
Dr. Elizabeth Daly, chief of the N.H. Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, said the state receives about 50,000 first doses per week.
“At this point, our supply is exceeding demand and there’s plenty of vaccine available,” she said.
About 60 percent of New Hampshire’s population — including 68 percent of those eligible for the vaccine — have had at least one shot, according to state and federal data. About 50 percent are considered fully vaccinated.
The number of new people getting vaccinated each day has fallen significantly since April, when an average of more than 8,000 people per day received first doses, according to state data, to about 1,300 per day for the week ending Wednesday. (There was a small spike in May after children ages 12 to 15 became eligible.)
Vaccines are now available at more than 300 locations, including hospitals, pharmacies and clinics run by local public-health agencies, Daly said.
The state has also vaccinated more than 4,700 people through its program for homebound individuals, Daly said. Due to high demand, the program will continue to administer first doses throughout June. She encouraged anyone who qualifies to call 211 to set up an appointment.
In Keene, the Greater Monadnock Region Public Health Network is now offering vaccines at 62 Maple Ave. The network is also organizing several pop-up vaccine clinics in the coming days (see sidebar).
Other state, local data
As of Friday, the state had 402 known active cases of COVID-19, 22 of them in Cheshire County. Keene had eight. Other towns in The Sentinel’s coverage area with known active cases were Acworth, Antrim, Chesterfield, Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, Rindge, Surry, Swanzey and Winchester, each with one to four.
More than 98,000 Granite Staters have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 1,341 deaths related to the disease have been confirmed.