COVID-19 is surging around the country, and the increase in cases hasn’t spared New Hampshire — or the local area, with numbers rising to new heights in Jaffrey, Rindge and New Ipswich.
“In recent weeks, we have seen COVID-19 cases trending upwards in all regions of the state, and while hospitalizations remain relatively low today, they have more than doubled in the past month,” the New Hampshire Hospital Association wrote in a joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services announced 323 new positive test results for COVID-19 — a positivity rate of about 2.6 percent among those tested by nasal swab. With the most recent positive test results, New Hampshire now has 2,528 current cases, and there are currently 64 people in the state hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Schools impacted by rising rates
The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District decided this week to pivot to remote learning for at least three weeks, after identifying three COVID-19 cases in the school community.
Cheshire County, where both Jaffrey and Rindge are located, is the only county in the state which has not reached a level of “substantial” transmission, as defined by the N.H. Department of Public Health, but is trending upward.
In a letter to the community on Tuesday, Superintendent Reuben Duncan noted that if that upward trend continues at its current rate, Cheshire County is likely to reach “substantial” levels of transmission rate by the end of the week.
Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich is in remote learning due to staff quarantine, the majority of which stems from direct contact with a single positive COVID-19 case. While the middle and high schools will continue with in-person learning, Highbridge Hill Elementary School will conduct remote learning through at least Nov. 30.
An additional COVID-19 case was reported within the district on Wednesday, triggering a remote-learning day for Mascenic High School and Boynton Middle School on Thursday to allow for contact tracing.
Anticipating a teacher shortage after the upcoming holidays, Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District is currently in the hiring process for five long-term substitutes in an effort to keep in-person learning happening five days a week in the district.
School Board member Charlie Post said the district intends to discuss school closing and community protocols during the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 24, due to the increasing positivity rates but said there have not been any serious issues within the schools themselves so far.
“We’re trying to put it off as long as possible and keep the kids learning in school,” Post said. “But it may be inevitable.”
Identity Coffee Lab closes pre-emptively
Identity Coffee Lab in Rindge temporarily shut down on Wednesday morning, due to the sudden spike in cases in Rindge, coffee shop co-owner Brendan Ojala said in an interview Wednesday.
Ojala said that every day he speaks to people, including his employees, who know someone who has tested positive. With nearby Hillsborough County leading the spike in cases in the state, he said he wanted to exhibit an “abundance of caution” and shut down while watching the numbers.
“This is happening so fast. We’re taking it day by day,” Ojala said. “We’re such an interconnected, small community, it’s just a matter of time. I’m most worried about our staff. Their safety is our first priority.”
He said the shop is likely to remain closed at least for the rest of the week, and possibly longer, if transmission rates don’t stabilize or drop.