LACONIA — In the Lakes Region, it has been so far so good in terms of COVID-19 numbers since students have returned to school.
On Monday, Plymouth State University, which has been doing weekly testing, reported only one active case, which is defined as someone who has tested positive for the disease and is within their 10-day isolation period. New Hampton school has one active case.
The University of New Hampshire, which reported 45 active cases as of Sunday, is the only school in the state with significant numbers of people who have tested positive for the virus.
Statewide, there has been an upward trend in the daily number of people with positive tests, but state officials say this results from heightened back-to-school testing. Other metrics for the disease, including hospitalizations, deaths and percentage of positive tests are all low.
State health officials announced 90 new positive tests for COVID-19 on Saturday and Sunday combined, with eight in Belknap County and three in Grafton County. Eight of the new cases involved people under 18 years of age.
The state had been reporting about 20 new positive test results daily before a recent upsurge, Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, said in a news conference Thursday.
“And so, the increased testing that we're doing statewide is having its intended effect, which is to identify more infections,” he said. “We are not, however, seeing a new surge in New Hampshire.”
Cumulatively, since the pandemic began, there have been 398 Covid-19 cases in Belknap, Carroll and Grafton counties, according to state Health and Human Services Department statistics.
This figure represents 5.1 percent of 7,947 total cases reported statewide. There have been seven deaths from the virus in the three counties, or 1.6 percent of the 438 deaths state total.
A total of 725 people have been hospitalized for the disease statewide, 36 in the three central New Hampshire counties.
More than 240,000 people in the state have been tested for COVID-19, and more than 30,000 have taken an antibody test.
Sununu said state officials remain vigilant for any potential surge in the virus.
“We're constantly looking at other states' data around New England, potential hot spots, whether it might be Boston or New York,” he said. “They might be a lead indicator, because they just have a much denser population, if there was some New England surge that was potentially happening, similar to last time.”
About 1 percent of COVID-19 tests have been coming back positive for the disease. If that number increased to 4 percent or 5 percent, it would be indicative of a surge, Sununu said.
There have been concerns that the disease might surge during colder weather, with more people inside and more people in schools and returning to work.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there has been decreased use of routine preventive medical services, including immunizations, as more people are staying close to home during the pandemic.
“For the upcoming flu season, flu vaccination will be very important to reduce flu because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agency states on its website.
Chan said the state must not let it’s guard down.
“As schools reopen, as we enter influenza season, I just want to stress that now is not the time to relax our social distancing and other community mitigation measures that we've put in place,” he said.
“We know how to control the spread of COVID-19. And it relies on all of us collectively maintaining our vigilance, maintaining our work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between people.
“This is a virus that likes to take advantage of crowds and close contact between people in confined spaces. And so, we continue to recommend that people follow the Public Health recommendations and avoid large crowd and gatherings, practice social distancing, use cloth face masks when out in public places, practice good hygiene, and please, if anybody is having any new, or unexplained, symptoms, even if they're very mild symptoms, if they're consistent with COVID-19, please get tested.”
On the web:
School dashboard: www.nh.gov/covid19/dashboard/schools.htm