Concerns Raised Over Rapidly Increasing COVID-19 Cases in NH Schools – Community News
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Concerns Raised Over Rapidly Increasing COVID-19 Cases in NH Schools

By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD – There are currently 110 active clusters of COVID-19 in K-12 schools and state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan told school and childcare professionals on Wednesday that he is concerned.

It is possible that schools are now contributing to community transmission, Chan said.

“The trajectory is increasing,” Chan emphasized, “and it worries us.”

The average school cluster size of COVID-19 is now 11 cases, Chan said, and the number of active cases of COVID-19 in both children ages 0-9 and 10-19 is one of the highest since the pandemic began in March 2020 .

In the fortnightly Zoom call to school and daycare administrators, Chan noted that the problem was not so much in daycare centers with fewer cases than in K-12 settings.

The state announced 1,098 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, 9 deaths and 317 hospitalizations. The state said 356 of the new cases involved children under the age of 18.

Chan said a recent Johns Hopkins study — which has not been peer-reviewed and is not subject to bias — found that transmission to other members of a child’s family can be mitigated through measures, including requiring teachers and students to masks and that access should be restricted. including in schools.

When asked about the continued increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths on Wednesday, Governor Chris Sununu’s spokesman Ben Vihstadt said: “Throughout this entire pandemic, the governor has stated many times that wearing a mask has prevented the spread. of COVID helps to limit.

“At this stage of the pandemic, with vaccinations readily available to anyone who wants one, the state has no plans to implement another mask mandate. The vaccine remains the best means of preventing the spread of COVID and is our way out of the pandemic,” Vihstadt said.

During the call, Chan sounded a bit of alarm for those schools that may be dropping mask mandates.

“The beginning of this year, when we addressed numerous studies that were published on this call, showed that schools were not a high-risk location to contribute to community transmission, but rather were a reflection of what happened in the surrounding community.

“We believe that was true, and there were multiple studies showing it to be true, but it was also most schools that had more rigid, stricter community-restrictive measures in place,” such as mandatory masking of everything, he said.

“I am concerned about what we are seeing now, with the levels of COVID-19 in our communities, with the increasing trajectory of transmission in our children, a rapidly increasing number of clusters and outbreaks in schools, and the size of the clusters and outbreaks in schools. schools that this may be beginning to reverse and that we are seeing some evidence of schools contributing to community transfer.

“And we’re hearing anecdotal reports of kids bringing COVID home into the family, spreading it to other members of the family, impacting parents going into work and other kids being able to go to school and we’re also hearing anecdotal reports.” other family members who get serious illness end up in hospital and die,” Chan said.

Chan stressed that in order to keep children in school and protect the workings of personal learning, people should promote vaccinations to everyone 5 years and older, masks should be worn by everyone in school, and schools should sign up for asymptomatic testing services offered through the state in its SASS program.

Lindsay Pierce of the Department of Health and Human Services also urged administrators, nurses and health care providers to immediately report individual cases to the state by telephone rather than paper mail and that all clusters should also be reported by calling 271- 4496 and option 4 to choose.

Chan showed graphs of the general state of the state with the virus showing that the state now averages about 800 new cases per day, the highest or comparably highest since the peak in December 2020 and January 2021 and the test positivity level is now at 9. 1 percent over a seven-day period.

No part of the state is spared the high transmission speeds.

Chan said on Wednesday that the total number of clusters in schools over time — not necessarily active — is 262 higher than just 10 days ago on Nov. 7, when it was 181, which is an additional 81 clusters (more than three COVID – 19 cases in a setting) in just that short time.