Covid-19 numbers down slightly, Omicron-driven uptick expected

Despite steady case levels, the 'coming weeks are likely to be grim'

Covid-19 indicators for New Hampshire have fallen over the past week, but the number of new
cases per day has remained above the highest levels seen during the first wave at the end of

According to data from the state’s official Covid response dashboard, New Hampshire
averaged 1,054 new cases per day for the week ending Monday, down 17 percent from a week
earlier. The seven-day average share of antigen and PCR tests coming back positive was 12.1
percent, down slightly from 12.7 percent a week ago. As of Tuesday, 399 people were hospitalized for the
disease, down from 475 the previous week.

Dr. Jose Mercado, Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Covid-19 response leader, said that the ongoing
surge is being driven mostly by infections among the unvaccinated. This is true even though
everyone’s risk levels are higher due to the colder weather, which increases the risk of spread of
infection as more activities move indoors.

Martha Wassell, director of infection prevention at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover,
added that the state’s numbers are even higher than the predicted winter surge because of the
Omicron variant, which is now moving “in a tsunami-like fashion around the globe and across
the country.”

Three research studies published last week suggest that serious Omicron infections are
less common than serious infections from other variants. But Wassell warned that even with this
positive news, the coming weeks are likely to be grim.

“While early studies indicate the Omicron variant typically has caused less severe symptoms,”
she said, “the sheer number of infections is likely to cause an overwhelming increase in patients
requiring medical care.”

Mercado also encouraged people to be wary. “We should also remain vigilant and monitor for
symptoms after seeing family over the holidays,” he said.

The seven-day moving average for new daily cases in New Hampshire had fallen in the first half of the year, bottoming out at just 16 at the end of June, but has quickly risen since then. That number
peaked at 1,397 on Dec. 5. The average has fallen in the last week and a half, but the state is
still averaging roughly 200 cases per day more than it was at the height of the first wave in
December 2020.

Hospitals are also under slightly less strain this week than last. Even though the number of daily
hospitalizations has more than doubled in the last five weeks, up from just 186 on Nov. 2, more
staffed adult ICU beds have become available in the last week. As of Tuesday, 6.7 percent of
the state’s supply was still available, up from less than one percent a week ago.

New Hampshire’s per capita case count of 88 per 100,000 has dropped to the seventh-highest
in the nation, according to data from the New York Times. The highest numbers are now coming
from Rhode Island and New York, at 124 and 112, respectively.

The number of daily deaths in New Hampshire has steadily climbed since mid-July. As of last
Friday, an average of 5.6 people were dying of Covid each day, down from a high of eight on
Dec. 9. This is fewer than the peak of 12 deaths per day during the first wave.

As of last Wednesday, there were 8,495 known active cases. There have been more than 188,000
confirmed cases and 1,800 Covid-related deaths in New Hampshire since the pandemic

Out of sync

Vaccination rates continue to rise, though state and federal vaccination data for New Hampshire
remain out of sync. Data from Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) shows that 62 percent of Granite Staters have received at least one dose, while the number from the CDC is much higher, at 95 percent. Similarly, DHHS reports that 55.7 percent of Granite Staters are fully vaccinated, while the CDC’s number is 11 points higher, at 67 percent. The discrepancy between DHHS and the CDC in terms of total doses administered is more than half a million.

Some early data shows that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines offer significant increases in
protection against the Omicron variant. Another early study suggests that Johnson and
Johnson’s vaccine does not offer increased protection against Omicron, but none of these
studies have been peer reviewed, which means that researchers are still deciding how confident
we can be in the studies’ claims.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that all three vaccines are highly effective
in protecting people against Covid-19, and they may also make the illness milder in those who
do get sick.

“If you are eligible, you should get the booster,” said Mercado, citing his own observations of his
hospital’s patients with severe infection, the majority of whom are unvaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated and boosted and encouraging your friends and family to do the same is a
step you can take right now,” Wassell added. “These conversations are difficult, uncomfortable,
and yet central to reaching the essential community vaccination rates and protecting one

People can register for a vaccine by visiting or calling 211.

For more guidance from Dr. Mercado and his colleagues at Dartmouth-Hitchcock about how to
safely celebrate the holidays this year, please see the latest episode of their podcast, “The

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