NH Covid roundup: Cases, hospitalizations down for second straight week

Average daily new cases in fall 36 percent from a week earlier

P0sh5 New Reported Cases

Daily case numbers and hospitalizations for New Hampshire have rapidly decreased over the last two weeks, indicating that the winter surge may soon be ending.

According to data from the state’s official Covid response dashboard, New Hampshire averaged 1,239 new cases per day for the week ending Tuesday, down 36 percent from a week earlier. The seven-day average for the share of antigen and PCR tests coming back positive was 14.8 percent, down from 16.1 a week ago.

According to NH Hospital Association data as of Wednesday, a total of 423 people were hospitalized for the disease, including 257 with active infections and 166 who are Covid-recovering, which means that they are no longer infectious but still need critical care. The number of total hospitalizations is down significantly from 538 a week ago.

“Hospitalizations are dropping precipitously, and the vast majority are either asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic,” says Dr. Justin Kim, regional epidemiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, adding that this mirrors the national trend.

Although the total number of Covid-related hospitalizations is down, says Dr. Tom Wold, chief medical officer at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, many of those still receiving inpatient care are not out of the woods yet.

“A majority of our current Covid-19 hospitalizations have been at the hospital for an extended period of time,” Wold says, “as these patients either have more progressed diseases requiring higher levels of care or are awaiting placement for post-acute care.”

As these patients continue to recover, the number of new patients seeking critical care is going down, which is in line with the decrease in cases across the state.

The statewide per capita case count has been cut in half over the last two weeks, and now sits at 114 per 100,000, roughly equivalent with the national average of 116, according to an analysis of CDC data by The New York Times. The states with the highest numbers are Alaska and Kentucky, at 284 and 206, respectively.

New Hampshire’s daily case numbers remain roughly 50 percent higher than the highest levels seen last winter.

If case numbers were to increase again, the good news is that hospitals are generally well-equipped to receive them. According to data from the NH Hospital Association, there are still 23 staffed adult ICU beds available in the state, up slightly from 20 last week, out of a statewide total of 220. Ventilators remain plentiful as well.

Staff shortages continue to be a problem for some hospitals, doctors say, though the severity of the issue is going down.

“We continue to deal with sick calls from staff given the Omicron variant,” said Kim, “though staffing constraints are significantly less burdensome given the decrease in cases.”

Wold added that staffing issues continue to be an issue at his hospital, but that “the challenge now is really about having enough staff to keep treatment areas readily available.”

Unvaccinated patients made up 33.1 percent of all hospitalizations for active Covid infections, while patients with some level of vaccination made up a significantly larger share, at 43.2 percent, split roughly evenly between those who had received their boosters and those who had not. (Vaccination status was unknown for 23.7 percent.)

According to Vanessa Stafford, vice president of communications at the NH Hospital Association, there are a few possible reasons why vaccinated patients are ending up in the hospital with Covid – but she stressed that the available data makes it difficult to know for sure.

“The Covid-19 vaccine significantly reduces the risk of being hospitalized with the virus, as well as serious illness,” she said in emailed comments, but hospitalization isn’t prevented completely.

Noting that partially vaccinated patients are not fully protected, which may explain why they got infected, Stafford said that even the numbers for fully vaccinated patients may not be representative of the general population because those who got infected may have had other risk factors — but this information isn’t recorded in the data. Additionally, some of the Covid-positive patients may not have symptoms, but tested positive when they arrived in the hospital for unrelated treatments.

“It could be a lot of different factors,” she concluded, “but the data we have available doesn’t address patient-specific information for obvious reasons.”

An average of 3.0 Granite Staters were dying from Covid each day as of Sunday, according to the latest data on the state’s Covid dashboard. This number is down significantly from 11.6 at the end of December.

Doctors are now starting to look ahead to future surges, trying to build on the lessons learned in recent months.

“The latest Covid-19 wave has really shown how important communication and collaboration is between hospitals,” says Wold. “The NH Hospital Association has made a significant effort to make this happen daily for hospitals across the state and hospitals have really risen to the challenges.”

As of Wednesday, there were 9,204 active Covid cases diagnosed in New Hampshire. There have been 278,691 confirmed cases and 2,232 Covid-related deaths in the state since the pandemic began.


On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Moderna’s Covid vaccine, which means that the vaccine has now passed the same approval process as dozens of other established vaccines. The FDA granted full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine last August.

The FDA is currently reviewing an application by Pfizer to let it provide a version of its vaccine that has been designed for children under 5 years old. According to a Feb. 2 Associated Press report, if the FDA approves, Pfizer shots containing one-tenth of the dose given to adults could be given to children as young as six months. The FDA will review the application and convene a panel of outside advisers in mid-February to debate the data, then will assemble its own experts to decide if the shots should be given to all children in the age group, or only those at higher risk from Covid-19.

Data from the NH Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Centers for Disease Control CDC still do not agree on how many Granite Staters have been vaccinated, but both datasets show that the total share of the population that is fully vaccinated has continued to slowly increase in recent weeks.

DHHS reports that 56.5 percent of Granite Staters are fully vaccinated this week, as compared to 55.5 percent in mid-December. Data from the CDC shows a similar trend, increasing slightly from 66 to 69 percent during the same period. After an initial surge in vaccinations, the share of the population that is fully vaccinated has increased slowly since last July. The gap between DHHS and CDC data in terms of the total number of shots administered is now roughly 794,000 doses.

The CDC continues to recommend that anyone over 5 years old get vaccinated. For adults, they recommend getting one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), rather than Johnson & Johnson, but the CDC emphasizes that any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated. For children between the ages of 5 and 17, the CDC recommends getting the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine.

Everyone who is eligible should get a booster shot, the CDC says. According to their latest guidance, the amount of time you should wait after finishing your primary series varies by vaccine. For Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, the wait is five months, while the wait for Johnson & Johnson vaccines is shorter, at two months.

“We are already seeing reports of ever more infectious strains of Covid -19,” Wold says. “Both vaccinations and boosters offer significant protection against severe disease and hospitalizations.”

“Getting vaccinated and boosted is still our safest best for avoiding trouble in the future,” adds Kim.

To register for a vaccine or for a booster, visit vaccines.nh.gov or calling 211.

This article is being shared by partners in the Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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