New Hampshire Investigating Ventilation in Nursing Homes After Virus Outbreaks

New Hampshire health and fire safety officials will spend the next two weeks investigating whether ventilation systems have contributed to coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday.

More than 30 long-term care facilities have experienced outbreaks, and their residents account for 82% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19. As of Tuesday, only four outbreaks remained active, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.

The review by her department and the state Fire Marshal began Monday and will initially focus on facilities that have had outbreaks to see whether ventilation and other infrastructure affected how the virus spread.

“And then we’re going to take what we learn from that evaluation and apply it to other facilities that have not had outbreaks,” she said. “We don’t know that we’re going to find anything but we’re leaving no stone unturned.”

Sununu, a Republican, earlier this month vetoed a Democrat-backed bill that would have created an independent review of long-term care facilities. The bill also would have allocated $25 million in federal funding for the facilities, but he noted that $30 million already has been earmarked for long-term care.

On Campus

Dartmouth College students will face strict quarantine rules when they arrive on campus this fall.

According to guidelines released Monday, students will be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival, and those living on campus will be allowed to leave their rooms only to use the restrooms for the first 48 hours, or until the test results come back. Food will be delivered to their rooms, and no visitors are allowed.

For the rest of their first 14 days on campus, students will be permitted to leave their rooms to pick up meals three times per day, go outside for solo walks or other exercise or participate in college-organized outdoor activities in groups of no more than nine. Students will receive a second test for the virus seven days after their initial tests.

Officials said last month that about half the undergraduate study body will be on campus for each term. The majority of classes will be conducted remotely, given the reduced classroom space because of social distancing requirements. Face coverings will be required in all but private spaces.

Meanwhile, Plymouth State University and Keene State College became the latest campuses to cancel their fall sports competitions because of the virus.

Working Out

The “Judgement Free Zone” won’t be free of face masks starting next month.

Planet Fitness said Monday will require all members and guests to wear face masks starting Aug. 1, joining a growing list of companies and retailers enacting such mandates to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

The New Hampshire-based company already required masks for employees at its 1,450 locations in 46 states, Washington, D.C., Canada and Australia.

“Gyms are part of the solution and a key element of the healthcare delivery system, providing much needed access for people to exercise and stay healthy,” CEO Chris Rondeau said in a statement. “Given our leadership position within the industry, we believe it’s our responsibility to further protect our members, employees, and communities so that we can all safely focus on our health, which is more important now than ever before.”

The Numbers

As of Tuesday, 6,500 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 59 from the previous day. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen to 33 new cases per day on July 27 from 22 new cases per day on July 13. The number of deaths stood at 409.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.