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Ventilation study finds no pattern in nursing home outbreaks

August 25, 2020 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A review of nursing homes that experienced coronavirus outbreaks found no correlation between their ventilation systems and how the virus spread through the facilities, the state health commissioner said Tuesday.

The state hired outside investigators to review ventilation at 28 long-term care facilities, including the hourly air exchange rate and how often filters were replaced. The systems varied widely in age and design, but the results showed no patterns in terms of the virus, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.

“We have some facilities that have very modern air exchange systems where you have regular cycling of the air, and you have some facilities that don’t have a robust air exchange system, and both had outbreaks,” she said. “I thought that was going to make a significant difference, and it didn’t seem to have the impact that I thought it was going to have.”

Investigators did recommend increasing the air exchange in residents’ rooms and common areas, and adding ultraviolet light protection in duct systems, Shibinette said. And the state is still encouraging schools and businesses to review their own systems. The requirement that federal virus relief aid be spent by the end of the year may make it difficult for schools to complete major upgrades, but the state is exploring how it could help fund such projects, said Gov. Chris Sununu.

“There’s no doubt that clean air, fresh air and a well-functioning air exchange system is really important to individuals’ health and being able to mitigate the virus,” he said.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

TRUMP RALLY

Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday he will greet President Donald Trump on Friday but won’t stick around for his rally.

Trump canceled a scheduled rally in Portsmouth last month citing concerns about a tropical storm that never materialized. The rescheduled event is set for Friday evening in a hangar at Manchester Boston Regional Airport.

“As the governor, I’ll always be there to greet the president. I’m not planning on going to the rally,” Sununu said. “I don’t know how big it is, but my guess is there’s going to be a lot of people, and when I can, I try to avoid large crowds, to be honest,” he said.

Sununu recently issued an order requiring face coverings to be worn at events with more than 100 people. He said he is confident the Trump campaign will comply.

“The first thing they said when they announced the event is masks are required. Hopefully, the individuals will abide by that,” he said. “I think they understand the importance of social distancing. I think they’re doing what they need to do to ensure it’s a successful event from a health and safety perspective.”

The White House says the president and vice president observe federal health guidelines, as well as those in place in the states they visit. But there have been multiple recent events at which the candidates and their audiences at times took public health precautions lightly and at worst ignored them. Earlier this month, hundreds of Trump supporters, some not wearing masks, stood and sat shoulder to shoulder in a packed airplane hangar in Arizona. And Vice President Mike Pence went mask-less in Iowa as he reached across a barrier to sign autographs.

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ABSENTEE VOTING

About 30,000 New Hampshire voters already have cast their ballots for the Sept. 8 primary thanks to the temporary expansion of absentee voting because of the coronavirus.

About 72,000 absentee ballots have been requested for the primary so far, and roughly 30,000 have been turned in, the secretary of state’s office told WMUR-TV.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan is urging voters to get their ballots in the mail by Tuesday, Sept. 1, to ensure they arrive on time, or to consider dropping them off with town and city clerks in person. No mail will be delivered the day before the primary because it is Labor Day.

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In a typical year, absentee ballots make up 10% of the total. This year, anyone concerned about COVID-19 is allowed to vote absentee.

THE NUMBERS

As of Tuesday, 7,150 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 16 from the previous day. The number of deaths stood at 429. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks from 29 new cases per day on Aug. 10 to 19 new cases per day on Aug. 24.

The state announced an outbreak Tuesday at the Rockingham County jail, where 10 inmates and one staff member testing positive.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia or death.