Health providers: Prepare for another COVID surge

January 10, 2022

The Conway Daily Sun | By Barbara Tetreault

ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY — Local health-care providers are expecting a large surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the valley and residents are urged to take steps to prepare for it.

Positive COVID-19 cases are soaring in New Hampshire with the state reporting 2,093 positive cases on Jan. 7 and an average of 1,800 cases per day from Jan. 1-7, an increase of 42 percent over the previous week. The state figures show Coos County has seen 172 new positive cases over the two-week period ending Jan. 7 and authorities feel that number is low because many people are using at-home rapid tests and do not always report positive results.

With community transmission high, staffing at local health-care facilities and schools is expected to be an issue for the next few weeks.

Last Thursday, Androscoggin Valley Hospital was reporting four staff people were out with COVID-19.

At the weekly COVID-19 task force meeting last Thursday, AVH reported only one person was hospitalized but said there was a large volume of patient and staff testing.

“Staffing shortages due to COVID is consistent across New Hampshire and it is likely to be a tough few weeks ahead,” said the task force on its webpage.

A statewide sampling of COVID-19 tests reveals that the Delta variant is still dominant and circulating but the Omicron variant is present. The Omicron variant is highly transmissible but the illness itself appears less acute.

Berlin Public Schools are reporting an increase in positive cases including a cluster at the special education and prekindergarten program. SAU 20 said it is also seeing an increase in positive cases and both school systems are at Code Red calling for wearing masks indoors, daily cleaning and disinfecting of classrooms and school areas, and physical distancing.

White Mountain Community College is scheduled to open for its spring semester on Jan 18. It has prioritized maintaining in-class learning especially for its classes that require laboratory work. The college said it is lining up adjunct faculty instructors to cover classes if instructors need to be out because of COVID-19.

The Coos County Nursing Home is reporting six positive staff members and is not taking any new admissions until more nurses can be hired. The county officials have met with the N.H Army Guard and secured five National Guard members to assist with non-clinical work through mid- March. St. Vincent De Paul nursing home is reporting one positive staff member.

The federal prison is reporting 44 positive cases among staff members and 10 among inmates at the Berlin facility. The state prison lists no positive cases.

Northeast Credit Union temporarily closed its Berlin branch from Jan. 10-12 because of COVID and will re-open Thursday.

In a phone message sent out Friday on behalf of the community committee, residents were asked to prepare to isolate or quarantine for 5-10 days with sufficient food and prescription supplies to get through that time.

Health officials at all levels have urged people to get vaccinated and to get a booster shot if eligible. Other precautions include wearing a mask indoors around people, washing and sanitizing your hands, avoiding large groups in public or trying to keep at least 6 away from others in public.

The area experienced a surge in positive cases last fall and lost at least five residents to the pandemic. The numbers had declined until recently when positive cases started to climb back up.

To get a vaccine:

• On-Site Medical Services is now leading a fixed vaccination site at The Chalet in Berlin. It is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. No appointment is needed.

• CCFHS vaccine clinic is now Monday and Wednesday 8:30-11:30 a.m. and testing Tuesday and Thursday 8:30-11 a.m. Call CCFHS at (603) 752-2040 for a vaccine appointment.