Numbers don’t lie.
And the shocking number about the true impact of the coronavirus pandemic on New Hampshire comes from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS): The total number of Granite Staters under 60 and without some co-morbidity who’ve been killed by the coronavirus?
Not a single, healthy New Hampshire resident under the age of 60 has died from COVID-19, despite estimates that approximately 60,000 of the state’s residents have been exposed to the virus.
DHHS confirmed this number to NHJournal via email on Monday, along with these statistics:
- Of the 133 reported COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire, 100 of them were patients/residents of long-term care facilities.
- None of the LCTF deaths were care providers or staff.
- Of the 33 remaining deaths, 28 were people over 60 years old.
- Of the five deaths under 60, all suffered at least one co-morbidity.
NHJournal also asked how many of those hospitalized for COVID-19 — currently and cumulatively — are related to long-term care facilities. Unlike states like Massachusetts, DHHS does not currently make that data available. And while DHHS also doesn’t release the co-morbidity numbers for hospitalizations, people under 60 — who make up about 70 percent of the population — represent less than a third of total hospitalizations, the department reports.
These numbers bolster the argument for allowing New Hampshire workers and businesses to return to work, while targeting prevention and safety efforts at the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.
“These data suggest that the state would achieve better results at less cost to the economy by locking down nursing homes and initiating an aggressive public information campaign to encourage masking and inform people about specific health-related risk factors,” Drew Cline, Executive Director of the Josiah Bartlett Center, told NHJournal.
“It’s wonderful, it’s terrific, it’s great,” Gov. Chris Sununu told NHJournal when asked about the new numbers. What he didn’t say, however, was how his “Stay-at-Home 2.0” policy was taking this data into consideration in setting policy. No mention of targeted stay at home orders, for example, or allowing more businesses to reopen.
“Having those two sets of data will be a very powerful tool in terms of making the right decision, whether it’s moving forward or moving backward or keeping certain things in tighter lockdown. I don’t like that word, ‘lockdown,’ but tighter constraints and restrictions in certain areas, and more flexibility in others,” Sununu said.
The lack of deaths and low rates of hospitalization are even more impressive if the state’s estimates of overall exposure are on track. At Monday’s COVID-19 news conference, DHHS Commissioner Shibinette acknowledged that early testing was heavily weighted toward people more likely to be infected, but the new expanded testing was bringing in a more representative sample.
“In the few days since we’ve opened up testing, we’ve seen consistent positivity rates between five and seven percent,” Shibinette said. “Are we going to end up in that range? Probably.”
That would between 70,000 and 90,000 Granite Staters exposed to COVID-19 and just 33 fatalities outside of long-term care facilities. That’s a death rate of 0.00036 — among people with co-morbidities. (Among those without, it’s still zero.)
Public health policy expert Avik Roy of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity told NHJournal that the New Hampshire data reflect the growing body of knowledge about the virus and the relatively low risk it presents to young, healthy people.
“For weeks, it has been apparent that death from COVID-19 is predominantly a risk for those over 65, especially those living in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. There are two takeaways: First, we should do a lot more to reopen the economy for younger people who are at lower risk; second, we should do more to ensure that residents of nursing homes are protected from COVID-19 infection,” Roy said.