CONCORD – New Hampshire COVID numbers continue to alarm doctors and public health officials, and on Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control approved a booster shot that could be widely available as soon as Sept. 20.
As the highly transmissible delta variant spreads, with the potential for more virulent COVID-19 strains in the future, doctors say it’s time to use all precautions available and get vaccinated if you have not already done so.
“People are trying to make bargains with this virus,” said Dr. David Itkin, an infectious disease expert at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. “But we have no bargaining power here, none that will stave off this virus and what is going to happen if we do not take this completely serious now, if it’s not too late already. This is not about trying to panic people. This is about reality, about a public health issue.”
Think of crosswalks.
“We know school crosswalks can be really busy,” said Itkin. “Do we wait and see what happens before we put in a traffic light? Or do we act for the safety of the children? Vaccinations and masks are the traffic lights.”
In New Hampshire, as of Tuesday, there were a total of 103,733 cases to date, with 100,493 people recovered, and 1,396 deaths.
Currently there are 1,844 active COVID cases, with 68 people currently hospitalized. The state dashboard shows the age group of 20-29 seeing the highest number of cases, with 80 and above representing the lowest group.
New cases continue to be high, with 160 on Aug. 11; 310 on Aug. 12; 268 on Aug. 13; 85 on Aug. 16; and 271 on Aug. 17 (report not issued on the weekends). In June and July, cases went as low as 19 a day, but doctors say lower vaccination rates and the delta variant are fueling higher numbers once again.
New Hampshire state data shows 53.8% of residents are fully vaccinated, with 58.7% of residents have at least one dose.
Maine COVID snapshot
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 92 new cases per day on Aug. 2 to 176 new cases per day on Aug. 16, the Associated Press reported.
Maine CDC reported two additional COVID-related deaths Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 909 deaths, including 142 in York County.
The delta variant made up 100% of 35 sampled cases so far in August, compared to 86% percent in July, the Portland Press Herald reported. In June, delta accounted for only 3.6% of all tested cases.
A booster shot for Pfizer and Moderna
Last week, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended a third dose of vaccine for people who are severely immuno-compromised persons. At that time, Dr. Artemio Mendoza, an infectious disease doctor at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, predicted correctly that a recommendation for a third shot would soon be coming for everyone.
“I see this recommendation as only the first step of many,” said Mendoza. “I think it just began with those who need it most.”
U.S. health officials Wednesday announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines’ effectiveness is falling, the Associated Press reported.
COVID-19 booster shot:Pfizer, Moderna vaccines will be available Sept. 20
The plan, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies, calls for a third dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could be available beginning the week of Sept. 20.
Schools wrestle with masking policies
The other hot button topic, now that schools are reopening or preparing to do so, is whether or not masking should be a mandatory requirement for students and staff.
Currently the decision has been left up to individual school districts. While some are requiring masks, others are making it an optional choice or saying they will watch the COVID numbers and create policy accordingly.
‘A difficult situation’:York schools reverse course, mandate masks in all schools
“I think if it were up to us in the medical community, I believe we would mandate that everyone wear a mask,” said Mendoza. “We are not in a state of emergency any longer and the recommendation is to mask indoors in areas with high transmission or where there are outbreaks. In the health care world, we have never waivered. We wear masks. Personally, I think this should be mandated.”
Dr. Evangeline Thibodeau, an infectious disease doctor at York Hospital, said she strongly agrees that schools should require masks.
“This is about public health,” said Thibodeau. “Unfortunately this has become about politics. Innocent children, dedicated teachers and family members are going to pay the price for this effort to appease politics. We were so close to the finish line. Vaccinations for young children will be here soon. This is so frustrating to me that we are playing with this virus.”