CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire public health officials provided new guidance Tuesday on when schools should switch teaching models based on community transmission of the coronavirus and its impact on individual schools.
The guidance sets out criteria for rating the level of community transmission in a county or city as either minimal, moderate or substantial based on the percentage of positive tests, infections per capita in the previous two weeks and the number of new hospitalizations per capita during that time period. School districts also are advised to rate their level of school impact as low, medium or high based on the transmission within the facility, student absenteeism and staff capacity to conduct classes.
Using those two levels, districts can consult a matrix that recommends an appropriate teaching model. For example, a school with minimal community transmission and medium school impact could consider in-person instruction, while a school with substantial community transmission and high school impact should consider remote instruction.
“Both of these factor into how schools can safely conduct educational operations. It’s not just the level of community transmission, it’s also what’s happening in the school system, said state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan. “The purpose of releasing this guidance is simply to help schools make more informed decisions and use local data to help guide actions at the local level.”
The Department of Health and Human Services also added a section to its COVID-19 data dashboard to include a section that tracks cases at individual schools.
“You can see in real time what the true status for your child and your family’s school,” said Gov. Chris Sununu. “It’s going to be a very important tool for parents, teachers, and school administrators.”
Sununu also announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending nearly 230,000 cloth face masks to the state for distribution in schools, with priority given to low-income students or those with high needs.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday the lack of mask worn at President Donald Trump’s New Hampshire rally last week was of no more concern than someone grocery shopping without a face covering.
While some individual communities and stores require masks, there is no statewide mandate. Sununu has ordered masks to be worn at gatherings of more than 100 people, but many who attended Trump’s rally in Londonderry on Friday night ignored the requirement, including many who booed when it was announced over the loud speaker.
Sununu, who wore a mask to briefly greet Trump when he arrived and then left, said he believes more people wore masks in New Hampshire than at other Trump rallies, and that the campaign “did quite a lot” to encourage it.
“I don’t want to single out one event as making me feel better or worse than another,” he said. “Anytime I see folks that aren’t taking it seriously or doing everything they can do to maintain social distancing ... I guess I get frustrated with all of it, but I think we’re doing really, really well.”
The Concord City Council has approved a requirement for people to wear masks in city buildings and businesses such as retail stores to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The ordinance is effective Tuesday through Jan. 2, 2021, WMUR-TV reported.
The masks are not required for children under age 5 or for people at risk of health issues. Violators would receive a warning, followed by a $15 fine for every subsequent offense.
The cities of Manchester and Portsmouth are considering a similar mandate. Other cities, such as Nashua and Lebanon, passed one earlier this year.
As of Tuesday, 7,297 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 23 from the previous day. The number of deaths remained at 432. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks, going from 23 new cases per day on Aug. 17 to 20 new cases per day on Aug. 31.
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.
Associated Press Writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.