Three new deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, were announced Friday in New Hampshire bringing the state's total to 37, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan.
There are now 1,287 positive cases of COVID-19, an increase of 76 cases from Thursday, Chan said speaking at a Friday news conference with Gov. Chris Sununu and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.
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Two of the new deaths are associated with outbreaks at long-term care facilities. One of the recent outbreaks occurred at Easterseals Residential Programming in Manchester where 16 residents and 16 staff members tested positive for COVID-19, Shibinette said.
Chan said although the numbers will likely increase in the coming weeks, social distancing measures are working. He urged those who need to go out, to wear cloth masks to protect themselves and others.
During the news conference at the New Hampshire Fire Academy administration building in Concord, Sununu announced new funding and a grant to help those struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 Emergency Healthcare System Relief Fund will provide over $6 million in zero-interest loans to more than 40 facilities across the Granite State in need of funding due to the pandemic. The funding will come from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Revenue Administration and the Department of Justice, Sununu said.
Among the facilities that will receive the grant are: Cottage Hospital, Exeter Hospital, Weeks Medical Center, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital and Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Inc.
A $2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has been awarded to the state to assist those impacted by mental health and substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor said.
The grant will be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to establish NH Rapid Response to provide crisis intervention services, mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment.
Friday's address comes one day after Sununu announced that New Hampshire students would not be returning to classes this school year.
Remote learning will be in effect through the end of the school year, he said, to help districts plan for the summer and September.
"It's not easy to make a decision to tell students and parents that they are going to be out for the rest of the year," Sununu said Thursday, adding that public health is the most important factor in his thinking.
Sununu said that his team looked at several models for re-opening schools by the end of the school year but that none would have been safe for students and their families.
"Our hope is back to get to a new model within the classroom in September. Again, we'll have to see where we are -- that's a long ways off," he said. "We've only been in this epidemic battle about five, six weeks now. It seems like a year."
Following the governor's announcement, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association canceled the spring sports season, according to Seacoast Online.
The coronavirus crisis has also had a huge impact on the state's budget, costing more than $100 million through June alone, and potentially between $300 million and $500 million for the year, Sununu said.
The governor has been under pressure to relax the state's stay-at-home order, which expires on May 4, but indicated earlier this week that he may extend it.