More than 100 people attended a private party with a New Hampshire man who tested positive for the new coronavirus, but only a handful had close enough contact to warrant being quarantined, the state epidemiologist said Wednesday.
“The rest of the people at that party are considered low risk and are not asked to self-quarantine, but simply to monitor themselves for symptoms and concerns, and if they develop symptoms, reach out to a health care provider,” Dr. Benjamin Chan said in an interview.
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Two men have tested positive for the virus in the state. Both live in Grafton County and work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, but hospital officials have said they aren't aware of any patients being exposed. Health officials said the first man tested positive after traveling to Italy, and the second tested positive after being in close contact with the first.
The first patient attended a social event at White River Junction, Vermont, on Friday, despite having symptoms and being told to self-quarantine. That prompted New Hampshire health officials to issue a legal order of isolation.
Nearby business owner Stephanie Waterman was wiping down her shop with disinfectant Wednesday. She had just learned about the recent transmission of the Coronavirus next door.
"I'm angry, you know," Waterman said. "Going against health department warnings, and going to a huge event with a lot of other people, is really disrespectful to the community."
The state typically issues such orders once or twice a year, most often in cases of tuberculosis, mumps or measles, Chan said. The law requires such orders to specify the least restrictive location possible, but if patients don’t comply, law enforcement officers are authorized to bring them to hospital or other location.
“The vast majority of time when we have to isolate someone because they’re symptomatic we get voluntary cooperation,” he said.
While it is likely that the state's investigation will result in more positive tests, such results do not indicate widespread transmission of the virus, Chan said.
Worldwide, more than 94,000 people have been sickened and 3,200 have died, the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild. The number of infections in the U.S. overall has climbed past 100.
Dartmouth College on Wednesday said it is canceling international programming such as spring break programs, internships, and field-based research scheduled for March and is discouraging any international personal travel. Those who choose to travel to certain countries will be required to self-quarantine off campus for 14 days before returning.