The Monitor is tracking four measurements every week to judge the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Hampshire, but there are plenty of other measurements compiled by the state also worth considering.
One of them is “percent recovered,” which as one reader has pointed out is a little vague.
As I write this, the state says 6,887 people in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began and 6,162 of them have “recovered.”
That’s a recovery rate of 89%, a rate that has been going up slowly but consistently. A month ago it was 84% and two months ago it was 75%.
This improvement is a good indication that the pandemic is under control in New Hampshire. People who get sick are not, it seems, getting sicker or staying sick longer than they were in March.
This does not, however, mean that all of those 6,162 people are feeling fine, which is what most of us think when we hear the word “recovered.”
As has been reported from around the world, a small but non-zero portion of COVID-19 patients continue to suffer even after the virus has been eliminated by their immune system and medication. Problems range from fatigue and pain to liver damage; doctors are still trying to determine the extent and cause of these maladies and we don’t know how many of New Hampshire’s recovered patients are still suffering.
What “recovered” means in the daily report from Department of Health and Human Services is: “They have met the criteria for coming off of isolation and can go back out in public,” said Jake Leon, spokesman for DHHS. The state follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control in this area.
For most people that means it has been at least 10 days after the start of symptoms and at least one day since all symptoms ended, including fever going away “without the use of fever-reducing medications,” or at least 10 days after a positive PCR test for SARS-CoV2.
Here’s the latest tally of the four key metrics we’ve been following:
Goal 1: A two-week drop in cases as measured by the 14-day running average, which would indicate that the virus is not spreading.
Have we met this goal? No.
The two-week average of new cases started rising in July and while there are signs it may be starting to decline again, as of this writing it is 28 cases per day, the same point it was July 23.
Goal 2: Fewer than four new cases per 100,000 people each day, or 54 new cases a day, which would show that the disease is below dangerous levels.
Have we met this goal? Yes, easily: we are barely seeing half that level of new cases.
Goal 3: Conducting at least 150 PCR tests, which spot current COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people each day. New Hampshire has 1.35 million people, so that works out to 2,000 tests per day.
Have we met this goal? Yes.
The average number of test results were reported each day rose to 2,700 last week, with almost 3,800 reported on Aug. 12, one of the highest numbers ever. However, the number of people being tested is much lower because multiple tests can be given to individuals working in health care.
Goal 4: A positive rate of PCR tests below 5%, indicating that the virus is not spreading rapidly in the general population.
Have we met this goal? Yes.
As measured by the Department of Health and Human Services, the positive rate has been around 3% for more than two months.
I update three charts about the virus in New Hampshire each weekday: New cases, new hospitalizations and total deaths.
For what it’s worth, the NYT has us in the “new cases decreasing” category (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-hampshire-coronavirus-cases.html)
“At least 8 new cases were reported in New Hampshire on Aug. 16. Over the past week, there have been an average of 22 cases per day, a decrease of 21 percent from the average two weeks earlier.”
That’s as I type, things can change.
The difference is their 7-day average vs. my 14-day average – the week before last, cases went up and then flatlined.
Which average is right? Neither and/or both.