By Laura Rosbrow-Telem, New Hampshire News Connection

CONCORD — Nearly 80 percent of people dying from COVID-19 in New Hampshire lived in long-term care facilities - the highest share of these deaths of any state, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data.

New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette explained that New Hampshire has the third oldest population in the country, part of why COVID-19 is ravaging the elderly.

"There's always a point where I can say I wish I would have had the supplies on the first of March to go through and test all long-term care staff," said Shibinette. "But that's not reality and we didn't have those supplies then. We do have them now, and we're testing everybody we can."

New Hampshire is drastically increasing testing of long-term care residents and workers. Also starting this week, anyone in an at-risk population or feeling any COVID-19 symptom can schedule a test without a doctor's approval over the phone or online at nh.gov/covid19.

Shibinette worked in long-term care for more than twenty years. She believes the spread could have been so fast in New Hampshire long-term care facilities because of one big thing.

"The makeup of the building," said Shibinette. "So, is the building one or two big units or is it cut up into 10 small units? What that does is provide a physical separation between the residents, unit-to-unit, and I think that's an important fact."

While the share of nursing home deaths is high, New Hampshire's overall COVID-19 mortality rate is among the bottom third in the country. Because community transmission is relatively low, parts of the state economy are reopening.

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