Monadnock Ledger Transcript – Cheshire Medical reports highest COVID-19 positivity rate since winter surge

Cheshire Medical Center is reporting a steady increase in its percentage of positive COVID-19 tests, which has hit the highest level in months.

Data from Keene Hospital – which officials report every two weeks, half as often as in earlier stages of the pandemic – shows the positivity rate rose to 21.9 percent between May 13 and May 19. This sentence is specific to tests performed by Cheshire Medical.

This continues an upward trend that started at the end of April after a nearly two-month lull. The hospital reported a positivity rate of 15.2 percent on May 5 and 17.4 percent on May 12.

“I think the people who should be concerned are the people who aren’t vaccinated,” said Dr. Don Caruso, President and CEO of Cheshire Medical, on Wednesday. “There’s so much you’re going to be exposed to right now.”

With 615 new cases of the viral disease per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, Cheshire County is facing a “significant” level of community transmission, according to the NH COVID-19 Dashboard, which currently shows every county falls into that highest category faced the transfer.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website – which uses slightly different metrics to the state’s dashboard – has been pointing to an intermediate level of transmission in the Cheshire County community since last Thursday.

The Cheshire Medical Center’s positivity rate had remained below 10 percent since late February — a number that officials say helps keep the hospital from being overwhelmed. The hospital reported an all-time high of around 33 percent in the final weeks of January, which was amid a four-month rate of over 10 percent stretching back to early October. This is the first time the rate has exceeded 20 percent since Feb. 3, when the hospital reported a 23.7 percent positivity rate.

As of mid-March, the percent positivity was 5.9 percent.

Caruso said the number of patients hospitalized with the virus has also increased. As of Wednesday morning, 12 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, although no one was in intensive care with the disease, he said. At the height of the winter flood, the hospital was treating 29 inpatients at a time.

“It’s thoughtful that there’s a lot [of COVID-19 transmission] in the community, but the number of people with COVID who require hospitalization is small,” he said.

While he said those who are up to date with their vaccines should not worry, those who are unvaccinated or are susceptible due to risk factors should exercise caution due to the high positivity rate.

“Positivity is high right now,” he said. “Vulnerable people should mask themselves and those vulnerable people should not go to gatherings.”

This recent increase could be due to a variety of reasons, said Dr. Aalok Khole, an infectious disease doctor at Dartmouth Health’s subsidiary, told The Sentinel earlier this month. Relaxed mitigation measures, more social gatherings and increased portability of the variants currently circulating are all likely factors, Khole said.

Cheshire Medical remains vigilant in light of the recent spike, Khole said in a statement emailed to The Sentinel on Wednesday.

“We continue to keep a watchful eye,” he said. “We are undoubtedly seeing an increase in hospitalizations locally, but looking at the trends all around, and given that the majority of these patients are not as ill as we saw last December 2021 and January 2022, we hope that we will not see a wave that overwhelms operations.”

Cheshire Medical continues to urge people to take COVID-19 safety measures such as: E.g. staying at home when they are sick and washing their hands frequently. The hospital also continues to encourage mask wearing in public, especially in crowded spaces or for those with compromised immune systems.

As the weather warms up, health officials say the more people can have outdoor social gatherings the better, as it makes it harder to contract the virus.

Health experts continue to urge those who have not yet done so to get a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots as it is the best way to protect yourself and others from a serious case of the viral disease.

More information and resources on COVID-19 are available at

People can make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot at or by calling 2-1-1.

Staff writer Olivia Belanger contributed to this article.

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