The Bulletin Board

Website gives state high marks for pandemic recovery, but COVID numbers suggest all is not well

By: - September 8, 2021 11:40 am
Ben Franklin on 100 dollar bill wearing a mask

As of Tuesday, 141 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Hampshire. (Getty Images)

Hospitalizations and cases are climbing quickly. Thirteen people have died since the start of the month. And the vaccination rate is inching up, but slowly. Still, when it comes to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, New Hampshire ranks fifth, according to WalletHub, a finance site often cited for its state-by-state economic rankings.

Maine’s second-place finish made it the only New England state to best New Hampshire in overall scoring. But New England states also had higher vaccination rates and overall COVID-19 health scores, according to WalletHub’s analysis, which also looked at visits to restaurants and parks, and economic measures like unemployment, job postings, and consumer spending. 

A high score, however, doesn’t mean all is well in New Hampshire.

The site’s COVID-19 score is the most transparent because the state’s coronavirus dashboard reports updates nearly every day. It’s shown that many of New Hampshire’s numbers have been going in the wrong direction since the arrival of the significantly more contagious Delta variant early this summer. 

As of Tuesday, 141 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, a count that’s been climbing since July 2, when the number was 13. The state is averaging 351 new cases a day compared to an average of 22 in early July. (There are currently 3,221 active cases.) The seven-day average death rate of 1.3 percent is down since late August’s 2.1 percent. But at the start of August, the state was reporting no deaths. 

Meanwhile, even as the state has upped its vaccination outreach with mobile vaccine vans, the vaccination rate of 61.4 percent of eligible residents has been lagging for weeks. New Hampshire’s rate is lower than the rates in Vermont (which has the highest rate in the country), Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine, according to WalletHub and other rankings.

One positive is that the state continues to have good numbers when it comes to hospital supplies: 19.3 percent of all beds and 12.1 percent of ICU beds are available, as are 75.7 percent of ventilators. 

Less transparent are WalletHub’s rankings for the state’s leisure and travel recovery (10th), and its economic and labor force turnaround (17th.)

For the latter, WalletHub looked at unemployment rates, job postings, and consumer spending. At 2.9 percent, the state’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country and unemployment claims are down. But a recent analysis by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute found those numbers mask a troubling increase in the number of people who haven’t returned to work and stopped looking, often because they can’t find child care. That reality has left employers so desperate for workers that many have had to limit hours or close more days of the week.

And it’s been the lower-income workers who have been hardest hit, the analysis found. Lower-wage unemployment is down 16.4 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

The leisure and travel ranking factors in visits to restaurants, parks, and shopping centers, but does not say how each was determined. And while state officials and those in the state leisure business have said the state’s travel and tourism is improving enough to fill restaurants and put hotels back at full capacity, hard numbers are hard to find.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.