The director of infection prevention at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover says they are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients.

Martha Wassell is on vacation this week, but getting the message out there so members of the community can protect themselves and their families is important enough that she is speaking with members of the media about what is happening locally.

Wassell said they are seeing over 100 people a day who are seeking a COVID test.

Three people were hospitalized and one person was in the critical care unit when she last checked the numbers.

"It's devastating and discouraging to see this absolutely preventable pain and suffering inflicted upon individuals," Wassell said.

Officials at the hospital started to notice the numbers beginning to increase two to three weeks ago.

Wassell blames the Delta variant of COVID, which is more transmissible than the Alpha variant.

"This is tricky and effective and honestly quite frightening," Wassell said of the Delta variant.

Wassell explained that with each mutation, COVID gains strength. She hopes people who have not been vaccinated get their shots.

"This is not political at this point. It's public health," Wassell said.

Dover is located close to York County in Maine, which had a "substantial transmission" rate on Wednesday morning. People there are being asked to wear a mask even if they are vaccinated to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Gov. Janet Mills declared that Maine will follow the latest recommendations from officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.

The new guidance recommends that, regardless of vaccination status, those in areas with substantial COVID-19 transmission wear a mask when indoors.

All teachers, staff and students in K-12 schools are being asked to wear masks as part of the recommendations when they return to the classroom in Maine.

Gov. Chris Sununu does not currently plan to re-issue New Hampshire's mask mandate now that there is no state of emergency. He supports vaccination efforts and says residents have the power to protect themselves against COVID by getting their shots.

During his press conference on July 22, Sununu was asked whether he would recommend masks and social distancing, particularly for people who are not yet vaccinated.

This was his response:

At this point, it really is individual choice, and we're just trying to educate folks, so they make the best choice for themselves. We're not at the position, nor do I see us being at the position, where we're making the choice for those individuals. That is a real line to be crossed when it comes to Government.

 

I know Washington has a different opinion on a lot of that. I think I stand with most citizens in New Hampshire where we understand the value and the power of individual responsibility. So, it's the Government's job just to provide that open door of, if you want the vaccine, here it is, nice and easy. If you need more information on the vaccine, here it is, so you have every tool in the toolbox available to you and your family to make that decision. And I believe that, if we continue to do that, that we will continually to see more and more people come in to get the vaccine. They'll realize that it's safe.

 

We will get out of the emergency use. I called it experimental. I misused that word. It's emergency use. And maybe that gives folks a little more confidence, more -- I've talked to a lot of folks that say, well, I go in for my yearly physical in August. I guess I'll talk to my Doctor about it then. Some people might just be waiting until they have that traditional physical with their Doctor and they're not going out of their way to make an appointment. But they're going to wait until they go in and have that discussion with them.

 

So, I think, over time, we're going to continually see people come through the door and look for that vaccine. And every person in the door is another day closer to really putting this fully behind us.

Rockingham and Strafford counties in New Hampshire were at moderate risk on Tuesday.

According to the case summary put out by officials at the NH Department of Health and Human Services, there were 20 confirmed COVID hospitalizations in the state of New Hampshire as of Wednesday. There were 14 suspect COVID hospitalizations.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com.

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