As Seacoast hospitals treat the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic  Exeter Hospital will no longer allow visitors, with few exceptions, starting Friday.

Rockingham County has the highest number of current cases in New Hampshire with 1,407 and Strafford County the fourth highest at 728  on the state COVID-19 dashboard as of Wednesday.

“We are currently seeing the highest level of COVID-19 in our communities that we’ve experienced at any point during this pandemic. In the last week we're seen 1,000 new infections per day on average,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said during Gov. Chris Sununu's COVID-19 briefing Tuesday afternoon.

Exeter Hospital earlier reported an "unprecedented" number of patients within its emergency department and inpatient units.  The hospital said it is treating the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic in spring 2020.

"For the safety of our patients and staff, due to increasing community widespread of COVID-19 Exeter Hospital is no longer allowing visitors. Exceptions will be made for pediatric and end of life patients as well as patients who need assistance due to a physical or mental disability," the hospital said in a statement.

NH DHHS map of current COVID-19 cases by county (NH DHHS)

Exeter Hospital Stands Alone for Now

Other Seacoast hospitals, including Portsmouth Regional, Wentworth-Douglass, Frisbe, York Hospital and Anna Jacques in Newburyport had not posted a similar change to their visitation policy on their respective websites as of Thursday morning.  All have mask requirements in place.

In New Hampshire Elliot Hospital in Manchester has a restriction on visitors with some exceptions.

Sununu issued an executive order Tuesday allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to help hospitals increase their capacities by establishing temporary acute care centers, increasing bed capacities at other licensed institutional facilities to address surge needs.

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover (Kimberley Haas)

Wentworth-Douglass 100% Vaccinated

All Wentworth-Douglass Hospital employees are compliant with its mandate requiring full vaccination against COVID-19.

The Dover hospital said 98.3% of its workforce met a deadline of Oct. 15 to comply with the order. Employees who did not comply or be granted a religious or medical exemption faced the prospect of losing their job after a grace period.

“We’re incredibly proud to be the only hospital on the Seacoast with a current mandatory COVID vaccine policy for employees. The fact that nearly all our employees complied, is a testament to our dedication to patient safety from everyone in our organization,” Wentworth-Douglass President & CEO Jeff Hughes said in a statement.

Wentworth-Douglass is part of Massachusetts General Hospital and in July, Mass General Brigham officials announced that it is requiring its 80,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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