Virus prompts primary-day changes; UNH has new testing lab

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic changed not just how candidates campaigned leading up to Tuesday's state primary, but the act of voting itself.

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Temporary changes to state law allowed anyone with concerns about the virus to vote by absentee ballot. Those who voted in person stood 6 feet apart in line and were greeted by volunteers sitting behind plexiglass shields. Some communities required voters to wear masks, while setting aside separate areas for those who declined to wear a mask or couldn’t do so for health reasons.

“It was as smooth as silk,” said Reed Cotton, of Concord, who wore a mask and gloves and was carrying her toddler grandson. She considered getting an absentee ballot, but decided to go vote, instead, since the number of coronavirus cases was so low.

Some voters in Concord didn’t want to part with tradition; they planned to vote in person all along.

“I’m free!” exclaimed Mick Swanwick to his wife, Susan. They removed their masks after leaving the polling place. “It was needlessly elaborate, but it seemed safe enough,” he said.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

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UNH TESTING

The University of New Hampshire is testing students for the coronavirus in a new lab on campus that uses self-swabbing home kits developed at the school.

UNH says the Durham lab can screen for COVID-19 on at least 4,000 samples a day. Tests results can be generated in under 48 hours.

The testing procedure uses what is known as pooled testing where individual samples are combined and tested together to allow for faster results. The test is a less invasive nose swab that students can perform, put in a test tube with a specially created barcoded label and drop off at a designated site on a specific day.

Students will be tested every four days during the semester. If a positive result comes back the student is contacted by university and state health officials and will have a second test by a healthcare provider. If the second test is positive, the student will need to quarantine and contact tracing will begin.

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HAMPTON BEACH

The traffic pattern on a main road near Hampton Beach is returning to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic hit, New Hampshire traffic officials said Tuesday.

Maintenance crews assisted the town of Hampton in removing the Ocean Boulevard northbound detour, returning Ashworth Avenue and Route 1A (Ocean Boulevard) to the pre-COVID-19, one-way traffic pattern, officials said.

A portion of the boulevard had been closed to traffic since May to create a wider walking mall to allow individuals to socially distance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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THE NUMBERS

As of Tuesday, 7,494 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 21 from the previous day. The number of deaths remained at 433.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 19 new cases per day on Aug. 24 to 29 new cases per day on Sept. 7.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia or death.