Editor’s note: All residents with questions or concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak can call 2-1-1.
By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu announced the activation of the Emergency Operations Center on Friday to assist in the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak with six individuals having tested positive so far in New Hampshire – three each in Grafton and Rockingham counties.
Sununu has also asked state department heads to look at cutting spending as revenues are likely going to be impacted. He also said it is up to local officials whether to cancel town meetings scheduled over the weekend and offered state help for municipalities trying to decide what to do.
And House members worked until after 4 a.m. Friday to finish Thursday’s session in a fast-moving time when government, businesses, schools and everyday people are figuring out their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are opening the Emergency Operations Center to ensure a level of consistency, coordination, preparedness in order to keep local emergency management officials informed and up-to-date,” Sununu said. “We are taking these proactive steps today to ensure the state is ready for further developments in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The State Emergency Operations Center is the state’s incident coordination center, said Perry Plummer, Department of Safety Assistant Commissioner.
“The SEOC brings together the necessary state agencies to manage response communication, coordination of supply and equipment delivery, monitor response activities and provide essential resources to our local, state and federal partners.”
The Emergency Operations Center will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week at partial activation levels.
Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut is seeking waivers from federal regulations in case schools are closed for long periods of time to make sure students who rely on schools for meals are fed.
The purpose of these waivers is to support schools and communities in providing meals to children in areas experiencing school disruptions in response to COVID-19, according to a state Department of Education news release.
“Should a school decide to shift to long-term remote instruction, the buildings would be closed, but students would continue their education remotely. Should the waivers be granted, schools could use their building to provide meals with limited interaction,” the release said.
Should these waivers be granted, all meals would be free to students at all locations, and families would be able to bring meals home to reduce contact between participants. The program would be similar to the Summer Meal Service Program, which provided nutritious meals to New Hampshire families at more than 100 locations last summer. Local school officials would determine where and how meals would be distributed locally.
Department of Education Spokesman Grant Bosse said there are 42,658 students in New Hampshire who qualify for free lunch and 7,198 for reduced lunch.
Sununu sent a letter to state Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, and members of the Legislative Fiscal Committee Friday regarding budgetary preparations being taken by state departments to ensure that the state budget remains balanced in the face of a likely decline in revenues because of COVID-19.
A copy of Sununu’s letter can be found here. https://www.governor.nh.gov/news-media/press-2020/documents/wallner-letter.pdf
The committee voted Friday to accept $4.9 million of federal funding to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re glad to vote today to accept the funds and we hope the Department of Health and Human Services will use the money to meet the challenges of our lack of capacity for testing, including testing of individuals who are in self-quarantine that may have been affected from community transfer,” Wallner said.
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald issued a news release about town meeting cancellation. His memo can be found here. https://www.governor.nh.gov/news-media/press-2020/documents/town-meetings.pdf
House Democrats said they showed their commitment to the people of New Hampshire by continuing late into the night Thursday and finishing at 4 a.m. the work of Granite Staters, but complained that Republicans purposely dragged out the session.
“Efforts by Republicans to disrupt the process including numerous motions and debates unrelated to our work purposely dragged the House session into the morning hours,” said Majority Leader Doug Ley, D-Jaffrey. “Republicans, angry about being held accountable for not attending sexual harassment training, decided it was better to obstruct and deliberately delay.”
Rep. Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, said House Republicans take deadlines seriously.
“The deadlines for acting on bills were voted on in January and accepted by the House. However, instead of working diligently through bills on a consistent basis, Democrat leadership decided to take a vacation week with bills piling up, and spent hours upon hours of session days with unproductive reprimands that had a deadline arbitrarily set. Democrats were so concerned about deadlines a few weeks ago, if anything a deadline to pass bills out of the House, a job they were sent to Concord to do by their constituents, should take precedent. Instead, we are hearing nothing but complaints that they had to do their job,” Hinch said.
“With COVID-19 rapidly spreading throughout our country, it would have been ill-advised to postpone these important votes. There is no telling how the situation could rapidly deteriorate over the next week. On the off chance legislative activity gets suspended in Concord, all those important votes would be left in limbo and the losers would be our constituents who would benefit from these important pieces of legislation. I commend House Republicans for sticking together to ensure we completed our work on time.”
The state also announced
Thursday that 211NH has been mobilized to handle all COVID-19 related calls from
New Hampshire residents.
All residents with questions or concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak can call 2-1-1.
For more information on COVID-19 in NH, please visit https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/2019-ncov.htm. For the latest information from the CDC, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.