By State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-NH
Sen. Feltes is a candidate for governor
We need widespread testing on COVID-19 in New Hampshire. The only way we are going to truly get a handle on this virus, to know what we are up against, and to contain and mitigate the virus in New Hampshire, is by implementing widespread testing.
For weeks, the demand for testing has far exceeded the supply here in New Hampshire. And for weeks New Hampshire has relied almost exclusively on tests sent from the Trump administration. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has not met the testing capacity test, by any measure. Recognizing this, other States, including neighboring States, have taken matters into their own hands, undertaking positive, proactive steps to ramp up testing capacity in their states. New York, for example, sounded the alarm on testing in late February and immediately started partnering with nonprofits and private companies to increase testing capacity. New Hampshire has a long tradition of practical innovation to meet the challenges we have faced, and we’ve seen it firsthand in this pandemic, from our medical providers to our first responders, to our state employees, all of whom are all sacrificing and innovating every day to safeguard New Hampshire’s health and safety. Testing should be no different: a reliance on the Trump administration to meet the testing challenge is inconsistent with that tradition of practical innovation.
Over the past few weeks, Granite Staters have heard the administration say there isn’t a need for widespread testing in New Hampshire because there has been no evidence of community spread in our state. The reality is this virus is no different in New Hampshire than it is anywhere else. Yesterday, the administration acknowledged community spread exists in New Hampshire, but simultaneously issued guidance downplaying the need for widespread testing, leading medical providers on the ground to continue to raise concerns.
Let’s be clear: sample collection and testing continue to be major challenges in New Hampshire.
Here are a few suggestions that I respectfully encourage the state to consider:
Mobile Testing. The State’s mobile testing capability (MMRS) is critical to expanding capacity to test patients and sites should be set up around the state, with efforts similar to the drive-through testing in Manchester being deployed elsewhere. As of now, drive-through locations are only available to those who are referred there by their medical provider. In New York, they’ve set-up mobile testing locations that can serve everyone. If you have serious symptoms you move to the front of the line, but everyone has an opportunity to get tested. As we learn more about asymptomatic individuals who test positive and the up to 14 day incubation period for the virus, it only further underscores the need for widespread testing to identify who is truly contagious and who is not.
Public-Private Partnerships: It’s not too late to pursue additional public-private partnerships on testing, like other states have done, including the contracting for increased testing capacity to help our folks on the ground right here in New Hampshire. When we talk about this being all hands on deck that includes partnering with our business and manufacturers right here in New Hampshire to provide additional PPE and testing capacity.
We all support the work of the federal delegation and action from members of both parties to get free testing passed and signed by the president. It’s critical that cost is not a deterrent.
We’re all in this together. We’re all on the same team. Every good team holds one another accountable. The State can and should more proactively meet this testing challenge, and I am hopeful we will and confident that we can.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer. InDepthNH.org takes no position on issues, but welcomes diverse opinions.