By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Hospitals will now allow for the visitation of non-COVID-19 patients, the state announced on Thursday at Gov. Chris Sununu’s news conference.
Effective immediately, one person – a family member or friend – can be designated to visit a patient in the hospital. It comes at a time when the state is continuing to see a deceleration of the pandemic, while much of the nation’s coronavirus cases are spiking to more than 60,000 a day.
New Hampshire saw 25 new cases announced Thursday for a total of 6,318 and one new hospitalization.
However, three new COVID-19 deaths were reported for a total of 405 in New Hampshire. One was a person who lived in a long term care facility, officials said.
Lori Shibinette, commissioner for the state Department of Health and Human Services announced the Support Program for patients at acute care hospitals and announced that the state is going to add a new partner, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to take over the state’s long-term care COVID-19 surveillance program this week.
The state will go from using a third party out-of-state vendor, Mako Laboratories, to DHMC, she said, in an effort to keep testing local and possibly increase state capacity for testing. Earlier in the pandemic in New Hampshire, it took three days to get a PCR test for COVID-19, but now it is a seven-day wait.
Shibinette said it is a goal to keep testing capacity in state and increase it. “When we do that, we help support our local labs” and can contain cost and quality, she said.
Sununu praised the decision to allow for limited visitation in hospitals.
“We feel it is really, really important that people have the opportunity to have that support person at their bedside,” Shibinette said.
If the picture changes and COVID-19 cases spike, that may need to be pulled back.
Sununu said that the decision would allow a certain amount of stress relief for all involved “to have someone with them there as their advocate,” and he noted that coming to that policy “was not an easy process.”
On Friday, notifications will go out to those who have applied for the SELF fund through the Cares Act for COVID-19 economic relief for the self-employed. Approximately is $26 million will go out in the initial phase but more might go out later, Sununu said.
Sununu noted that applications are now being taken to help out kids through social and athletic programs through the CARES Act.
He said the Investment in the Future Fund, for kids to have programs available to them this summer and fall, supports programs which will allow them to get out of the house.
“We want to address issues of long term isolation,” Sununu said and noted $4.5 million is available. The first is the Empowering Youth program and it will be $2 million for middle and high school age students for recreational sports, day camps and to help bridge those programs for the fall.
The application period opened Thursday and ends Aug. 17 and is available through the state’s GOFERR website.
Holocaust and PFAS Bills
Sununu said he signed two bills on Thursday. One strengthens drinking water standards to deal with the state’s problem with PFAS chemicals and another honors heroes and makes the Holocaust something that is part of the public school curriculum.
House Bill 1264 strengthens drinking water standards and makes New Hampshire’s among the most stringent in the country for amounts of PFAS chemicals allowed in public drinking water, Sununu said.
The bipartisan bill does an end-run around a court battle over the state’s limits and it includes money for communities and their wastewater treatment facilities for upgrades so when people hand their child a glass of water, Sununu said, we “make sure that drinking water is safe.”
Sununu thanked Republicans Sen. Chuck Morse and Rep. Dick Hinch for “a great job…it does impact individuals.”
Another bill signed was House Bill 1135 honoring those who have served the public by naming streets after them. It also ensures that information regarding the Holocaust is built into the school curriculum so that lessons of genocide are not forgotten.
It also names a portion of Route 49 near Waterville Valley in honor of Specialist Marc P. Decoteau and designates a portion of Route 125 as Officer Stephen Arkell Memorial Highway. It also declares June 6 as D-Day Remembrance Day; proclaims August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day and names certain courtrooms in the 10th Circuit District Court and relative to circuit court, district and family division cases in Rockingham County.