By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
NASHUA – During a last-minute press conference, Gov. Chris Sununu announced he will fight President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandates as state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan updated COVID-19 saying there were 549 new cases and four deaths to report Wednesday as New Hampshire averages about 400 new cases of the virus daily.
There were also 13 new outbreaks in institutional care settings, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.
Sununu also said the state is accepting 100 to 200 refugees from Afghanistan.
Sununu also made it clear the pandemic could be worse this winter because of health-care worker burnout and staffing shortages in hospitals.
He said he plans to fight with other Republican governors the federal mandates announced last week by President Joe Biden to require all federal workers be fully vaccinated or tested weekly.
Biden’s emergency rules will require all private employers with more than 100 employees and health-care workers at Medicare or Medicaid facilities be vaccinated. Biden also called on large entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry.
Sununu said it is his job as governor to make sure vaccination against COVID-19 is a personal decision, not a mandate.
When asked about Tuesday’s Republican House anti-vaccine mandate rally at the State House that turned into a shouting match between House Speaker Sherman Packard and the anti-mandate crowd, Sununu said that was a House event and not something he was involved with.
The news conference at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua was announced 90 minutes before the 3 p.m. event.
Sununu and Chan focused on vaccinations being the key to preventing serious illness and death.
“Our vaccination numbers remain too low,” Chan said, adding low vaccination is continuing to contribute “to the spread in our communities.
“Vaccination is the primary tool we have to control this pandemic,” Chan said.
Sununu said he expects hospitalization rates could be worse in the fall than last year and said staffing is a critical issue in the state’s hospitals.
To counteract this, Sununu said he is working with the state licensure department to make sure licenses can be obtained faster for out-of-state medical personnel and those who have recently retired.
Sununu also said the state has been stockpiling personal protective equipment.
About the Afghanistan evacuees, Sununu said the government is doing more vetting to make sure no terrorists come into the country as a result.
They will likely be resettled in Manchester, Nashua and Concord, he said.