By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – One Democratic lawmaker pressed Friday to better protect children touring the mask-optional State House and others scolded Republicans who don’t wear face masks and voted against $27 million in federal contracts that would have boosted vaccination efforts, which they say will delay getting shots to children.
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, asked Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, via email Friday to require all senators and staffers who interact with fourth-grade tour groups be required to wear a mask.
There is no mask mandate at the State House complex in Concord, nor is there any vaccination requirement.
Sherman said he was reacting to an InDepthNH.org story showing many adults do not wear face masks at the State House where there have been known COVID-19 infections, including the death 10 months ago of House Speaker Dick Hinch from the virus a week into his term. But fourth grade tour groups do wear them.
The face mask debate is usually split by political party with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. The same goes with vaccinations.
In fact Rep. Bill Marsh of Brookfield switched from Republican to Democrat on Sept. 14 as House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, led a protest against vaccine mandates outside the State House that got out of hand with protesters who agreed with him shouting him down.
“”I cannot stand idly by while extremists reject the reasonable precautions of vaccinations and masks,” said Marsh, who is a physician. “And so I have reluctantly changed my party affiliation. I urge others to consider what is happening and come to their own conclusions.”
Gov. Chris Sununu was the last governor in New England to initiate a statewide mask mandate and the first to rescind it in April.
“I sent a formal request to the Senate President today asking at the very least that any interactions with fourth graders visiting the State House campus and senators or senate staff need to be masked. This would be consistent with CDC guidelines,” said Sherman, who is also a physician.
Sherman said if children are infected with COVID-19, that impacts not only them, but their families, schools and communities.
He said people need to remember that wearing masks protects the people around the masked person, although there is some protection to the mask wearer.
House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, issued a news release Friday after Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette informed the Health and Human Services Oversight Committee that COVID vaccines for children in New Hampshire will be delayed due to the Executive Council’s rejection of $27 million in CDC vaccination funds.
“By embracing outlandish conspiracies, ignoring information provided by state agencies and voting to reject federal vaccination funds, Republicans on the Executive Council and Joint Fiscal Committee are causing delay in distribution of COVID vaccines for children. This dereliction of duty by Granite State Republicans is absolutely shameful and will have significant consequences in the daily lives of New Hampshire children and their families,” Cushing said.
Attempts to reach Morse and Sununu for comment were unsuccessful.
According to the Biden Administration, COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, is likely to be available soon.
In anticipation of the FDA’s independent advisory committee meeting on October 26 and the CDC’s independent advisory committee meeting on November 2-3, the Biden Administration recently announced it will make sure that, if a vaccine is authorized for children ages 5-11, it is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families across the country.
Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said: “Just yesterday, there were 192 new cases of COVID-19 in people under the age of 18. By bowing to the whims of anti-vaccine extremists, the Republican Councilors have prolonged our children’s exposure to infection. The Republican members of the Executive Council should be ashamed of themselves.”