Gov. Chris Sununu shored up the ability of hospitals to handle more COVID-19 patients and continued to urge all who are eligible to take the jab to slow the "winter surge in New Hampshire.

“We are currently seeing the highest level of COVID-19 in our communities that we’ve experienced at any point during this pandemic. In the last week we're seen 1,000 new infections per day on average,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan said during Gov. Chris Sununu's COVID-19 briefing Tuesday afternoon.

With 55% of all eligible residents fully vaccinated Sununu announced a Booster Blitz Initiative for Dec. 11 when booster shots will be available at 20 sites around the state to be announced.

"Immunities with the COVID vaccine, it wanes. It weakens over time, we all know that. Those who got vaccinated six month ago while still seeing drastically lower cases of COVID and better results as it pertains to severe symptoms and hospitalization we still need everyone to get vaccinated," Sununu said.

The governor also issued an executive order allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to help hospitals increase their capacities by establishing temporary acute care centers, increasing bed capacities at other licensed institutional facilities to address surge needs.

"It’s a hospital capacity emergency right now,” Sununu said.

The state has also created two partnerships to bring one million home COVID tests to New Hampshire. The "Say Yes to the Test" initiative will allow residents to order a free test online to be delivered within a week via Amazon paid for by the federal health department. 50,000 have already been delivered to the state to be given to schools.

A second program will bring 100,000 PCR tests to schools and communities that can be ordered via the state health website.

"It's really all about making sure testing capacity is as robust as possible, it's very easy to access,"   Sununu said.

No mask mandates

One thing Sununu will not be bringing back is a statewide mask mandate. He said communities and businesses already have the ability to institute their own mask rules.

"I think we're going to be dealing with high up-and-down levels of COVID potentially for years. If you start down the path again of just implementing a mask mandate when do you undo it," Sununu said. "It's not just about masks. At the end of the day it's about boosters, it's about vaccinations."

He came under criticism for shaking the hands of children on a tour of the State House while not wearing a mask as captured in a picture posted by inDepthNH.org.

The CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in counties where the community transition rate is substantial. All of New Hampshire is considered to be at substantial risk by the CDC.

Sununu did not directly answer why he didn't wear a mask but said he is glad school groups are able to tour the State House again.

Sununu said the CDC's messaging over the past few months has been "massively convoluted" leading the state, organizations and municipalities to make decisions based on what they are seeing first hand.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.