Gov. Chris Sununu is optimistic that New Hampshire is at the back end of the COVID-19 winter surge as the number of cases and hospitalizations continues to fall.

The number of individuals hospitalized stands at 181 with 5,818 active cases as of Wednesday morning, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. There were 14 deaths reported.

The governor said New Hampshire and Vermont have the lowest number of hospitalizations in the country thanks to the innovative programs and ideas carried out by hospitals and their doctors and nurses in recent weeks.

"This is not a victory by any means, but we are definitely trending in the right direction. If we stay right on it, if Omicron keeps showing itself to not be nearly as severe as some of the other variants of COVID, there's no reason to think we can't keep building on these results," Sununu said.

No 'Conscientious Objector' Exemption

While the governor favors personal choice regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations over mandates, he continues to back the right for a business to force its workers to take the shot. He is also against a move in the legislature to allow for "conscientious objector" opt out when it comes to opting out of an employer's vaccination mandate.

"A private business has rights, a private business owner has rights and it's their choice whether or not they want to implement that or not. All they're trying to do is create a loophole that no one can mandate anything. I don't think the government should be mandating anything but I think private businesses have the right to do what they want to do."

Sununu also took note of several states dropping their mask mandates including New York State and Illinois, and states like New Jersey that are dropping their mandate for schools.

"COVID is likely not going away, but we are here with it for some time. We do have to learn to live with and move on with our lives. New Hampshire in many ways has really led the country in many ways, providing that flexibility while staying on top of the mitigation measures to best reduce community spread," Sununu said.

Fixed Testing and Vaccination Centers Stay in Place

Sununu said that the FEMA "strike teams" which have been assisting in hospitals will stay until the beginning of March as scheduled. A request for an extension is not anticipated.

The fixed vaccination and testing centers will also remain open for now. Sununu said the vaccination sites are putting out about 200 jabs a day at each location.

"We'll keep looking at that utilization. I believe the vaccine sites themselves are contracted until the end of March," Sununu said. "My sense is that there is still a need and a demand for testing."

5,000 at-home COVID-19 tests have been sold in state liquor stores since they went on sale, according to Sununu. The state ordered one million tests which are on sale for $13.

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

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