The rejection by the Executive Council of $27 million in federal funds to help with New Hampshire's COVID-19 vaccination effort was the focus of much of Gov. Chris Sununu's coronavirus update on Wednesday.

New Hampshire became the first to reject the funds after questions were raised whether or not accepting them obligated the state to carry out future vaccination mandates or orders from the federal government. State Attorney General John Formella earlier said the state's sovereignty was safe and accepting the fund does not bind the state.

The Executive Council voted Wednesday 4-1 along party lines to not accept the money, a vote Sununu called a "disservice" to residents.

"The rejection of these funds shifts our state response efforts to an already burdened healthcare industry with testing and vaccinations and other critical needs that flood into our healthcare system on a daily basis," Sununu said.

State Police said eight people were arrested and charged wit disorderly conduct outside the meeting as the vote was being taken including Kathleen Bussiere-Appleton, 70, of Newton and James E. Stuart, 68, of Rochester.

The governor said the executive council accepted federal funds under the same terms in the past but got caught up in misinformation and conspiracy theories.

"I've been talking to the councilors all week. I had personal calls with them. I pushed as hard as I possibly could repeatedly on this. They know exactly where I was. I was very clear. I was not ambivalent at all about the need for this to move forward," Sununu said.

New Hampshire's U.S Senators were critical of the Executive Council vote.

"Make no mistake: this is a vote against New Hampshire. It risks the health and safety of Granite Staters and our economy," Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a tweet.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen blamed Republicans as a whole for the rejection of the funds.

"This extremist, reckless anti-science behavior must stop– lives are in danger & Granite Staters deserve better," Shaheen said in a tweet.

Rep. Chris Pappas also slammed the Executive Council on his Twitter account calling his vote to approve he American Rescue Plan Act funds was the best way out of the pandemic.

"That remains true today, and the failure of the majority on the Executive Council to act in the people’s best interests moves us further away from fully overcoming this pandemic," Pappas said.

Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said that four new Clear Choice COVID-19 rapid testing centers will open over the next two weeks including one in Newington. All will be open seven days and be able to administer 150 tests a day. There will be a one day turnaround on results that will allow children to return quickly to school.

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

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