Sununu: Vaccine Is NH’s Way Out of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Gov. Chris Sununu doubled down on his message Thursday about the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine to stop the spread of the Delta variant but does not favor employers making it a job requirement unless they discuss it with employees first.
At the governor's first coronavirus briefing since July, State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan reported the highest number of new cases in a single day since April with 310 along with 58 hospitalizations.
"The increases we're seeing I think continue to highlight the importance of people getting vaccinated, getting vaccinated as soon as possible and if they have not become fully vaccinated taking a step to become fully vaccinated to have the highest and longest-lasting protection against COVID-19 particularly with the new variants that are circulating," Chan said.
Sununu said the state will make a second van available to give vaccines as part of his administration making the shots readily available. There will also be new messaging in the form of bus wraps and involvement from community hubs and restaurants.
"The vaccine is the way out. You gotta get the vaccine," Sununu said.
Vaccinations are also a way to make sure that the high hospitalization rates currently happening in southern states don't happen in New Hampshire. Sununu is also making sure that hospitals and care centers are prepared with adequate staffing and therapeutics.
"I'm very confident where we are but our job is to hope for the best and and unfortunately, plan for the worst," Sununu said.
Sununu said there may be seasonal shifts in the infection numbers for years to come. He encouraged younger people to think long-term and consider getting vaccinated to protect their family members and fellow employees as fall and winter approaches.
"This is the new normal and that's a very important message I want to stress to folks," Sununu said.
Chan said the Delta variant is twice as infectious as other COVID-19 variants.
Chan said the vaccine is over 90 percent effective in preventing severe symptoms which can lead to hospitalization or death.
Sununu said he is not bringing back restrictions if things get worse in the fall.
"The state of emergency was put into place when individuals really had very few tools to protect themselves. That’s where the government kind of had to step in in a very rare circumstance," Sununu said.
Masking in the Schools
As many districts decide whether to require students to wear masks in school Sununu said he will leave it to local leaders to decide what's best in their situation.
"When we talk about local control and local voices, it’s not on the county level per se. It’s really school by school, parent by parents sometimes and that’s why our system is so awesome because the head of the school board or a principal or a teacher can have that one-on-one connection with folks that have a voice," Sununu said. "Parents I think still have the are the best tool in deciding what is best for their kids."
Rockingham and Strafford counties are considered to be at substantial risk for COVID-19 transmission. Under the CDC's recently updated guidelines everyone in those counties should wear a mask indoors at public events regardless of vaccination status.
Employers Requiring Vaccinations
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover will require employees to get vaccinated. There are exceptions for medical and religious reasons.
The hospital is part of Massachusetts General Hospital and last month Mass General Brigham announced that it is requiring its 80,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
When asked for a response to that decision to mandate vaccination as a condition of employment, Sununu encouraged all employers to speak with employees before mandating vaccination.
"The most important thing is to talk to the employees. Don't just make a decision in a vacuum," Sununu said.
Sununu acknowledged that the decision to get vaccinated is a personal one.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH