As New Hampshire continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the country will Gov. Chris Sununu forced to bring back some kind of masking and social distancing mandates?

As of Friday the CDC reported New Hampshire had 539 positive COVID-19 cases in the past seven days per 100,000 people, the most in the nation, just ahead of Minnesota and Michigan.

The state Department of Health & Human Services reported 8,496 current cases as of Friday with the highest number of cases by county in Rockingham with 1,580. Strafford County has 785 mostly in Rochester and Somersworth.

Hospitals are maxed out with just 8.7% of the total staffed beds available with 398 hospitalizations.

Dr. Neil Meehan, Chief Physician Executive at Exeter Hospital told CBS Boston on Friday that New Hampshire's hospital system is under the most duress he has seen in his 25 years as a working physician.

“We are more than 100% capacity and that’s been going on for days. Our emergency room is housing people up to 125, 150% of our capacity,” Meehan told CBS Boston.

The hospital earlier barred visitors from the hospital with some exceptions. No other New Hampshire hospital has taken that step.

US COVID-19 7 Days Case Rate per 100,000 as of 12/3/21
US COVID-19 7 Days Case Rate per 100,000 as of 12/3/21 (CDC)
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Sununu: Vaccines the Way Out

Sununu's has said on several occasions that the way out of the pandemic for all who are eligible to get the COVID-19 jabs and booster shots.  But he is against mandates and joined a lawsuit with 11 other states trying to stop the mandate calling it a government overreach.

He has been talking about the "winter surge" at his COVID-19 briefings since summer and that the state has planned for it. New Hampshire was the first state to offer free at-home COVID-19 test kits as part of a partnership wth Amazon and 10,000 booster shots were offered as part of his Booster Blitz initiative.

900,000 test kits were gone in less than 24 hours after being offered on the state website. Most of the Blitz shots are gone as well.

"Sununu is saying publicly that he knew this scenario was likely, and that the state has thus planned for it. This begs the question of whether there were actions that could have been taken to prevent it, which is the question why was it inevitable? That is the question with which he will have to grapple politically," Dean Spiliotes, SNHU Civic Scholar and Founder of NH Political Capital told Seacoast Current.

Sununu did not renew his executive orders on masking and capacity limits in May and transitioned his "Safe at Home" plan to "Universal Best Practices." Businesses, hospitals and municipalities have the ability to impose their own masking and social distancing policies but without state backing.

Spiliotes also points to the governor's Twitter account for an indication of where he is at is with mandates by touting the results of a Cato Institute survey that ranked New Hampshire as number one in its index of personal and economic freedom.

"He was on Twitter yesterday touting NH's top ranking for personal freedom in some recent survey. That is his countervailing argument," Spiliotes said.

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

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