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Sununu issues new executive order, free home testing program to stop the surge of COVID-19

A photo of Governor Sununu photo
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu

As COVID-19 infections reach their highest levels in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu issued an executive order Tuesday that he said would allow hospitals to open new beds and equipment in extra space they might have, to accommodate record levels of hospitalizations driven by the pandemic.

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“This winter surge that we predicted is now rearing its ugly head,” Sununu said at a press conference in Concord.

Easing the burden on hospitals requires expanding bed capacity at other facilities, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette. She said that will help hospitals quickly discharge patients who are ready to leave.

Many long-term care facilities, for example, have had to close wings due to staffing shortages and can’t receive new patients from hospitals.

Sununu also announced what he said was a first-of-its-kind agreement with Amazon to provide delivery for one million at-home testing kits. Those tests will be free to New Hampshire residents, as part of a program with the National Institutes of Health. Some tests will first go directly to schools.

Despite rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 across the state, Sununu said he would not declare a new state of emergency.

“It’s a hospital capacity emergency right now,” Sununu said, saying that his executive order would provide sufficient support.

State health officials also pressed the public to pursue vaccination and booster shots.

State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said new research shows boosters can help return vaccinated immunity levels to the levels seen before the spread of the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

The state will also host a large “Booster Blitz” event on Dec. 11, where eligible Granite Staters can get their booster shots before the Christmas holidays.

Responding to a question about lingering vaccine hesitancy, Shibinette talked about health care providers.