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A difference in tone, but Sununu and Biden use similar COVID policy playbook

A vaccination station staffed by two volunteers.
Alli Fam
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Both President Biden and Gov. Chris Sununu are increasing COVID-19 vaccination sites.

With the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly across the country, both President Biden and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu are reiterating their strategies for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. While the two talk about the pandemic, vaccination, and masking very differently, their fundamental strategies are actually quite similar. NHPR's Emily Quirk spoke with health and equity reporter Alli Fam about it.

Where do Sununu and Biden align in their strategies? 

  • Free at-home testing programs

  • More COVID-19 vaccination sites 

    • Last week, Sununu announced an increase in the number of fixed vaccination sites. The state will also be holding another mass vaccine booster clinic in early January with locations across the state. Mobile teams and regional public health networks also continue to hold community based clinics. 
    • President Biden recently announced that FEMA will set up more vaccine sites in parts of the country where demand is high. 
  • Federal staffing to prop up an overburdened healthcare system

    • As New Hampshire continues to battle its worst COVID-19 surge, Sununu has drawn on federal staffing, including a 24-person team at Elliot Hospital. Sununu says he hopes to tap into similar resources again. 
    • Biden announced he will be increasing federal staffing opportunities for hard hit hospital systems across the country. 
  • Public health requirements

Where do Sununu and Biden diverge in their strategies? 

  • Vaccine mandates 

    • Sununu strongly opposes vaccine mandates at any level of government, though he has continued to defend an individual business’ right to mandate vaccines for their workers. 
    • Biden has tried to use vaccine requirements to kick up the nation's vaccination rates, although the efforts have gotten largely tied up in court.  

How do the two men talk about the pandemic and public health measures?

  • Sununu is focused on the idea of individual choice and personal responsibility when it comes to vaccination, masking and other public health measures.
  • Biden stresses vaccination as an obligation to one’s family, friends and country. While he has not declared a mask mandate, he strongly urges people to mask up indoors and follow public health guidance. 
  • Both men continue to stress that the country is not facing the same circumstances as in March of 2020, because we have a better understanding of the virus and we have new tools like the COVID-19 vaccine.
Emily has worked for NPR member stations since 2007. Before joining the NHPR staff in 2012, she served as local host for All Things Considered as well as Director of Business and Foundation Support for KUSP, Santa Cruz, CA. While living in Santa Cruz, she also produced 2 weekly music programs Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Free Radio Santa Cruz) and Taste of Honey (KUSP).
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.

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