A difference in tone, but Sununu and Biden use similar COVID policy playbook
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
- As over the counter tests remain hard to find and costly, both Biden and Sununu are running new programs for more at home-delivery testing
- New Hampshire is currently running its second round of a free at-home delivery testing program, while the federal government is planning to launch a home delivery program in January
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
- Sununu has remained consistent that he will not declare another state of emergency or renew a statewide mask mandate
- Biden is also not declaring a national mask mandate.
Where do Sununu and Biden diverge in their strategies?
- 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.