CONCORD, NH – The state is opening new COVID-19 vaccination sites with no need for appointments in Stratham and Concord and has plans for more walk-in locations to open in Salem, Manchester, Nashua, and Keene before the end of the month.
Gov. Chris Sununu announced the added sites at his weekly COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday in Concord.
It comes at a time when more than a quarter-million – 251,441 – of the state’s 1.4 million residents have already tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began almost two years ago and hospitalizations from the virus remain high at 410.
That number of diagnosed cases is likely lower than an accurate picture as more people get in-home tests and do not report the results. And likely that number will continue to be lower than reality as in-home testing becomes more prevalent.
Sununu said ICU bed occupancy in hospitals remains high and with staff shortages due to illness and burnout, the hospitals are keeping an eye out and helping each other out.
While the hospitals are near or at times at capacity, it has not shut them down and they are looking at innovative ways to keep staff flexible and the state is trying to provide relief with out-of-state strike teams.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, said the state is reporting about 3,100 new cases a day on average with 18,986 active cases right now, and the state’s daily PCR positivity rate is at 22 percent.
There were 24 new deaths to report Wednesday for a total of 2,109.
Commissioner of Health and Human Services Lori Shibinette said there are several new outbreaks to report among long-term care facilities. While one outbreak was closed from last week, six new outbreaks have opened in the past week, mostly at nursing homes and at one correctional facility for a total of 42 congregate living centers dealing with outbreaks.
Putting up a map showing the nation’s COVID-19 numbers, Sununu noted the state continues to see very high numbers of the virus and noted the Omicron variant “is definitely out there.”
On the positive side, Sununu said this variant appears to not be as lethal as the Delta variant.
“What we do want is for people to watch for symptoms,” he said. They include a dry cough, fever, headache, but not as much of a report of changes in smell or taste.
Vaccines, he said, remain the single best tool and he urged all to become fully vaccinated.
Sununu said two more vaccination sites are opening this week. Stratham just opened one and by Friday, Concord will open one.
Each day, they will be available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a walk-in basis. He noted getting a booster makes a huge difference.
People can go to the state’s website at covid19.nh.gov for all site locations, times, and information.
“We are trying to make sure we have good geographic access,” he said.
Strike teams from out of state have provided flexibility to hospitals and nursing homes. Two weeks ago, Sununu announced two new strike teams were coming and he said a third will take care of patients at Edgewood facility in Portsmouth.
Today, federal officials opened a website to get four free in-home tests sent to each household through covidtests.gov.
While it may take a week or two to receive, he said they will be helpful in the fight against the virus and allow people to stay home.
Sununu noted that in New Hampshire, there have been two rounds of testing services offered to residents.
Anticipating a need for more, Sununu said he will ask the legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday to approve $10 million to purchase more at-home tests.
“We have been very successful,” Sununu said with this approach.
Sununu noted he had a call with the White House this week where some governors were having a hard time fulfilling their testing requests but hopefully the state will see the third round.
“We try to be as aggressive as we can,” to get more tests.
Dr. Chan said everyone is looking at effective medicine to treat COVID-19 but Ivermectin has not been found to effectively treat the virus and it has not been recommended.
“The benefits don’t outweigh the risks,” Chan said. “Obviously, there is still research and that could change but for now,” he said, it is not advised.
Sununu went over his position and concern about what led up to the disappearance of Harmony Montgomery, who was 5 when last seen two years ago.
He said it was his understanding that Massachusetts officials asked for a home study of the child’s residence and within weeks and before that could be done a Massachusetts judge gave full custody to her father, a man who the governor has called a “monster.”
Sununu wrote a letter to the Massachusetts courts asking why the judge made that decision without the in-home evaluation.
Once placement happens, that request did not move forward.
“It’s all incredibly abnormal,” Sununu said.
This is not about casting blame, he said. “We are looking at it internally.”
Sununu said “it is about bringing Harmony home,” but “it all started with that judge…putting harmony in the custody of that monster. I appreciate we don’t have all the answers.”
Sununu said he liked HB 1609 which looked at changing some of the new abortion restrictions but said the Republicans have “watered down” what he thought “was a good bill.”
He said he feels the ultrasound provisions are “too aggressive” and it is wrong to criminalize doctors.
The new bill is “not nearly enough for my liking” and he is hopeful for a compromise that he can sign.