CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu on Tuesday announced new initiatives to deal with the escalating numbers of COVID cases in the state, including making at-home coronavirus tests available. His primary focus was increasing patient capacity at hospitals.
In an executive order signed on Tuesday, the governor said the state will be creating service centers within the hospital campuses.
“After our trip to Kentucky, which happened earlier this year back in early August-early September, it became clear that the most effective and efficient way to increase hospital bed capacity was building internal and temporary acute care service centers,” Sununu said. “There’s no better place to receive care than within the four walls of a hospital, and this executive order is going to assist with that.”
Sununu added, “Our health care system is resilient but it is being tested with the increased amount of COVID.”
Dr. Benjamin Chan said there were 561 new diagnosed cases of COVID in the state on Tuesday, with four new deaths. Over the last week, the state experienced almost 1,000 new infections per day, which he said was the highest level experienced at any point in the pandemic.
The state is recommending vaccinations for everyone age 5 and over and booster shots for those 18 and older. “Boosters increase vaccine effectiveness to greater than 90%,” Dr. Chan said.
Sununu said he is not issuing an executive order or a mask mandate, but is providing directives that address capacity needs and expand vaccine availability. The state also is looking to streamline the licensing of health care workers.
Last year, the state held a vaccine clinic at NH Motor Speedway. Sununu said its success showed the effectiveness of holding such events to get people vaccinated, but this year the state is looking to set up smaller sites across the state to make them more easily accessible. He announced a Booster Blitz on Dec. 11 at 20 sites statewide where people will be able to receive their booster shots. People will be able to schedule appointments online on the Department of Health and Human Services website.
Through a partnership with Amazon, at-home tests will be available and will be shipped at no cost to families.
The state has received more than a million tests from one source, and 50,000 from another source. The tests will first be made available to schools to test students, then will be available to the public.
“We want to make sure our testing capacity is as robust as possible,” Sununu said.