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Despite vaccinations, state preparing for worst COVID surge yet

  • Community Outreach Specialist Judith Emmert from the State of New Hampshire Department of Safety shows the area where four sets of cars will be coming in for the COVID-19 Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be administered at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. The goal is for 12,000 people to be vaccinated through Monday. Governor Sununu is holding a press conference Saturday morning to talk about the program.

Monitor staff
Published: 10/27/2021 4:47:24 PM

Despite hundreds of thousands of vaccinations, Gov. Chris Sununu said the state is bracing for more COVID-19 cases than in any prior surge.

“Frankly, I believe we’re going to be in a worse situation than we were in last year with cases and hospitalizations,” he said. “We have to appreciate that this winter could be tough.”

The trigger for such a surge is a combination of factors, including the Delta variant’s continued spread through New England, a waning immunity from the vaccine, and the colder weather that brings more people indoors. As a result, state officials will resume weekly press conferences as New Hampshire prepares for another end-of-year surge.

The state is averaging between 500 and 550 new COVID-19 cases a day, a statistic akin to those reported in Winter 2020. Ben Chan, the state epidemiologist said at a press conference Wednesday that 11 people have died from the virus over the past couple of days, six of which were associated with long term care facilities

“Unfortunately that fall and winter surge, exactly as we predicted, is, unfortunately, is upon us,” Sununu said.

Sununu said that in anticipation, the state has built up the infrastructure and resources to handle an influx of COVID-19 cases. New coronavirus testing sites opened over the last two weeks in a handful of cities have served more than 2,300 people.

Health officials reiterated again that vaccines are the most effective strategy at preventing severe illness from the coronavirus. The state is preparing to vaccinate children aged 5 to 11, as soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves the vaccine for that age group.

Sununu said the state already ordered 15,000 children’s doses and will begin to ship the vaccines to providers immediately after the approval is announced. He also said the state will use $4.7 million of federal funds approved by the Executive Council Wednesday to stand up vaccine sites at schools interested in participating.

Lori Shibinette, the Department of Health Commissioner, said the council’s rejection of $27 million earlier this month would undoubtedly slow the rollout of vaccines for children.

The state is also investing in the distribution of booster shots, which are available for most older adults and all adults who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 12,000 N.H. residents have received booster shots, or about 1.5% percent of the state’s vaccinated population, said according to CDC data.

“We still have our work cut out for us,” Chan said.

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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