CONCORD, NH – Without discussion, the council unanimously voted on an expedited contract to accept $5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the purposes of addressing the COVID-19 virus which is effective immediately.
The money became available following Congressional votes last week.
It follows the declaration of a public health emergency on Jan. 31 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services relating to the global health crisis caused by the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, which has killed many across the world in just a few short months of spreading from China.
The money will be used for testing suspected cases of the virus, monitoring, and home visitation and the purchase of personal protective equipment and its distribution to health-care providers.
Making Hand Sanitizer
This was the first Executive Council meeting since the state’s first positive COVID-19 case was announced and there are now five cases and an estimated 226 people being monitored for their exposure.
It was business as usual, with the possible exception that Sununu is now packing Purell, Glittery Purell to be specific.
Students from the Swasey Central School in Brentwood shook hands with Sununu, and just as he has done throughout his tenure, the governor bent down, looked each child in the eye, shook hands and asked for their name.
Something new, however, came after shaking all those little hands.
From the breast pocket of his suit coat, he showed students studying New Hampshire government from the New Hampton School his tiny bottle of Purell.
After shaking a lot of hands, Sununu noted that it had glitter.
“I don’t know whose idea it was to add glitter, but it’s a bad idea,” he said, noting the glitter sheds on to other objects.
Concern for enough hand sanitizer – with or without glitter – has emerged as an issue nationwide.
Later in the meeting, Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli of Nashua suggested the state start producing hand sanitizer as there is a lack of availability. She noted that the state of New York is looking into doing it.
Lori Shibinette, the state’s director of Health and Human Services said, “It’s definitely something that Commissioner (Charlie) Arlinghaus could do,” to great laughter, referring to the Commissioner of Administrative Services, who manages all state buildings.
He laughed as well and said he could start to try to do that in his garage. But he noted he is seriously exploring the idea and is looking at what other states are doing.
Pignatelli said that people are struggling to find sanitizer.
She asked Shibinette about the many concerns people have.
Shibinette suggested people wash hands with soap and water to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
“Are we preparing for other challenges that might come up?” Pignatelli asked Shibinette.
“New Hampshire is very well prepared,” Shibinette said.
The governor said his office will continue to provide information to the council on the virus.
“We can also learn from what other states are going through as well,” Pignatelli said.
The council tabled a request to reduce opioid grant money in Nashua and Manchester until the DHHS can answer questions about whether its reduction would impact individuals in need of services. The state is without $160,000 in federal money for contracts.
The contracts are with Harbor Homes Inc. of Nashua, and Amoskeag Health of Manchester to provide Medication Assisted Treatment services.
Volinsky said he was concerned about the drop in money for opioid treatment and wanted more information. Katya Fox, at the bureau of behavioral health, said the two three-year grants are ending in June.
This grant is not being renewed but there are opportunities to apply for money, she noted. Volinsky, speaking on the Amoskeag contract, said he worried that there could be a lag or a gap in funding for those who need it.
Pignatelli spoke on the Harbor Homes contract and was concerned with the same question.
Shibinette said she has upcoming meetings with the two contractors and would get more information. Pignatelli said she wanted to know the number of people who might not be served by the end of the contract when the money runs out.
Volinsky requests hearing over Edwards nomination
Calling it a political appointment with no merit, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky is opposing Gov. Chris Sununu’s nomination of Eddie Edwards as executive director of the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification.
A public hearing on the nomination has been scheduled for March 25 at 1:15 p.m. in the Executive Council Chambers of the State House. Edwards, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Congress in District 1, has been nominated for the $112,000-a-year position, succeeding Lindsey B. Courtney of Manchester who served as the interim director.
Volinsky, D-Concord, who is running for governor, claims Edwards does not have the necessary experience for the position.
But Edwards, in his letter to the governor on Feb. 27, said: “I believe that my qualifications, education, and professional experience make me a perfect fit for Executive Director of the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification.”
From 2005-2013, Edwards was director of Enforcement and Chief Administrative Prosecutor of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission and has served as police chief of South Hampton.
He said he has extensive development experience with licensure and certification systems and established and implemented a “Regulatory Alcohol Task Force,” with participation from the New Hampshire Grocer’s Association, NH Restaurant and Lodging Association, Chiefs of Police Association, New Futures and Community Coordinators.
Edwards ran for Congress in District 1 in 2018, a seat that is currently held by Democrat Chris Pappas of Manchester.
The council confirmed Paul J. Parisi of Salem for reappointment as State Fire Marshal in the Division of Fire Safety within the Department of Safety at a rate of $117,805 a year for a term which expires March 2023.
The council held hearings on the governor’s nomination of Kimberly Chabot of Henniker and John Curran of Londonderry, both for the Circuit Court bench.
Another nominee, Thomas F. Reid II of Epsom, withdrew his nomination.
Chabot said she was honored by the governor’s nomination. Although not a native, she said New Hampshire is where she studied law and is raising a family. She has been a per-diem justice.
“I feel I am qualified but still have much to learn,” Chabot said. “But I have a tremendous amount of energy to serve.”
Curran is a litigation attorney from Nashua with practice on municipalities, insurance defenses, and landlord-tenant law.
A vote on their nominations is expected on March 25.
Social Worker Month
Members of the state’s social workers community gathered at the meeting to recognize this month as Social Workers’ month.
Lynn Stanley, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, New Hampshire chapter, accepted the proclamation along with Courtney Porter, named Social Worker of the Year who works in public schools in Claremont; Genevieve Martin, Hamida Hassan, MSW student of the year studying at UNH, and others.
Sununu praised them for their one-on-one work to help “meet people where they are” and improve their lives.