Sununu releases veterans home outbreak probe; dismisses higher education merger critics

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Gov. Chris Sununu is pictured at Thursday’s news conference in this screen shot.


CONCORD, NH – Gov. Chris Sununu said former trustees of the community college and university systems who have been critical of his recent plan to merge the two was not unexpected as he discussed a wide range of topics at Thursday’s press conference.

“I guess I expected that reaction from folks that aren’t really on the front lines,” Sununu said. Merging will create a “better product at the end of the day. I’m very confident that it will get done.”

Former trustees published a letter saying they believe merger of these two boards and governance functions “will result in a consolidation that will negatively impact the effectiveness of both of our vital higher education enterprises.”

Veterans Home

Sununu also said an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak at the Veterans Home in Tilton was largely positive and he released the results via news release after the press conference.

The assessment was conducted by the NH DHHS Health Care Associated Infections Program and Congregate Settings Unit.

The news release says:

Testing supplies were not an issue and overall testing was conducted appropriately with minimal delay

N95 masks supply was not an issue

The Veterans Home had a dedicated COVID-19 unit with dedicated staff and equipment

The Veterans Home followed correct screening procedures

The report notes:

The Veterans Home was not immune from the nationwide gown shortage, and staff followed appropriate protocols to minimize contamination risk

While there is adequate supply of PPE, additional training is recommended to better train staff on how to properly utilize the PPE and to empower fellow employees to do so as well

A copy of the Infection Control Assessment and Response (ICAR) Report can be found here. A copy of the COVID-19 Infection Control Assessment Response (ICAR) Summary can be found here.
A copy of a letter from Andria Scacheri, HAI Prevention Specialist, to the New Hampshire Veterans Home can be found here.

Spending Stimulus Funds

Sununu also said the legislature is likely going to have more say in spending this round of federal dollars to the state because it is in session and the state isn’t facing the same crisis it did when the CARES Act funds first came in.

“We were in crisis emergency mode,” Sununu said. “The vast majority of the money we are seeing coming to the state will go through the legislative process.”

Sununu had sole authority over spending the first round of $1.25 billion CARES Act funds.

Sununu provided this breakdown of new dollars: $966 million to the state, $457 million to cities, towns and counties, $122 million for capital projects, and $350 million to schools, and $100 million for vaccine, testing.

COVID-19 Update

Dr. Benjamin Chan announced 347 new COVID-19 cases, five new deaths and 75 people with the virus in the hospital Thursday.

Dr. Beth Daley, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and Control, said 24 percent of people in New Hampshire have had their first dose of vaccine and 12 percent are fully vaccinated.

The state has administered 472,000 doses of vaccine, 60,000 in the last week alone, Daley said.

Daley said 6,500 people in Phase 2a have been vaccinated in regional clinics, including teachers, daycare workers and camp staff. Another 10,000 have booked appointments.

People in Phase 2b, anyone over age 50, can register for the vaccine March 22 by going to vaccines.nh.gov or by call 2-1-1.

When asked about the slight uptick in numbers of cases, Sununu cautioned that people still need to be vigilant.

“It’s springtime. I think people are getting lax about wearing masks and social distancing. We’re not out of it yet,” Sununu said.