As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise amid the cold-weather surge, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday there are no plans to close schools due to the worsening pandemic.
“Kids really need to be in school. They want to be in school, and that’s the best place for their education,” Sununu said during his weekly COVID-19 press conference.
Many schools in the Granite State went to remote learning models around Thanksgiving because of the pandemic last year. The state announced Tuesday an average of 900 to 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, a 43 percent increase, and 21 deaths reported in the last week, stretching back to the Thanksgiving holiday. Sununu noted cases are also up in Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts as well.
“Like the rest of New England, we’re seeing the winter surge that we had always predicted, and it’s very severe,” Sununu said.
New Hampshire schools will also have the funds available for masks and cleaning supplies to keep students safe, Sununu said. In extreme cases, schools might need to opt for remote learning, but that will not be the rule as New Hampshire heads into the holidays and beyond, he said.
Remote learning hurts kids when it comes to mental health and educational outcomes, data show. According to the CDC, nearly 25 percent of parents whose children received virtual instruction or combined instruction reported worsened mental or emotional health in their children, compared to 16 percent of parents whose children received in-person instruction.
“Going remote can be so detrimental,” Sununu said. “We really want kids to be in schools.”
So far, no Granite Stater under the age of 19 has died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Sununu touted the recent court-ordered halt to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funds. New Hampshire was already experiencing a healthcare employee shortage before the pandemic, and he said many facilities in the Granite State faced forced closures if the mandate went into effect.
New Hampshire is involved in multiple lawsuits opposing Biden-backed mandates, and the current order is temporary pending more court action. Sununu has pledged to fight the mandates, though he continues promoting vaccination as a choice.
“We want everyone to get vaccinated. But if the vaccine mandate risks closing our nursing homes, it is a bad idea,” he said.
When asked about nursing home residents being cared for by unvaccinated nurses and staff, Sununu said he’d rather have an unvaccinated nurse than no nurse at all. Opponents of the mandate note medical professionals cared for COVID-19 patients for a year before the vaccines were available.
And a recent survey of 1,200 senior care providers by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) reported 99 percent of nursing homes and 96 percent of assisted living facilities said they didn’t have enough workers.
Sununu stressed the need for people to get vaccinated if they are able and for people eligible for a booster to get one. He plans to get his booster shot at the state’s Dec. 11 Booster Blitz, where vaccination sites will be operating at locations throughout the state.