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New Scholarship Program Tackles NH COVID Learning Loss

Students suffering the effects of the long COVID lockdowns are getting some help, thanks to a New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) scholarship program. 

The Yes, Every Student (YES!) scholarship program is designed to help families and residents whose education was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by awarding $1,000 tutoring scholarships to New Hampshire students, which includes public, non-public, home education, and Education Freedom Account students. It is the second year in a row the Department of Education has offered the scholarships.

“Although it has been two years since the start of the pandemic, some students may still feel that they are not meeting their desired academic performance,” said DOE Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “These scholarships will be used to help children that may have experienced disrupted learning and provide them with individualized tutoring and support to target their unique educational needs.”

Andrew Yates with the national education non-profit yes. every kid praised New Hampshire’s scholarship program.

“We commend Commissioner Edelblut for putting forward a universal scholarship program to help all NH students seek tutoring services to help combat Covid learning loss,” Yate said. “Every family and student has faced unique challenges during this pandemic, and we support allowing all students the opportunity to find the best pathways to their educational success.”

According to a recent Harvard study, students in K through 12 schools that went remote during the pandemic have fared worse than students who stayed in school, losing ground in math and reading.

“In districts that went remote, achievement growth was lower for all subgroups, but especially for students attending high-poverty schools. In areas that remained in person, there were still modest losses in achievement, but there was no widening of gaps between high and low-poverty schools in math,” the study states.

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, recently noted that students in high poverty areas who were abandoned to online learning have experienced an education gap that will impact them for decades.

“In K through 12, we have a learning deficit that will take us a long time to erase, and sadly it’s a deficit that in the inner city is almost two years,” Gates said.

According to a report from the consulting firm McKinsey, the learning gap experienced by school students now, especially minority students, threatens economic depression in the years to come.

“Our analysis shows that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year,” the report states.

Parents in New Hampshire responded to closed classrooms and learning loss by fleeing the public school system.

“Until the pandemic, enrollment decline in New Hampshire was relatively slow but steady: between 0 and 2 percent each year,” NHPR reported. “But in 2020, enrollment declined by 4.5 percent, about 8,200 fewer students in one year.”

The scholarships from the Department of Education can be used for tutoring as well as special education therapies and services. The state has about $2.3 million in funding from the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund under the CARES Act for the scholarships. Last year, the DOE awarded nearly $1.9 million to almost 500 recipients for tutoring and other needs.

To apply for a Yes! scholarship, visit Yes, Every Student. Please email questions to [email protected]

Nashua Orders Citizens to Mask Up — Temporarily

Just hours after President Joe Biden held a press conference defending his federal COVID-19 mandates, Nashua’s Board of Aldermen passed one of their own.  The city’s residents are being told to put their face masks back on as the board overwhelmingly voted in favor of a temporary mask mandate. 

The ordinance, approved with 12 votes Tuesday night, will require the wearing of face masks at indoor public spaces through the end of January. The ordinance carries a maximum $1,000 fine, though there is no enforcement mechanism for the measure. 

It is not clear who will end up making sure people will wear masks, as Aldermen said police are already stretched thin.

Nashua’s Director of Public Health Bobbie Bagley said the mandate is needed as COVID-19 cases surge around the holidays. Nashua hospitals are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and there are no ICU beds available in the city.

“Our goal is really to have an impact on the next four weeks to really keep these cases down,” Bagley said.

COVID has swamped the state as cold weather moved in. Bagley said the post-Thanksgiving surge that has inundated hospitals is starting to recede, right in time for the Christmas gatherings which will bring more anticipated spread. The hope is that the temporary masking order will reduce the spread over the next few weeks, until cases start going down again.

Alderman Ben Clemons was the lone holdout against the measure. He said people can choose to wear a mask, just as they can choose to get vaccinated.

“To me, it is a matter of principle. I don’t believe in mandates. I will never vote for mandates,” Clemons said.

Clemons said the vaccines have been available for people for more than a year, and those vaccines are largely effective against serious illness and death. It’s a choice to get vaccinated, and a choice to wear a mask, he said.

“The majority of folks who end up on ventilators are unvaccinated. I find that is their problem,” Clemons said.

A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released Monday found 81 percent of Granite State adults have been fully or partially vaccinated, while just 18 percent say they are refusing the vaccine.

Alderman Dave Tencza once sided with those who see mandates as a personal liberty issue, but said his thinking on mask mandates has changed as the pandemic has continued and the science shows how individual decisions impact communities. 

“I used to think wearing a mask was more of a personal liberty issue, like wearing a seatbelt. Now, I really think it’s comparable to drunk driving. No one has the right to drive under the influence of alcohol,” he said.

Nashua joins a small group of municipalities that have brought back the mask mandates enacted in the first year of the pandemic. Last week, Keene’s city council restarted its mask mandate, as did the town of Exeter.

Andrew Sylvia with Manchester InkLink reported Tuesday night that Manchester’s Board of Alderman split on a mask mandate, ending with a six-to-six tie. Mayor Joyce Craig broke the tie, bringing the mask mandate back to Manchester.

NH Diocese Pulls Out of March for Life Over COVID Concerns

New Hampshire’s Roman Catholic Diocese is not taking part in the annual March for Life, the largest pro-life demonstration in the country, citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Diocese of Manchester recently decided to not organize a large, diocesan-wide contingent to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., primarily due to the difficulty of monitoring and mitigating the COVID-19 risk with a group of over 100 participants,” said Bevin Kennedy, the diocesan cabinet secretary for communications. 

The decision means that individual parishes that once booked seats on buses the dioceses chartered for the trip to Washington D.C., and secured hotel rooms through diocesan reservations, were left to scramble to make their own accommodations for this year’s trip.

The March is scheduled for Jan. 21, to be close to the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v Wade United States Supreme Court decision being handed down. Claire Pullan, with the March for Life national organization based in Washington D.C., said she’s heard from some groups that normally take part that they are worried about the pandemic.

“People are concerned about what COVID is doing, and what role that’s going to play this year,” she said.

The March organizers are telling people to take the pandemic seriously and take sensible precautions to keep themselves and others safe. The larger problem connected to the pandemic is the costs for the trip. Many groups that relied on charter buses to get down to Washington D.C. are finding the trip costs have effectively doubled.

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, many bus companies are requiring social distancing in the bus, leaving half the seats empty. Pullan said a group like a school or a church that could charter three buses in past years now has to charter six because of the restrictions.

“There are more costs because of COVID restrictions, and a lot of people are calling,” she said.

The march usually draws hundreds of thousands of activists to participate, but it is hard to guess how many might take part this year, Pullan said. Last year’s march was converted to a virtual event because of the pandemic, and it is not clear if the continued COVID-19 surge will continue to keep people away. Pullan thinks people might want to show up this year especially after dealing with the pandemic for so long.

“People are recognizing the need to stand up,” she said.

Kennedy said the Diocese is encouraging people to attend smaller, local events to mark the occasion and is encouraging individual parishes to hold their own events.

This year’s event comes as many in the pro-life movement believe the controversial Supreme Court decision creating a nationwide right to abortion, Roe v. Wade, may be overturned or significantly curtailed by the Court sometime next year.

New Hampshire Democrats, many of whom support an even more extreme pro-abortion position than the trimester system laid out in Roe, are hoping a backlash on the abortion issue will help them avoid a 2010-style wipeout in next year’s midterms.

However, a new NHJournal poll found that abortion was named as the top issue by just four percent of Granite State voters.


Remote Learning Left Many NH Students Behind, New Assessment Shows

As COVID concerns closed down classrooms and sent students to Zoom screens last year, New Hampshire students lost ground across the board, according to assessment test data released this week. The numbers show Granite State student performance plunging in math, and falling in reading and science, after more than a year of COVID-19 schooling.

“It is clear and understandable that trauma from the pandemic continues to impact schools, students, and teachers,” said Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

New Hampshire’s numbers align with national trends showing school children are suffering a learning gap due to COVID, school shutdowns, and remote learning programs. Minority students and students from low-income families have suffered the worst losses, national data show.

Scott Marion, executive director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, a Dover-based technical consulting firm, said some of the New Hampshire losses are minimal but still noticeable. The losses are almost entirely due to remote learning, he said.

“In general, we know that the students who learned remotely fared worse than those who learned in-person. While everyone’s scores suffered nationwide, the test scores for those students who had in-person learning suffered less. This was generally the case in New Hampshire as well, especially in mathematics,” Marion said.

Statewide, 52 percent of students scored proficient or above proficient in reading for 2021, compared to 56 percent in 2019. Science scores averaged 37 percent proficient/above proficient in 2021 compared to 39 percent in 2019.

The real damage was done on math scores, which fell from 48 percent at or above proficient to 38 percent two years later — a dramatic drop of 21 percent.

Proficiency for English Language Arts (ELA) at the third-grade level was 44 percent in 2021, compared to 56 percent in 2016, 54 percent in 2017, 55 percent in 2018, and 52 percent in 2019. Proficiency for math at the third-grade level was 45 percent in 2021, compared to 57 percent in 2016, 55 percent in both 2017 and 2018, and 57 percent in 2019. 

Eighth-grade proficiency for ELA was 49 percent in 2021, compared to 62 percent in 2016, 58 percent in both 2017 and 2018, and 53 percent in 2019. Proficiency for math at the eighth-grade level was 33 percent in 2021, compared to 47 percent in 2016, 46 percent in 2017, 47 percent in 2018, and 45 percent in 2019.  

There are also fewer tests being completed. In 2019, the year before COVID forced schools to shut for months at a time, there were 91,050 student assessments for Math. In the spring of 2021, 73,406 were done.

In reading, there were 90,785 assessments done in 2019 compared to 72,880 in 2021. Science participation saw 37,720 assessments complete in 2019, and 28,495 in 2021. 

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, based on Concord, has also reported on the connection between less class time and lower test scores.

“School districts that offered less in-person instruction last year saw fewer students pass end-of-year standardized tests, a new academic study of student performance in 12 states has found,’ the Bartlett Center reported, citing the work of researchers from Brown University, M.I.T., and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. 

According to a report from the consulting firm McKinsey, the learning gap experienced by school students now, especially minority students, could hold those students back economically in the years to come.

“Our analysis shows that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year,” the report states.

The pandemic made the education gaps that already exist for minority students and students from low-income families even worse than before.

“In math, students in majority Black schools ended the year with six months of unfinished learning, students in low-income schools with seven. High schoolers have become more likely to drop out of school, and high school seniors, especially those from low-income families, are less likely to go on to postsecondary education,” the report states. “The fallout from the pandemic threatens to depress this generation’s prospects and constrict their opportunities far into adulthood.”

The pandemic saw schools shut down in March 2020. Most public schools reopened in New Hampshire in the fall of 2020, but went to remote learning for long stretches over the winter months. As cases of COVID spike this winter, a few schools are entering into some form of remote learning,

Critics of the “closed-classroom” response to COVID-19 have repeatedly noted the virus has posed very little risk to school-age children. There hasn’t been a single COVID death of a Granite Stater under the age of 20, and fewer than 50 people in that age group have been hospitalized during the entire pandemic.

Gov. Chris Sununu has said he doesn’t see a return to a state-wide remote learning program. “Kids really need to be in school, they want to be in school and that’s the best place for their education,” Sununu recently told NH Journal.

New Hampshire teachers are doing a tremendous job during the pandemic, Edelblut said, and the DOE will work hard to make sure students and families will be able to catch up.

“New Hampshire will continue to address learning loss through customized, unique, and engaging learning platforms that focus on individual student achievement and success,” he said. “Parents continue to have valid concerns about their children’s academic progress. Measurable improvement is a goal that we can all stay focused on and work toward.”

Sununu Rejects Calls to Close Schools Amid Latest COVID Surge

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.


COVID Cases Soar in NH as State Becomes First to Receive Amazon At-Home Tests

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced a new executive order during his weekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to assist hospitals in setting up COVID surge sites within the hospital’s campus. It is part of the state’s attempt to address surging numbers of COVID-19 cases as temperatures keep falling.

“We are seeing record levels of cases, and record levels of hospitalizations,” he said. “The winter surge is rearing its ugly head as expected.”

Sununu said the idea for an in-house surge site came from the Labor Day trip New Hampshire officials took to Kentucky to see winter preparations there. 

And Sununu also had some good news: New Hampshire is getting 1 million COVID-19 at-home rapid tests through the National Institutes of Health and Amazon, the first state to take part in the new program.

“At-home tests are going to be a valuable tool,” Sununu said.

As more people will be required to take tests, especially school children, families in New Hampshire will be able to order rapid tests through the state and have them delivered to their homes via Amazon, Sununu said. New Hampshire schools are also getting tests they can hand to families in case a student comes down with symptoms and needs to be sent home. 

The state’s infection rate has soared in recent weeks, with a 7-day average of 1,014 daily cases and new 3,121 cases on Monday alone. Democrats are laying the blame at Sununu’s feet.

“It is disheartening to hear New Hampshire’s State Epidemiologist acknowledge that the Granite State is currently experiencing the highest levels of COVID since the inception of the pandemic,” House Democratic Leader Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) said in a statement released after Sununu’s presser. “Plain and simple, Gov. Sununu is failing our vaccination effort in New Hampshire.  New Hampshire has the lowest vaccination rate in New England and currently has the second-highest per-capita COVID cases in the United States, behind Michigan.

“We are in crisis,” Cushing added.

At the same time, New Hampshire still ranks number 11 in the nation for percent of its age 12+ population that is fully vaccinated — 64 percent, above the national average of 59 percent. And while cases are rising in New Hampshire, they have also shot up next door in Vermont, the state with the nation’s highest vaccination rate (73 percent fully vaccinated.)

November began with a seven-day average of 194 cases in the Green Mountain State. As of Monday, that number was up to 369 — an increase of 90 percent. And while the New England region has by far the highest rate of vaccinations, it’s also the second-highest region for new cases over the past two weeks.

Clearly, stopping the spread of COVID-19 is going to be more complicated than just urging more vaccinations.

Sununu acknowledged it’s likely the state will call up the National Guard to assist hospitals and other facilities suffering shortages in the face of rising demand for health services. “We could do it right now, and at some point, I think that need will likely be there,” Sununu said.

At the same time, Sununu doesn’t see enacting another state of emergency, or another statewide mask mandate, to deal with the pandemic. In the early days, the state did not have the resources or knowledge to fight COVID-19, and the state of emergency was necessary.

“We couldn’t even get masks and gloves, let alone testing materials,” he said. “Now, we know what to do.”

Court Ruling Backs Sununu’s Stance Opposing Vax Mandates

Less than 48 hours after Gov. Chris Sununu announced his support for a legal challenge to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate on private businesses, a federal court has already stepped forward to rule against Biden’s plan.

The ruling “foreshadows an uphill battle” for the mandate policy, according to the New York Times, and it’s the latest indicator that Sununu has once again put himself in the center of the political bell curve on the politics of COVID-19.

When New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella announced his decision to join an 11-state lawsuit challenging Biden’s federal vaccine mandate, Sununu quickly gave his public endorsement.

“COVID vaccines are the most effective tool we have to protect ourselves and our community from this virus,” Sununu said. “But as the head of state, I recognize the limitations of government in mandating this personal medical decision. President Biden has created a loophole to facilitate this overreach, which is why I fully support the Attorney General’s decision to sign on to this lawsuit.”

New Hampshire Democrats have been criticizing Sununu’s opposition to mandates, in particular his reluctance to impose mandates on local school districts regarding COVID policy, since the pandemic began. Sununu has consistently said that, while he believes the vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way out of the pandemic, he generally opposes mandates as a public policy.

Formella’s office announced Friday that New Hampshire joined with Missouri, Arizona, Nebraska, Montana, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, and Wyoming, along with several private businesses and organizations in a challenge to an “emergency” Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule to force employers to require workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing.

Formella also believes that the vaccines are safe, effective, said in a statement on the lawsuit that the mandates are the problem, not the vaccines.

“The new Emergency Temporary Standard issued by OSHA is illegal and would impose significant burdens on New Hampshire businesses and their employees. We are therefore obligated to take action to protect the interests of our state’s citizens and businesses,” Formellla said.

At least 27 states have filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits.

In a separate legal action, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana temporarily halted the mandate after a conglomeration of businesses groups, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several other states filed a petition on Friday with the court, arguing that the administration had overstepped its authority.

The Fifth Circuit panel said the judges were blocking the regulation “because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

Some legal experts, like UCLA Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo, call the mandate blatantly unconstitutional.

“It undermines the Constitution’s balance between Congress and the president and between the federal and state governments,” Yoo said. “Congress has not vested the president with the power to govern every aspect of every office and factory in the nation, and even if it had, such a grant of sweeping power would violate the very division of authority between the national and state governments.”

(Yoo is perhaps best known for writing the legal justification for the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation tactics against Al-Qaeda detainees during the George W. Bush administration.)

And attorney Dan McLaughlin, who writes legal analysis for National Review, says the administration’s decision to announce the “emergency” OSHA rules in September, but not have them take effect until January, will hurt their case.

“The Biden administration could have a very hard time explaining to the [SCOTUS] chief justice why it is entitled to assert emergency powers that exist to address ‘immediate’ threats, then do nothing with them for four months.”

Nonetheless, the Biden administration says they’re going to keep pushing the mandates.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told ABC’s “This Week” it’s full steam ahead.

“The president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary, and the administration is certainly prepared to defend them,” Murthy told host Martha Raddatz.

Are they playing politics? They may want to re-read their polls. Since mid-September, polling has shown that Americans are, at best, split on the issue of mandates. A recent Economist-YouGov poll reports that only 52 percent of registered voters back Biden’s mandates, while 43 percent are opposed.

Here in the Granite State, a slim majority oppose the vaccine mandates, 52- 46 percent, according to a New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll.

And a new Rasmussen Research poll found 52 percent of likely voters say they support workers refusing to comply with workplace requirements to get COVID-19 vaccines. Just 38 percent oppose it.

And then there’s the question of whether, after Biden expends the political capital to push them, the mandates will still be needed in January. Many health experts predict COVID-19 is winding down due to the prevalence of vaccines and the Delta wave that largely infects the unvaccinated. With vaccines approved for children aged 5 to 11, and a new Pfizer drug that can prevent 90 percent of hospitalizations of the infected, COVID-19 may be in the rearview in a few months.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA said on Twitter the government has already been successful in rolling out the vaccines, and mandates are not the way to reach the unvaccinated.

“As a fight over the federal OSHA mandate unfolds, we should remember 80.5% of responsible adults 18+ already had at least one dose of Covid vaccine,” Gottlieb wrote. “What level do we need to get to? What will the OSHA provision accomplish? And were there less divisive ways to achieve these goals?”

NH COVID Numbers Back Decision to Reopen Classrooms

Opponents of reopening school classrooms and their teachers union allies spent the past year insisting that classroom instruction for kids was just too dangerous.

Over that same year, many parents and medical professionals pushed back, using data from across the globe to show that children faced low risk from the virus.

Two months into the new school year, Granite State data appear to back the second group. Yes, infections among school-aged kids are up — but no more than among the population as a whole.

The cost of the closed classrooms unions and progressives demanded is easy to measure: A lost year of instruction for students and lost income for some parents; an even wider racial gap in academic performance; more physical injuries (schools are the safest place the average child goes); and a setback in socialization and development for younger students.

The impact of opening schools on COVID, however, is harder to measure. For example, the media regularly report the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests among those under age 19 is sometimes around one-third of all positive results.

But what they don’t report is that with schools reopened, the number of tests given to students has soared. They represent a larger percentage of the total number of tests than in the past. So yes, it’s true COVID-19 among children exploded in the first week of the school year. But because of the limits of the state’s available data on the DHHS dashboard, it’s hard to say if that is a result of more testing or the impact of the Delta surge.

Here’s what we do know: While the state does not track data showing the exact positivity rate for school children in New Hampshire, the data on rates for people under age 20 is on track with the rest of the state during the Delta variant surge. 

The most recent daily average showed 9,170 tests administered and a positivity rate of 6.3 percent.

For people nine years old and under, the latest daily positive rate was 7.2 percent out of 944 tests administered.

For those 10 to 19, the positivity rate was 5.4 percent out of 1,695 tests.

No “schoolroom surge.”


NH COVID positivity rate, ages 0-9 years old.


NH COVID positivity rate, ages 10-19


NH COVID positivity rate, all persons.


Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said the summer and fall Delta wave is driving up cases in every sector of the population.

“The rates of COVID have gone up in all age groups,” Chan said.

This time last year, only about 250 tests were administered on an average day to those under the age of nine, and the positivity rate was under 1 percent. For those 10 to 19, there were about 500 to 700 tests per day, with a positive rate of around 1.2 percent. All similar to the state as a whole.

New Hampshire does not sort out its COVID testing data by specific age group beyond a couple of categories. While there is no specific data set showing the rates among just school-aged children, the state does keep data on children from birth up to age 9, and another set for children 10 through to 19. The state is also tracking COVID cases in schools, but that data includes adult staff who test positive.

Cases spiked in the first week of September just after the start of the school year when there were more than 42 positive cases a day out of fewer than 480 tests on average performed, for an 8.8 percent positivity rate. Testing rose toward the end of September, with an average of 1,200 tests done a day, while the positivity rate declined to 5.6 percent.

The number of tests done has started to come down, and as of Oct. 14, children in this cohort are averaging more than 937 tests per day. But the number of positive cases has stayed around 65, for a slightly higher positive rate of 6.9 percent. Chan noted this cohort is unvaccinated against COVID, as no vaccine has yet been approved for children under the age of 12.

Most schools require students to stay home if they exhibit any cold or flu symptoms, which also double as COVID-19 symptoms. Children must either quarantine until symptoms go away, or they must test negative, in order to go back to school. Chan said the recommendations for testing in schools have not changed from last year. The number of tests per day in the birth to age 9 cohort was averaging a little more than 200 in mid-September 2020, and the tests found a positivity rate of 0.3 percent or about less than one case per day on average.

In the 10 to 19 age group, there were 642 tests averaged per day in mid-July, and 1,579 as of Oct. 14. The mid-July positive rate was 0.9 percent or 5.71 positive cases per day. Once again, generally tracking the state as a whole.

Testing remains an issue for many in the state, with families waiting days in some cases to get a test, and with a nationwide shortage of rapid tests. Last week, DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced four new testing sites are being set up to help meet the testing needs during the current surge.

Perhaps the most significant number is this: There have only been 34 hospitalizations among Granite Staters under age 19 during the entire pandemic– and zero deaths.

Anti-Vax Protestors Target NH House Majority Leader’s Private Home

A small band of anti-vaccine mandate protestors brought their message to Republican House Majority Leader Jason Osborne’s home on a quiet Auburn cul-de-sac Sunday afternoon, just days after nine people were arrested for repeatedly interrupting an Executive Council meeting in Concord.

Dozens of cars and trucks draped with American and Gadsden flags drove around outside Osborne’s residence, blaring horns and playing loud siren-style sounds.

Some protesters mistakenly believed they were protesting the home of the Speaker of the House. That post is held by Rep. Sherman Packard of Londonderry.

“Outside of Speaker of the House (sic) Osborne’s residence in Auburn,” one protestor said in a video posted online. “Lot goin’ on right now, lot goin’ on.”

At issue is a $27 million grant from the federal government designed to help boost vaccination rates and the nine people arrested last week protesting against that funding. On Wednesday, New Hampshire became the only state in the union to refuse the federal funds.

While Gov. Chris Sununu publicly admonished the Republican-led Executive Council for declining the federal giveaway, Osborne has consistently been an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates. When New Hampshire Democrats publicly decried the council’s 4-1 vote to refuse the funds, Osborne released a statement mocking them.

“The Democrats’ fustian can only be reconciled within the context of blind authoritarian indoctrination. It is ironic that these representatives have claimed to not want to invade people’s privacy, but openly advocate for policies to force employees to be vaccinated or lose their job,” Osborne wrote.

“Whether it is using blatant coercion or threatening to monitor your bank accounts for transactions over $600, the Democrat Party has made it evident that there is no limit to how many of your liberties that they intend to trample on when given the opportunity.”

So, why were vaccination and mandate opponents protesting his house?

“Jason is compromised and is now the target,” wrote a participant on the RebuildNH Telegram chat group. “He is not for the freedom people of New Hampshire unless he calls for the resignation or impeachment of Sununu immediately.”

“And, Jason’s address is public record!”

The claim, according to this user, is that Osborne said the nine people arrested at the Executive Council meeting “probably deserved it,” and “should have been locked up a long time ago.” Others complained the Majority Leader had allegedly called the more aggressive protesters “a-holes.”

“The safety commissioner told me the arrestees disrupted the meeting,” Osborne wrote in a Facebook thread. “I have no reason to not believe him. Luckily for us all, I am not a judge and this is not a court. The truth will come out.”

The RebuildNH organization is viewed as a fringe group of extremists outside the political mainstream, opposing a vaccine taken by nearly 80 percent of voting-age Granite Staters. In addition to helping organize the Executive Council protest at which state employees were threatened and had to be walked to their cars by law enforcement, they’re repeatedly — and falsely — claimed the vaccine has killed more than 15,000 people in the U.S. Their source is the same as the bizarre “Vaccine Death Report” document distributed by Rep. Ken Weyler (R-Kingston), a conspiracy-theory manifesto that posited a secret papal plot for world control and the existence of “creatures with tentacles” in the vaccine.

Protesting private homes has become more common on both political extremes. Progressives have protested outside the private homes of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Democrat Sens. Krysten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.V.). Sununu’s home and neighborhood have repeatedly been targeted by RebuildNH activists and their allies.

Osborne tells NHJournal he’s unimpressed.

“I am just glad my neighbors were so busy watching the Pats game that they couldn’t be bothered by the distraction,” the Majority Leader said. “Perhaps if these folk do not wish to be called ‘a-holes,’ they should stop acting like ‘a-holes,’ showing up to homes blaring sirens and screaming profanities through a bullhorn.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The reference to a RebuildNH Telegram conversation has been clarified from the original version of the article. The person making claims about Osborne may or may not have been an actual member of RebuildNH.


Sununu Unloads on Executive Councilors After Vaccine Vote

Gov. Chris Sununu took direct aim at his fellow Republicans on the Executive Committee the day after they voted down federal COVID-19 funding, calling their actions uninformed and irrational.

During a Thursday morning interview on WGIR radio, Sununu singled out Executive Councilors Joseph Kenney and David Wheeler by name, saying they live in a “bizarro world” of conspiracy and misinformation.

“You don’t even know how to argue it at some point because logic has left the building,” Sununu said. “They are listening to social media nonsense and misinformation, and there is zero rational argument.”

Sununu also mocked their claims to be “quote-unquote conservatives” after their proposal the state order private businesses to stop requiring vaccines for their employees.

“That’s what Communist Russia does,” Sununu said.

Sununu also called out Wheeler for claiming the U.S. Constitution guarantees every person a job and for suggesting the state track down every person who has had COVID-19.

“When people start waving the flag and Constitution but clearly have never read the Constitution, it can be a little frustrating,” Sununu said. “These are not conservative values, these are not Constitutional values, it’s emotional nonsense.”

Wheeler did not respond to requests for comment, but Kenney told NHJournal he disputed Sununu’s take on the vote, saying he is concerned about people losing their jobs because of President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

“I totally disagree with the governor and I think he is out of touch with working men and women of this state, many who have lost their jobs because of employment vaccine mandates,” Kenney said.

The federal vaccine mandate on private companies, which Sununu has vowed to challenge in court, has not gone into effect. Biden announced on September 9 he was instructing the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to use its emergency powers to force every employer with 100 or more workers to require the vaccine or impose weekly testing. OSHA’s rules still have not been finalized, and many legal experts believe the courts will almost certainly shoot them down.

Still, many private businesses are requiring vaccines on their own, like the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system where 99 percent of employees are currently in compliance.

Kenney did not have hard figures on how many people have lost their jobs in New Hampshire because of mandates, but he said 16 hospital staffers in the North Country recently walked off the job because of them.

Sununu blames much of the turmoil on anti-government Free Staters who tried to impeach him for using executive orders during the pandemic. The same group now wants him to use executive orders to interfere with private companies over vaccine mandates, he said.

State Police arrested nine people Wednesday during the Executive Council meeting for allegedly disrupting the meeting.

When asked, Sununu would not commit to campaigning for Wheeler and Kenney next year.