A looming question regarding Gov. Sununu’s handling of COVID-19 is why New Hampshire is dead last among the Northeastern states in vaccination rates? Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont and Maine all have outstripped New Hampshire in administration of the COVID vaccine. And of course, a question rarely asked is why the state’s contact-tracing program, which was never adequate from the beginning of the pandemic, has all but vanished?
At Keene State College we created “on-call teams” of contact tracers which monitor daily testing feeds and initiate tracing within minutes or hours of receiving test results. As one of those tracers, I would watch as the N.H. Department of Health would typically take 3-5 days before calling those testing positive and their contacts, a delay that rendered tracing close to useless. Eventually the state appeared to give up on tracing altogether, despite public health officials no doubt knowing that tracing, in addition to testing, vaccination and social distancing, is a key to delivering us from the throes of this pandemic.
Rather than stepping to the plate and being the statesman we needed, the governor has continued to play politics with managing the New Hampshire response to this public health emergency. He panders to extremists and spends exorbitant amounts of taxpayer dollars on TV commercials in which he appears to talk about COVID, despite evidence that those ads are ineffective and should instead showcase doctors and public health experts, not publicity-starved politicians.
While it may be fun to hop on a private jet and visit Kentucky to see how they are handling COVID, I would suggest that he instead call the much more successful Republican governor over in Vermont to try to learn more about how to manage a public health emergency. And, of course the team of faculty, staff and students at Keene State College, which has helped keep the school operating, would be happy to offer up some advice.