New Hampshire plans to join other states in challenging the Biden administration's new vaccine mandate in court, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday.
President Joe Biden announced a sweeping vaccine mandate last week that covers more than 100 million Americans, including executive branch employees and workers at businesses with more than 100 people on the payroll. Sununu said no lawsuits have been drafted yet, but he's ready to sign on when that happens.
"I can promise you this: We will be ready for the legal challenges that are likely to come, and New Hampshire will participate one way or another," he said. "We need folks to get vaccinated, there's just no question about that. But this whole, with a sweep of a pen, we're going to force it on 100 million Americans. … This was not the right approach."
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New Hampshire is working to bolster its health care work force to meet the latest surge in COVID-19 patients.
State officials recently traveled to Kentucky to learn from overwhelmed hospitals there. Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said staffing shortages were a significant factor.
"Health care workers were not leaving their employers; they were leaving the industry," she said. "We're seeing the same thing in New Hampshire; our health care workforce is getting burned out."
Hospital capacity isn't just about available beds, she said. Currently, about 85% of New Hampshire's hospital beds are considered fully staffed, and that number has been steadily moving downward, Sununu said.
In response, the state will continue issuing 120-day temporary licenses for out of state health care workers who come to New Hampshire. It also will begin issuing student nursing licenses to those in the final year of their programs and to retirees whose licenses have lapsed in the past three years.
Other solutions will require legislation, Sununu said, including extending the length of temporary licenses beyond 120 days and broadening the scope of work that can be performed by other health care professionals.
More than 113,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 549 cases announced Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 300 on Aug. 30 to 433 on Sept. 13.
Four new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 1,452.
Since the end of January, only 3% of the total infections have been among fully vaccinated people, said Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist.
Among the 756,000 residents who are fully vaccinated, fewer than 2,000 have tested positive, Sununu said. About 140 have been hospitalized, and 20 have died, he said.
The state announced 13 new outbreaks Wednesday at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and correctional facilities. Unlike last year, the new outbreaks generally have spread to 10 or fewer people, Shibinette said.