While Gov. Chris Sununu continues to do a commendable job overseeing New Hampshire’s response to COVID-19, his team needs to set and share with the public more specific milestones as to what will be considered success.
A steady decline in deaths (over 14 days) had been originally posited as a key CDC guideline for reopening segments of the economy in any state. But New Hampshire decided instead to rely on a decline in the percentage of overall tests that come back positive. As testing has ramped up, that seems to be a valid measurement. In recent weeks, the results have remained in single digits and are trending downward.
But when asked how to judge when it might be safe to say we are out of the woods — a continued fall in positive test results, for example — the Health and Human Services commissioner began speaking in tongues.
There are a “combination of factors” and “so many data points” to consider as to when is “the right time to start opening up,” said Lori Shibinette this week. She didn’t specify them, but since the governor has in fact already started “opening up” the state, we gather they have been met.
However, she then noted that nursing homes have been the hardest hit by the virus and as long as they continue to have outbreaks and significant negative outcomes, she is “not ready to say any of that.”
Nursing home residents rely on their caregivers, she said. Caregivers are part of the community. “So long as there is COVID circulating in our communities there is always a risk of bringing it into the nursing home and there is always a risk of negative outcomes.”
Well, yes, there are risks. It is very much right to do all that is reasonable to protect that population. But if Shibinette is saying that the rest of New Hampshire won’t see a return to a semblance of normalcy until there is no risk whatsoever in nursing homes, then she and the governor should let us know about this new and extraordinary “data point.”