UNTIL RECENTLY, the response of the state of New Hampshire to the COVID pandemic has been mature, professional, and guided by solid expertise in public health under the direction of a skilled team of physicians, nurses, and other staff at the Department of Health and Human Services. As a doctor, I have seen first hand the extraordinary work being done by frontline health care workers and the positive impact of our state’s response. Overall, it was clear that the state’s public health policy was being informed by these experts.

But in recent weeks, something unfortunate and dramatic has shifted in our state’s final push toward recovery. It started over the last month with denying vaccinations to all New Hampshire students without logical justification. Fortunately, for the sake of the public health of all of our students, school faculty and staff, and their local communities, the governor relented after an overwhelming public outcry and allowed established public health principles to guide universal vaccination for everyone over 16.

Then came the flip-flop on returning to school. With virtually no notice, schools were told they had to open two weeks earlier than originally planned. Caught completely off guard, school systems have had to scramble to comply with this sudden policy reversal in spite of many having inadequate ventilation systems and inadequate indoor space to safely distance their children three feet from each other. Unlike the original return to school date of early May, children will not be able to have class outdoors as we are expecting a typical New Hampshire spring, with even a late spring snowstorm this past weekend and continued cold weather through the end of the month. Whereas the original May return to full-time in-person learning allowed for all teachers and staff to have time to be fully vaccinated, not all personnel could receive their second dose before the governor’s April 19 reopening.

And now, as New Hampshire is facing infection and hospitalization rates higher than those of the post-Thanksgiving surge, the governor has let his mask mandate lapse. The potential implications of this political gamble are enormous. With the current surge in cases, with less than a third of New Hampshire residents now fully vaccinated, and with variants of the COVID virus already detected in the state — variants known for their increased severity of disease and increased ability to spread — this is hardly the time to let down our guard.

Instead of consistent guidance for the entire state, individual communities and businesses are now left to enforce a patchwork of mandates, often with masking opponents who are more strident than ever without the universal rule. Aside from the direct threat this policy shift poses to the health of Granite Staters, it may well dash our hopes and our plans to fully reopen by this summer, perhaps the most important season economically for our small businesses and our hospitality and recreation industries.

We all want to return to life as it was before the pandemic. That is why, as a doctor, I hope the governor will once again return to a decision-making process that is guided by the science and the experts at the CDC and in our own Department of Health and Human Services. The cost of losing yet another life to this pandemic is a price too high to risk. We will defeat this virus without preventable additional tragedy, but only if we stick to what we know works — mask wearing, social distancing, good hand hygiene, and vaccination.

Senator Tom Sherman is a Democrat living in Rye.

Thursday, May 06, 2021
Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Tuesday, May 04, 2021

AS ONE of the foremost experts in the field of airborne pathogen transmission, I have a question: Who was the person(s) who recommended the plexiglass barriers in our restaurants, grocery stores, and nearly every other public place?

THE FIRST adult book I ever read was “Kingsblood Royal” by Sinclair Lewis. It’s about a man named Neil Kingsblood who looked into his ancestry to find what he believed was his connection with royalty. Instead, he found he was descended from a Black fur trader. After revealing his discovery t…

Monday, May 03, 2021

WHAT IS the value of care? Or, to put it another way, how much is it worth to ensure your child is safe, your parent is aging with dignity, and that you can focus on your own health should an issue emerge? For many here in New Hampshire these are not merely theoretical questions.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

VICE PRESIDENT Kamala Harris recently celebrated her one-month anniversary of neglecting our southern border by touring northern New Hampshire — the first time she’s opted to enter our state since her failed presidential campaign in 2019. Reflecting back to her first visit to the Granite Sta…

Friday, April 30, 2021

ON APRIL 21st, a sizeable group of Brentwood residents gathered for a public hearing concerning the future of our town newsletter. Tension about the newsletter has been simmering for a few years, but the controversy came to a head last month when the newsletter published an editorial entitle…

Thursday, April 29, 2021

TO UNDERSTAND the fundamentals of America’s health care system, imagine you are sinking in quicksand, descending slowly up to your chest with only a few minutes left before you disappear. Already the weight of sand against your chest makes it difficult to breathe. Nearby, a man stands on sol…