Groups Ask For Remote Public Access To Legislature In 2022

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A group of 25 health providers and advocacy organizations is asking New Hampshire legislative leaders to once again allow remote public access to the Legislature during the upcoming 2022 session.

“As you often remind us, the State House is the people’s house, and public input and the right to know are critical components of New Hampshire’s legislative process,” the organizations wrote in a letter sent Monday to House Speaker Sherman Packard and Senate President Chuck Morse.

“Yet, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging throughout our state, individuals would have to put their own health, and that of their families, friends, neighbors, and communities, at risk in order to attend and testify in-person at legislative committee hearings, meetings, and sessions."

The groups said the last legislative session showed videoconferencing “effectively provides safe and secure access to legislative proceedings to citizens, health care providers and advocates all across New Hampshire."

Among the signers of the letter are the Disability Rights Center-N.H.; NAMI New Hampshire (the National Alliance on Mental Illness); New Futures; New Hampshire Legal Assistance; the New Hampshire Medical Society; and the New Hampshire Public Health Association.

Messages seeking comment were sent to Packard and Morse.

In other coronavirus-related news:

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COVID-19 TESTING

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said she's hearing from New Hampshire residents who have been unable to access timely COVID-19 testing, so she's encouraging the Biden administration to ensure that testing supplies are going to areas with the highest need.

“I heard from a New Hampshire family whose daughter had symptoms similar to that of COVID-19 — and they did not get test results back for nearly two weeks, so she had to stay home that entire time," Hassan wrote in a letter Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“Another parent shared with me that they visited six different pharmacies in search of an at-home COVID-19 antigen test. Sadly, these individuals’ stories are far too common," she wrote.

Hassan has asked for a response by Nov. 12 with information on how the administration plans to collect data on shortage areas, and how it will use the data to inform manufacturing and distribution to ensure that testing supply meets demand.

She supported the Biden administration's Oct. 6 announcement of a $1 billion investment to increase the availability of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests and encouraged it to “build upon this investment to make sure that the tests are available where they are needed most."

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THE NUMBERS

More than 128,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 588 cases announced Friday. Four new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 1,520.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 473 new cases per day on Oct. 2 to 548 new cases per day on Saturday.