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More than $24.5M to help communities of color, rural areas

June 4, 2021 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire is getting more than $24.5 million in health-related COVID-19 funds to assist medically underserved communities, the state’s congressional delegation said Friday.

The funds are coming from the federal relief package approved in December and will help communities of color and rural areas, the delegation said in a news release.

The funds will allow the state Department of Health and Human Services to boost COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capabilities, as well as improve data collection and empower community partners to address health disparities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated serious barriers and inequities in New Hampshire’s health care system that face our rural families and communities of color,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said. “As a result, these Granite Staters have borne the brunt of this public health emergency with a disproportionate share of our state’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”

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VACCINATING WORKERS

The New Hampshire House on Friday rejected an attempt to introduce legislation aimed at protecting workers from being punished for getting the coronavirus vaccine.

Rep. Joshua Adjutant, D-Bristol, sought to suspend the rules and introduce a bill prohibiting employers from firing or docking the pay of workers who take up to three days off in connection with vaccination appointments. The goal, he said, was to eliminate a key concern for those who have yet to get vaccinated.

“I hope this will still do some good for some folks,” he said.

Republicans argued the bill was unnecessary given the state’s high rate of vaccination. Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, was particularly scornful.

“There comes a time and a place where we all come together and say enough is enough,” he said.

During the pandemic, the 400-member House has met at the UNH ice arena, outside on an athletic field, in a parking lot from their cars and, for the last several months, at a Bedford athletic complex. Former House Speaker Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, died in December, a week after being sworn in at the outdoor ceremony.

“We’ve played enough games,” Baldasaro said. “We’re sitting here when we should be in our Statehouse. I hope everyone stands tall and says no.”

The motion to suspend the rules failed 154-208.

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THE NUMBERS

Nearly 99,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 61 cases announced Friday. One new death was announced; the total number remained at 1,355.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks, going from 112 new cases per day on May 19 to 32 new cases per day on Wednesday.