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Sununu: Veterans Affairs denying it requested 500M gloves

October 8, 2021 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Chris Sununu asked the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday to “follow through on their promise” to purchase millions of heavy duty rubber gloves procured by a New Hampshire company in response to a pandemic-related request for personal protective equipment.

In a letter to Secretary Denis McDonough, Sununu said in October 2020, the secretary’s office reached out to the company, Gigunda Group, “to locate, procure and ultimately provide funding” for 500 million gloves. The company has helped the VA with other PPE requests, including $7.4 million worth of nasal swabs.

“At that time, locating 10 million or 20 million nitrile gloves was a big deal,” Sununu wrote. “Gigunda was tasked with searching the globe to locate a supplier that could provide 500 million gloves and with capability to provide as many as 2-5 billion over time.”

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Since then, Sununu said he learned the VA’s procurement arm claims no such request was made. “This is unacceptable,” he wrote.

“Over 20 million nitrile gloves have been sitting in Gigunda’s TSA secure facility since May, and yet the VA has chosen to ignore and deny the existence of this successful partnership,” he wrote.

A message seeking comment was left with the department’s office of public affairs.

In other coronavirus-related news:

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COVID-19 GRANTS

New Hampshire is not bound to any “broad and sweeping federal mandates” in considering acceptance of $27 million in federal aid to boost its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, the state’s attorney general said Friday.

Attorney General John Formella, at Gov. Chris Sununu’s request, provided a written opinion regarding the impact of certain language in the terms and conditions of two COVID-19 grant awards. Both would need the approval of the Executive Council and a legislative fiscal committee.

Both groups have delayed voting on the grants, which would spend federal pandemic relief money on a public health manager and a dozen workers to promote the COVID-19 vaccine and address public concerns about it. Questions were raised that the grant language appears to claim the state must comply with “future directives” regarding the control of the spread of COVID-19, such as vaccine mandates.

Formella said that’s not the case. He said the language is limited to guidance and directives “as applicable to the award.” He said the currently issued guidance consists of clarifications to existing grant requirements and do not impose new conditions.

Formella added, “There would be strong legal grounds to challenge any guidance or directive that created broadly sweeping new and different conditions, such as a vaccine mandate or quarantine provision.”

Sununu said in a statement he appreciates that Formella “has been very clear in his determination that these contracts do not bind the New Hampshire state government to any sweeping federal mandates, ensuring our state’s sovereignty in how we manage the COVID pandemic.”

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THE NUMBERS

More than 124,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 568 cases announced Friday. No new deaths were announced, leaving the total at 1,497.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 401 on Sept. 22 to 471 on Wednesday.