Updated: Jul 17
The following letter, written by Dover Dems Walter King, Richard Spence and Bill Baber, all U.S. military veterans, was published in the Union Leader on Dec. 14. Since then, an additional eight residents of the New Hampshire Veterans' Home have died, bringing the total to 36.
Like so many other Granite Staters, we are devastated by the tragic outbreak of COVID-19 at the New Hampshire Veterans Home that has caused the deaths of 28 of our fellow veterans, with 46 more veterans and 45 staff members testing positive.
Governor Chris Sununu has a responsibility as the head of the state to answer for why he hasn’t done more to prevent or mitigate this tragedy. He must answer for why he actually vetoed efforts aimed at preventing our long-term care facilities from suffering this devastating second wave.
Every expert predicted this second wave.
That’s why the legislature passed legislation calling for the state to develop a preparedness plan to address the needs — including for staffing — of long-term care facilities during an outbreak. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services supported the legislation, but Sununu vetoed the bill because he thought additional measures to prevent future outbreaks were “redundant.” Now, the outbreak has come and the Veterans Home –- and other long-term care facilities –- are struggling to remain staffed.
Experts also told us that we needed to take the necessary steps to mitigate the effects of a second wave, namely by wearing masks. Governor Sununu delayed implementing a mandatory mask mandate that could have reduced the spread of community transmission. For months, the Veterans Home did not have any COVID-19 cases among residents. But once New Hampshire experienced substantial community transmission, that changed. In less than a month, the infection rate at the Veterans Home skyrocketed. The delay in a commonsense mask mandate and Sununu’s veto of legislation that was created to prepare our state for the second wave of COVID-19 we’re experiencing right now has increased the danger to our veterans and the staff of the Veterans Home.
The crisis at the New Hampshire Veterans Home is similar to what long-term facilities across our state are facing right now. It’s crucial that we not only identify the failures to prevent and
mitigate this crisis, but immediate action must be taken to stop the outbreak and ensure the health and safety of our veterans and the Veterans Home staff. The most urgent need for the Veterans Home is more staff to match the growing number of cases. Governor Sununu needs to release a plan to provide increased staffing, but he has not.
With each day that passes without a plan to increase staffing, our veterans and the courageous staff at the Veterans Home are forced to fight this crisis on their own. Our veterans have made enormous sacrifices for us, and we need to ensure we are doing everything we can to care for them after their service. For the sake of our veterans and the brave Veterans Home staff, we implore Governor Sununu to act immediately to protect the health and safety of these Granite Staters.
About the authors:
Bill Baber is an active Dover Democrat who serves on the Dover Dems’ Executive Committee, the Communications Team, and leads the Energy and Environment Action Group. He currently chairs Dover’s Energy Commission. Bill was a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and served as the ranking member of the Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He retired from the University of New Hampshire where he last served as an Associate Director of Academic Computing.
Walter King is a retired research and development executive who worked at several leading global healthcare companies including GE Healthcare, Whatman and Abbott Diagnostics. He developed FDA-cleared products for several cancer and prenatal genetic diseases as well as infectious diseases. He is an emeritus member of the American Association for Cancer Research. He completed his college and graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago respectively and completed his postdoctoral studies at the Columbia University Medical Center. In his retirement he serves on the City of Dover Energy Commission and is a member of the New Hampshire Democratic Committee.
Richard Spence moved with his wife, Susan, to Dover after retiring from Morgan Stanley where he worked for over 32 years as a Senior Vice President and financial planner. After serving in the US Army artillery, he received a Master's degree from UVM and a Ph D. in Medieval History from Syracuse University, and held a post-doctoral post at Berkeley's Boalt Hall, School of Law. Following his education, he joined Dean Witter, which later became Morgan Stanley. As an outdoorsman, he is very interested in the environment and the Great Bay and presently is a member of the Dover Democrat's Energy and Environmental Action Committee. Richard chairs a sub-committee, the Plastics Group.