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Sununu’s Response to the COVID Outbreak at the Veterans Home: Different Day, Same Cover-up

Concord, N.H. -- Chris Sununu is once again changing his story as he covers up his refusal to investigate the COVID outbreak at the State Veterans Home. Sununu initially refused any investigation, then released a sham report on the COVID outbreak Veterans Home, and apparently is now claiming that he and the state are not responsible for oversight of the Veterans Home, despite it being a state-owned and state-run facility. During an interview with Chris Ryan on NH Today, Sununu falsely claimed that the state was waiting for the federal VA to issue a full report on the COVID outbreak at the Veterans Home, but the federal VA “never did that.” Not only did Sununu receive the assessment from the VA, but the assessment clearly lays bare Sununu’s failure to prevent and mitigate the COVID outbreak at the Veterans Home -- and his hapless attempt to cover up this failure with a sham report. This is the second time Sununu has passed the buck to cover up his failure to investigate what caused the outbreak at the Veterans Home. Last week, the Sununu administration falsely claimed that the State is not responsible for oversight of the state-run Veterans Home after facing questions about why Sununu tried to hide information about the COVID outbreak at the Veterans Home. As a state agency, the Governor is responsible for the state Veterans Home. State law established the home (RSA 119:1) and the Governor appoints its Board of Managers (119:2). In addition, New Hampshire’s DHHS has direct oversight over the Veterans Home. New Hampshire law gives the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman -- which resides within the DHHS -- oversight responsibility over the Veterans Home. During the interview with Chris Ryan, Sununu also falsely claimed that both the federal assessment and his sham report had “similar results.” However, WMUR compared the assessment to Sununu’s sham report -- which Sununu claimed showed “nothing glaringly negative” -- and found that “months after the VA visit, the Veterans Home has still not completed N95 fit testing for all employees,” and noted that “it's not clear if that recommendation was followed, as the information was not included in the state report.” WMUR also found that the Veterans’ Home has still not fit-tested all employees for N95 masks. Neither report investigated the root causes of the outbreak that took the lives of 37 veterans, or what steps could have been taken to prevent it or prevent an outbreak in the future. Both reports, however, did find that even months after the beginning of the pandemic -- the Veterans Home was still not ensuring proper protective measures were followed. Faced with an outbreak in a Massachusetts State Veterans Home, Republican Governor Charlie Baker ordered a comprehensive independent review, a step Sununu continues to refuse to take. “Another day, another new attempt from Sununu to obfuscate and evade responsibility for his failures to address the covid outbreak at the Veterans Home,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “After releasing a sham report and then claiming the state has no oversight over the state-run Veterans Home, Sununu is now grasping at straws and trying to pass the buck again -- this time blaming the VA. Sununu is either unable or unwilling to do his job and get to the bottom of what led to the death of 37 veterans on his watch.” A full transcript of Sununu’s answer to Chris Ryan is below: SUNUNU [00:05:37] Sure. So there were there were really two reviews done. One was by the federal VA. They came in back in December. We were waiting for them to issue a full report. They never did that. That's the federal that's the federal VA. We have no connection with that other than they come in there. The organization that really certifies, we manage the facility, but they certify the facility. I think they sent like an email or something with a few bullets, with some minor things. And those were addressed back in December. Then we came in after, the State Health and Human Services ,and we followed the CDC guidelines, did a full review of the facility by this giant CDC review. And and again, you know, there were some minor things there, but they adjusted. Overall, I think the both of those reports identified that the staff did a very good job. They were adapting to a crisis. They had the PPE they needed they had the testing they needed, they had the tools they needed to be successful. SUNUNU [00:06:31] So through both those reviews, they both came to similar results. And and that's it. I mean, you know, we'll always take those reviews and try to learn from them and and do what we can. But overall, they both came back, I think, seeing the right thing, that the staff is phenomenal. They stayed on the front lines through very hard times. Commandant LaBrecque did a great job of communicating what was happening to the state, communicating all the way down to the staff and providing is as safe and secure of a of a situation as they could. When when an outbreak hits a long term care facility, it goes like wildfire. It really does. And it was unfortunate, but they took a lot of the right precautions and did a lot of the right things and some of those other smaller things, we're always--you know, fit-testing of a certain piece of PPE or, you know, at the time, if you remember, we didn't have gowns, right? We weren't getting any you know, we couldn't find them. There were literally no one in the country had gowns. So they did their own protocols to reuse gowns, but do it in a way such as not to transmit the virus. They were very innovative that way. And I think they deserve a lot of credit.

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