CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The federal government is no longer sending nursing homes disposable isolation gowns described in New Hampshire as useless garbage bags and instead is providing a different style, according to a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The New Hampshire Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said this week that the bulk of the items sent by FEMA to protect workers against the coronavirus were unusable, including child-sized gloves, surgical masks with ear loops that broke when stretched and isolation gowns with no arm openings.
A FEMA spokesperson said Thursday that the agency coordinated two shipments to nearly 15,400 nursing homes nationwide, with the first round completed June 10 and the second round beginning June 18. Based on feedback from the first round, face shields were added to the second shipments, and the isolation gowns were replaced “with a more familiar disposable gown style” that also meet industry standards.
Gov. Chris Sununu said the state is replacing any of the defective items with items from its stockpile and is asking FEMA to do the same. He said he would prefer that FEMA send such items to the state for distribution rather than to individual facilities.
“I can’t answer why FEMA’s doing it this way. It’s very frustrating,” he said.
Other coronavirus developments in New Hampshire:
The committee guiding the reopening of New Hampshire’s economy is working on guidance for the next phase, but at least one industry sector wants changes to the initial rules.
Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, told fellow members of the Economic Reopening Task Force this week that representatives from performing arts venues would like some of the guidance issued for their facilities to be more in line with rules for restaurants.
She highlighted several discrepancies, including a requirement that singers, actors and others on stage at performing arts venues be at least 25 feet from audience members in the front row, while bands and solo music artists performing outside restaurants only have to stay 6 feet away.
Performing arts venues also question the requirement for 6 feet of social distancing space around groups of audience members if all are wearing masks. Restaurants require tables to be spread that far apart, but diners are not required to wear masks.
The venues have only been allowed to be open since Monday. They joined amusement parks and movie theaters among the last group of businesses to reopen.
As of Friday, 5,857 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 38 from the previous day. One new death was announced, bringing the total to 376.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.
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