Temp hospitals readied for possible COVID-19 'surge' as NH seeks volunteers

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Members of the NH National Guard set up a temporary hospital at Nashua High School South in case of a surge of COVID-19 patients. (Jeffrey Hastings photo)

CONCORD - New Hampshire is looking for any and all medical professionals, retired or licensed out of state, businesses and anyone else who would like to help pitch in to help in the COVID-19 crisis as volunteers.

It is also utilizing the New Hampshire National Guard to set up temporary sites to be used as hospitals if there is a surge and the number of COVID-19 patients exceeds the number of beds available.

Gov. Chris Sununu toured one site with reporters on Tuesday at the Southern New Hampshire University field house for 250 beds while another was being set up at Nashua High School South. He said there will likely be

Jahmal Mosley, Nashua's Superintendent of Schools, sent a letter to parents explaining that Sununu has ordered Nashua High School South to serve as a temporary hospital for the expected surge in patients because of COVID-19.

Sununu also ordered the New Hampshire National Guard to help set up the facility starting Tuesday. "We are compelled to help in any way we can," Mosley said.

The athletic wing of Nashua High School South will serve as the hospital hub, he said, adding he didn't know how long it would last. The school is restricted to all visitors, teachers, students and staff.

"In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to stay at home. Please take care of yourselves and of each other as our healthcare workers strive to take care of us all," Mosley said.

Get Involved

Sununu made time in his Tuesday press briefing on the state's response to the novel coronavirus to point citizens to a number of websites where they can help volunteer, donate and get involved.

Critical is the need for more health-care workers as the impacts of the pandemic here grow, he said. Together with Lori Shibinette, the new commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, Sununu directed people to

Shibinette said the state can help remove licensing barriers for retired or active duty health professionals from other states who would like to help with what is expected to become a growing number of cases of residents who have contracted the virus. She said it is an "all-hands-on-deck" moment for the state adding: "We need your help."

Sununu also directed people to the website and asked those with charitable gifts to support the United Way at and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to its community crisis fund

FEMA Frustration

Sununu expressed "frustration" getting "our pieces of the stockpile" of the necessary personal protective equipment needed for health-care workers through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He said residents should expect the number of cases in the state to go up fairly dramatically because the state is moving to increase testing three-fold in the coming days.

"We are going to see a huge surge," Sununu said, "and it's absolutely expected."

He thanked citizens for heeding the public warning to remain largely at home and keeping distances of at least six feet from one another to reduce the spread of the virus and limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

He also noted that more than 100 manufacturing businesses in the state have stepped up to the plate to see how they can help. They can go to the website to get more information.

On the Floor

As he was speaking, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to work in a bipartisan manner to pass H.R. 748 CARES Act, which was later passed.

She gave the example of New Hampshire people working together with a story in the Berlin Sun about Gorham Paper company providing toilet tissue paper to local businesses and government agencies in need because of a lack of local products on the shelves.

Paula Tracy writes for the statewide news nonrprofit

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