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Letters from experts to Sununu get no response

By GEORGE PELLETIER - Milford Bureau Chief | Apr 7, 2020

NASHUA – In two separate letters sent to Gov. Chris Sununu on Sunday and Monday, New Hampshire doctors and health officials statewide urged the state’s chief executive to increase testing, treatment and tracking of New Hampshire COVID-19 cases.

The letters also asked the governor to issue an emergency executive order requiring face coverings, provided by employers for all essential workers and citizens.

The 14 signers of the letters were Mindi F. Messmer, M.S. clinical and translational science; Dr. Nora Traviss, PhD; Dr. Richard Dipentima; Dr. John Stevens; Dr. Ben Locwin; C. David London, M.D.; Dr. Victor Lazaron, M.D.; Dr. Leonard Korn; Dr. Michael Dowe; Dr. Meg Henning, PhD; Dr. Dr. Tom Webler, PhD; Susan Whittemore, PhD; Dr. Larry Welkowitz, PhD; and Dr. Marie Duggan, PhD.

Messmer, who also is a former New Hampshire state representative from District 24 – serving on the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee – said the letters have, thus far, elicited no response from the governor’s office in Concord.

“The first letter was in play already, because we were concerned about the rate of testing,” she said. “That was sent on Sunday night. And then at the very same time, the news about closing the Manchester Armory came out, and so were already working on the letter about masks, but that made it much more of a priority for us to get it out.”

The April 6 letter, in part, states, “As of April 5, only 101 tests for the COVID-19 testing are pending at the New Hampshire pubic laboratory; this is the lowest testing rate in the last few months just as there is exponential growth of cases expected. It appears that the COVID-19 testing program in New Hampshire has collapsed.”

That is the fourth letter sent to Sununu. The letter also was sent to Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Messmer did her own model analysis and also forwarded her findings to Sununu and Chan as well.

“No word on anything came back to us at all,” Messmer said. “The former state epidemiologist, Dr. Dipentima, privately emailed the governor and Dr. Chan. There has been no response at all. Nothing.”

Messmer and the other physicians and medical experts are concerned their pleas are falling on deaf ears and expressed their concerns.

“I do daily updates on international, national and state and New Hampshire data,” she said. “People are responding because they feel like they’re not getting information from the governor’s office at all.”

The letter dated April 5 states that one case has been identified in Keene and a total of nine in Cheshire County; less than four or fewer cases are identified in all of Coos County. That letter suggests the lack of adequate testing is providing, “the public with a false sense of security.”

“But far more importantly, even 621 ‘official cases’ reported by New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services means that community transmission is happening across New Hampshire and that the number of ‘true’ COVID cases in New Hampshire may be 10 times (6,210) to 100 times (62,100),” the letter read.

That April 5 letter recommends the development of a strategy to protect health care workers and might possibly allow specific populations to return to work.

It is a probability that the doctors and specialists who signed the letters may forward more letters of urgency to the governor’s office.

In the meantime, Messmer has taken to Twitter, tweeting and “talking to the president,” who is a proponent of the social media platform.

“I’m hoping I’ll see a response, but I never do,” she said.


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