By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD – Starting next Friday April 2, all Granite Staters age 16 and up will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday at his regular news conference.

“After this week, everybody who wants a vaccine can get a vaccine,” Sununu said.

There is one important exception. Vaccinations will only be available for permanent New Hampshire residents, and does not include college students who live out of state but live here while attending college, Sununu said responding to a question from NHPR.

“It’s for New Hampshire permanent residents. If you are a resident of Colorado, but going to school here no, you cannot get the vaccine,” Sununu said. “You can go to Colorado and get the vaccine…”

A chart posted on Sununu’s Twitter account said New Hampshire people ages 40 to 49 can begin registering on Monday, March 29 and ages 30 to 39 on Wednesday, March 31, with anyone 16 and older registering Friday, April 2. Registrants should use the state’s registration system known as VINI.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state’s epidemiologist, said there was one new COVID-19 death on Thursday. Chan also announced 418 new cases and 82 people hospitalized because of the virus. He cautioned people to continue wearing a mask, engage in social distancing and handwashing.

Sununu said he expects the number of cases to continue rising slowly in the coming weeks. “This is a spring surge,” Sununu said adding the numbers will likely fluctuate.

Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the state’s Bureau of Diseases and Infection Control, said approximately 38,000 school, childcare and youth camp staff out the estimated 55,000 in that group have been or are in the process of being vaccinated.

Daly said it’s not too late to say yes to the vaccine. “We hope that you will make this choice,” Daly said. “These vaccines are safe and highly effective and they are the best way to protect yourself and your family members and to help us all return to a more normal way of life.”

When asked about the 53 adults and 33 children being boarded in hospital emergency rooms this week awaiting a bed in a psychiatric facility, Sununu acknowledged the seriousness of the problem that has been ongoing since 2012. He said there are numerous initiatives to tackle the problem.

“The situation is very real,” Sununu said. The state is working on getting more psychiatric beds up and running and has added more at the Philbrook Center, he said.

“COVID has created an unprecedented amount of demand on that system.”

Asked if Sununu has final say over information released relative to COVID, he said he and the experts at the Department of Health and Human Services do their best to respond to reporters given the number of hours they are working.

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