Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday that coronavirus fatalities and hospitalizations "are still going to be elevated for quite some time," despite the arrival of the first shipments of Pfizer's vaccine in New Hampshire earlier in the week.
The state received its first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, about 12,675 doses in all.
The first shipment is being distributed to at-risk health workers, including front-line clinical staff providing direct patent care. Subsequent allotments will distributed to residents of long-term care facilities and first responders.
But the number of new cases and fatalities in the state remains high. Health officials announced 872 new cases and four new deaths on Thursday, with an average 9% positivity rate.
As the vaccinations continue, Sununu said it is critically important that people continue to follow the protocols they have for the past 10 months, including wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing and good hygiene.
That said, the governor said New Hampshire is "really on a positive path," and vaccine deliveries were able to continue Thursday despite the snowy conditions.
Sununu said he thought residents generally did a good job of avoiding large holiday gatherings around Thanksgiving, and he hopes they will have that same mentality heading into Christmas next week.
"We did see a bit of a bump after Thanksgiving with case numbers and we could see another bump after Christmas," he said. "Those are all just telltale signs that we have a long way to go. We have to stay disciplined for a number of months ahead."
Sununu said he is hopeful that Congress is closing in on a coronavirus relief package that will provide small business relief, unemployment funds and more. But he said that even if Congress doesn't do anything, New Hampshire will be OK.
Last week, Sununu extended New Hampshire's start of emergency declaration another three weeks, citing an increase in coronavirus cases across the state and in the region.
Sununu, a Republican, initially declared a state of emergency on March 13 and has continued to extend it every 21 days. A further extension is needed to combat a "significant increase'' in COVID-19 infections in New Hampshire in recent weeks, he wrote.
Among other measures, the order continued a statewide mask mandate for everyone over age 5 when they cannot stay six feet away from people outside their household. Sununu's order also cited concerns with climbing cases in neighboring Massachusetts.