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Gathering Of GOP N.H. Lawmakers Leads To Unspecified Number Of COVID-19 Cases

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

State health officials say a recent gathering of Republican members of the incoming New Hampshire House of Representatives has led to several cases of COVID-19.

The event, held November 20 at the McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester, took place after the House Republican Caucus met to elect its leader for the 2021 legislative session.

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A spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services would not confirm the number of cases stemming from the meeting but said health officials are conducting contact investigations and will issue a public notification if all contacts can’t be identified.

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet outdoors Wednesday, at UNH, to be sworn in and elect leaders for the upcoming session.

In a statement, House Republican Leader Dick Hinch said he would not share details on the cases, including the number of lawmakers who tested positive, because “we’re dealing with private and personal health information.”

Noting the rising COVID-19 case numbers in New Hampshire, Hinch said, “We are a citizen legislature, and it can be expected that our legislators are at the same risk as the citizens we represent.”

He said Republican House leadership is working with state health officials to notify people who may have been exposed to the virus. As for Wednesday’s scheduled Organization Day, Hinch said, “we have a very small number of people affected and we have no reason to believe that the folks who tested positive will attempt to attend the event.”

Republicans won a majority of House seats in last month’s election, and Hinch is expected to be elected the next speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The outgoing speaker, Democrat Steve Shurtleff, said Tuesday that his party was unaware of the COVID-19 cases among the House Republican caucus until it was reported by the media.

“We are less than 24 hours from Organization Day and the Republican Leadership in the House purposefully neglected to tell the Speaker’s office or their Democratic colleagues of an outbreak within their caucus,” Shurtleff said in a statement. “We were with Republican Leadership just yesterday for Organization Day and the COVID-19 outbreak was not mentioned to anyone.”

The Nov. 20 gathering was hosted by Jay Lucas, a former Republican candidate for New Hampshire governor. Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Lucas said he was too busy to talk. Later efforts to reach him by phone and email have gone unanswered.

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