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House Speaker asks N.H. lawmakers to 'strongly consider' masks at State House

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Dan Tuohy/NHPR
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The House chamber at the N.H. State House

The Speaker of the New Hampshire House is asking lawmakers to consider wearing masks at the State House. The new request, included in this week’s House calendar, comes after a lawmaker who tested positive for COVID-19 blamed lax protocols by House leadership.

Speaker Sherman Packard has resisted forcing lawmakers to wear masks at the State House and has required that legislative committees meet in person, without accommodation for state representatives who believe doing so would put their health at risk.

But in a note to lawmakers, Packard urged them to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms of illness. And he asked them to "strongly consider" masking up.

Packard added that the House requires lawmakers to "treat each other, legislative employees, and the public with dignity and respect."

The Speaker's guidance comes on the heels of a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Kevin Verville of Deefield, attending a meeting with fellow lawmakers last week, maskless, shortly before testing positive for COVID-19.

One lawmaker who attended that meeting, Democrat Nicole Klein Knight, says she tested later positive, and blamed Verville — without proof — for infecting her.

The Speaker's office says all attendees at the meeting were notified of the potential exposure to COVID-19, and state heath guidance was followed.