Some GOP House members test positive for COVID-19

DURHAM – Members of the New Hampshire House Republican caucus were exposed to the coronavirus Nov. 20 at McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester and some have tested positive, according to state health officials.

But plans are still on to convene all 400 House members and 24 Senate members Wednesday for a swearing-in ceremony outside at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

State health officials are not saying how many members were sick and have been exposed.

The state is conducting contact tracing from the event, which elected House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, as their nominee to be the next Speaker.

Several elected members of the House have tested positive for the virus since then, which has killed 528 in New Hampshire as of Tuesday and sickened 21,766.

Because of COVID-19, the biennial assembly known as “Organization Day” cannot be held at the State House.

The plan was to hold the event inside the Whittemore Center for the House.

On Nov. 29, Republican leaders announced a plan to hold the event for 424 with the governor swearing them in outdoors rather than indoors.

The plan is to convene at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Hamel Recreation Center on the grounds of the University of New Hampshire in Durham for both opening sessions.

During the Nov. 3 election, Republicans took over both the House and Senate, flipping both chambers.

Outgoing Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester condemned the Republican House leadership “for withholding exposure information” from the public until the eve of Wednesday’s session.

“In less than 24 hours, the full Legislature will gather in person for the first time in nine months. Extensive safety precautions have been discussed and implemented by staff and leadership to allow us to fulfill our constitutional obligations on Organization Day,” Soucy said.

“Republican House leadership’s decision to withhold health and safety information is disrespectful to the work of both the UNH and legislative staff and potentially puts public safety at risk.”

The House Republican Office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Soucy added that for the safety of all, “I hope those who have been potentially exposed follow CDC and state guidelines and stay home.”

While the swearing-in event is open to the public, it will also be live-streamed on the Internet.