House member tests positive for COVID-19 after 3 long session days left in the House of Representatives
House member tests positive for COVID-19 after 3 long session days left in the House of Representatives

House member tests positive for COVID-19 after 3 long session days left in the House of Representatives

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD – At least one Member of Parliament has tested positive for COVID-19 after attending all three long session days in the House of Representatives this week, according to an email sent to some members sitting within a six-radius to seven feet from the infected member.
The email was sent Saturday morning at. 10 by Aaron Goulette, Chief of Staff of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Rep. Bill Marsh, D-Brookfield, who is also a doctor, said it was only inadequate to send the message to members sitting near the infected house member.

“Since we know that aerosol dispersal of Covid occurs over longer distances in indoor spaces, especially when people are confined for such long hours over several days, I think the 6-7 foot radius for messages is inadequate.

“Basically, everyone in the room is in danger, and probably many have brought Covid back to their communities,” Marsh said. “I still recommend wearing a snug-fitting N95 mask for personal protection.”

In an email to InDepthNH.org, Goulette said all lawmakers sitting near the affected lawmaker in the Hall of Representatives have been notified. The legislature also disclosed the names of people he or she had close contact with outside the House of Representatives who have also been notified, he said.

“The legislator concerned had a household member who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. The legislator did not use the self-test kit provided by the Court prior to participation. No staff, members of the public or the press were reported to have been close contacts. said Goulette.

The number of hospital admissions due to COVID-19 has been low in recent weeks, as has the number of cases, although the state has said the number will no longer be accurate because people who test at home may or may not report to the state. .

The number of deaths has dropped, but from March 11 to March 18, the state reported 20 deaths due to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, long sessions were held in the Hall of Representatives in the State House, and the House only recently began to meet there again. The March 10 session was the first time in the House of Representatives since the pandemic began because it was considered to be close, leaving the 400 members with no room for social distance. Before that, the house met outside, in a parking lot, in a sports arena and hotel center.

“With over 400 people packed into the Rep’s Hall, most not wearing masks, and at the current prevalence, it was almost certain that at least one representative would test positive,” Marsh said.

Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry and Gov. Chris Sununu’s spokesman did not return requests for comment.

In the email to close contacts, Goulette said the unidentified house member sat in the general area of ​​Division 4 in the House of Representatives and tested positive in antigen self-tests last Friday.

“You are receiving this message because your allocated space is within a radius of about 6-7 feet from the member who tested positive. The member was present for the session every three days (3 / 15-3 / 17),” said Goulette in the email Saturday.

He attached the latest guidance from DHHS on isolation and quarantine.

As a non-household contact, DHHS does not recommend quarantine, the email states.

Goulette included the following recommendations:

Wear a well-fitting face mask around other people for 10 days, especially indoors.

If symptoms occur, stay home and get tested for COVID-19.

Get tested for COVID-19 on day 5, even if you have no symptoms.

If the test is positive, follow the insulation recommendations above. “

The House and State DHHS have refused to identify lawmakers or employees who have been infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic, or to disclose the number of those infected.

The only way the public usually finds out is if the legislature makes a public statement or mentions it on social media.

Republicans and Democrats have been deeply divided over most issues related to COVID-19, with many Republicans in the House refusing to wear masks and others refusing vaccinations.

At least six members of the House themselves reported being infected with COVID-19 as transmission speeds were much higher at the January 5 and 6th sessions held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester.

Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, said more than half of those who attended the mask-free legislative sessions go maskless “despite the fact that people are still dying and being hospitalized.”

“Meanwhile, we are wrapped in Reps Hall elbow-to-elbow like sardines sharing the same space on session days for 9-13 hours. This is ruthless given that COVID is spread by airborne droplets released by quiet breathing, speaking and coughing – not to mention 350+ lawmakers shouting themselves silly during voting, “Meuse said.

Meuse said the speaker provided free test sets before sessions, but none are delivered after sessions – and after potential exposure.

“There is no requirement to use them or to report positive test results to anyone. In the meantime, there is zero transparency when it comes to legislators testing positive. The only way we hear about legislators getting sick with the virus is from each other or from Facebook posts, ”Meuse said.

He said many lawmakers are 60 years and older and have health conditions that make them more vulnerable.

“While our timing for the last three session days seems to be lucky with cases and hospital admissions across the country that have hit lows not seen since August, cases are rising in Europe and Asia due to the highly transmissible new B- 2-sub variant of Omicron. During previous increases, we have seen US backlogs increase in Europe and Asia by 2-3 weeks – meaning that the next time we meet on March 31 to debate our remaining bills, the B-2 may begin to have an impact in New Hampshire. .

“So yes, I’m worried. Our ‘look ma, no hands!’ approach to combating COVID seems to have evolved into ‘COVID is over!’ “Even though people continue to die and be hospitalized because of the current variant, and then a new variant is waiting in the circle on the deck,” said Meuse.

House members are still awaiting a ruling in a federal lawsuit filed by a number of medically vulnerable Democrats, including former minority leader Renny Cushing of Hampton, last year to allow remote participation with reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rep. Cushing recently died of cancer.

The U.S. District Court Judge took the side of Speaker Packard, but that decision was overturned by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. A re-hearing was requested by Packard, was given and held, but a decision has not yet been released despite a recent request for an expedited decision.

Marsh said the CDC currently lists every county in New Hampshire as low transmission.
But NH DHHS still lists five counties and Manchester with significant transmission levels, with the others as moderate.

“So it’s unclear if the public health guidelines were followed in the planning of this session, but the result is clearly not what anyone would have wanted,” Marsh said.

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