New Hampshire lawmakers grapple with coronavirus concerns

Associated Press
Published: 3/11/2020 3:58:38 PM

Concerns over the new coronavirus are playing out in the New Hampshire House, where at least one member is in self-quarantine and the chamber is being repeatedly sanitized.

Three of the 400 House members missed the start of Wednesday’s session because they had been told to self-quarantine. But two were from a town where officials now say there was no risk, and one of them joined the session later in the day.

Rep. Judith Spang, D-Durham, has been quarantined for more than a week because she recently traveled to Italy. Two others from Epping also were told to quarantine after possible exposure at a polling place Tuesday, but Republican Rep. Michael Vose was allowed to join his colleagues late Wednesday morning after being cleared by town health officials.

According to school officials in Epping, someone who voted in the town’s election Tuesday told voters he was heading home to be quarantined. But the person he had been exposed to turned out to have the flu.

Five people in New Hampshire have tested positive for the new virus, which causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people. The vast majority recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said older people are at higher risk of getting very sick and recommends that they avoid crowds. The average age in the 400-member House is 63, but sessions went ahead as scheduled this week as lawmakers work to meet a March 26 deadline to act on bills.

House Speaker Steve Shurtleff assured lawmakers that the House chamber had been sanitized ahead of Wednesday’s session and would be again before Thursday’s gathering.

He said he plans to speak to Gov. Chris Sununu about other measures for the Statehouse complex and is proposing a joint legislative committee on the topic. He also reminded lawmakers to temporarily leave the chamber if they are coughing or sneezing.

“We love you all dearly, but we don’t love your droplets,” he said.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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