A day before Dick Hinch was sworn in as the new speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Democratic leaders strongly criticized him for failing to tell them about a coronavirus outbreak in his caucus. A week after the Dec. 2 swearing-in, the Republican died from COVID-19. The 71-year-old was found dead in his home on Wednesday and the state's chief medical examiner confirmed the cause of death, the Washington Post reports. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, called Hinch's death a "tragic and cautionary tale" and slammed lawmakers who flouted the state's mask mandate to make "some ridiculous political point," the New Hampshire Union-Leader reports. "Please use your heads," he said. "Don't act like a bunch of children, frankly."
On Thursday, Republican Rep. William Marsh, a retired ophthalmologist, spoke out against colleagues who refused to wear masks or hold remote meetings, the Concord Monitor reports. "Those in our caucus who refused to take precautions are responsible for Dick Hinch’s death," he said. When House members took the oath of office on Dec. 2 in an outdoor ceremony, Hinch arranged a separate seating area for around 80 of them who wouldn't wear masks. Hinch was among 50 GOP lawmakers, none of them wearing masks, who attended an indoor party Nov. 9 to celebrate the state's election results. He was also at an indoor caucus meeting Nov. 20, which health authorities later determined had led to at least four infections. Authorities say they are now trying to determine where Hinch was infected. (Read more coronavirus stories.)