The COVID-19 death of the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives has raised fears that other members of one of the world's largest legislatures might have been exposed at their swearing-in ceremony last week.
A medical examiner announced the cause of death Thursday of 71-year-old Dick Hinch. Hinch was found dead in his home.
He was photographed at the outdoor swearing-in wearing a mask improperly, without it covering both his nose and mouth. Dozens reportedly attended without wearing masks at all.
Several Republican lawmakers have tested positive after attending an indoor meeting in late November where many attendees didn't wear masks.
One Republican representative says Hinch's death may be a result of “peer pressure exerted by those in the Republican Party who refuse to take reasonable precautions."
At a news conference Thursday, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a fellow Republican, called Hinch a "tireless leader" and close friend. He then said Hinch's death was a "cautionary tale" about not wearing a mask properly.
“For those who are just out there doing the opposite just to make some ridiculous political point, it is horribly wrong,” Sununu said. “Please use your heads. Don’t act like a bunch of children, frankly.”
Other state Republicans were harsher in their messaging. Representative William Marsh, a retired doctor, posted on Twitter, “Those in our caucus who refused to take precautions are responsible for Dick Hinch’s death."
I just received this from the Attorney General. Those in our caucus who refused to take precautions are responsible for Dick Hinch's death. pic.twitter.com/mMLwkPE7F2— William M Marsh MD (@wmarshcc8) December 10, 2020
In the last few weeks, Hinch was at the center of growing tension between state Republicans and Democrats about health and safety measures.