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New Hampshire House Speaker dies of COVID-19 one week after swearing in

New Hampshire House Speaker dies of COVID-19 one week after swearing in
© YouTube/WMUR

New Hampshire House Speaker Dick Hinch (R) died due to coronavirus complications, a medical examiner ruled Thursday, with the 71-year-old state lawmaker dying one week after being sworn in as Speaker.

State Attorney General Gordon MacDonald (R) announced that New Hampshire's chief medical examiner had determined “the cause of Speaker Hinch’s death was COVID-19.”

Hinch died on Wednesday, though the cause of his death was not initially revealed. The attorney general released the results of the autopsy after receiving authorization from the lawmaker's next of kin.

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Gov. Chris SununuChris SununuSeven Senate races to watch in 2022 The Memo: Toxic divide grew deeper in 2020 NH GOP governor cancels inauguration ceremony, citing concerns over armed anti-mask protests MORE (R) has ordered flags in the state to fly at half-staff.

“Speaker Hinch was a fierce defender of the New Hampshire Advantage, a close friend, and a respected public servant,” Sununu said in a statement. “His loss will be greatly felt by the people of this state, and I ask Granite Staters to join me in praying for his family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over MORE (D-N.H.) also mourned Hinch's death while highlighting his record of public service. The New Hampshire Republican was starting his seventh two-year term when he died.

“Serving in our legislature – and especially in leadership positions as Speaker Hinch did – requires tremendous effort, all in essentially a volunteer capacity,” Hassan said in a statement. “Speaker Hinch was deeply committed to this service, and I am grateful for all he gave to our state and our country. I join all Granite Staters in mourning his loss.”

Hinch's office announced the state lawmaker's death on Wednesday night but did not give details, calling it an "unexpected tragedy," local media reported. Further details on his diagnosis were not immediately available.

New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services said last week that it was investigating after several GOP lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 after an indoor caucus meeting held on Nov. 20, the Concord Monitor reported at the time.

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Hinch at the time confirmed “a very small number of people” tested positive, according to the newspaper, but did not specify how many or go into detail on which members had tested positive.

Sununu later said that the meeting was “horribly managed,” according to a local NBC affiliate. He noted that “a lot” of attendees were not wearing masks or socially distanced.

The news of the meeting came just a day before the new legislature — composed of 400 House members and 24 senators — was to be sworn in at an outdoor event. As a result, a number of lawmakers skipped the outdoor ceremony, The Associated Press reported.