CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Holding New Hampshire House sessions remotely would not violate a constitutional provision about what constitutes a quorum, the state Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The House has been meeting at the University of New Hampshire to allow for greater social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, but Democrats voted in September to ask the court to weigh in on the possibility of remote sessions.

Opponents argued that doing so would violate other provisions of the state constitution, particularly one guaranteeing public access to government. The court, however, limited its answer to the narrow question regarding quorum requirements.

“As long as the requisite number of representatives is ‘present,’ either in person or virtually, meaning that the requisite number is ‘at hand’ and ‘not absent,’” the provision is satisfied, the court wrote.

House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, called the opinion a “victory for common sense and safety." But he won't be speaker for long.

Republicans regained control of both the House and Senate in this month's elections, making the prospect of remote sessions less likely. House Republican leader Dick Hinch, a candidate for House Speaker, told WMUR-TV on Monday he wants to get back to as much in-person work as possible, when it is safe.

In other coronavirus news in New Hampshire:



Nursing homes in northern New England are being unfairly penalized when it comes to federal funding during the pandemic, members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation said Tuesday.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the delegation took issue with the formula used to distribute $333 million to more than 10,000 nursing homes late last month. The nationwide average payment per facility was nearly $25,000, while New Hampshire facilities got about $4,900 each, the third-lowest in the country behind Maine and Vermont.

According to the delegation, the formula rewarded facilities that kept infection and mortality rates among residents lower than the communities they serve. That penalizes states that have low per capita infection rates, the delegation said.

“The fact that there is a lower level of COVID-19 spread in the community in New Hampshire does not mean that Granite State nursing facilities do not need support,” wrote U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas. “On the contrary, the fact that 82 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state come from nursing home residents shows that New Hampshire facilities need more help than ever.”

The delegation is urging Azar to incorporate other measures into the formula going forward.



Potential community exposure related to confirmed cases of COVID-19 has been identified at Chasers Poker Room and Casino in Salem, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday.

Potential exposure happened from Nov. 4-7 and Nov. 9-12. While the state is notifying close contacts, the department said there may be others who were exposed, should monitor for symptoms, and get tested.

Meanwhile, an outbreak at a church in Wolfeboro has been connected to 25 people, the department said. Individuals at the Calvary Wolfeboro Church may have been exposed at the 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. services on Sunday, Nov. 1.



The City Council in Berlin is the latest to pass an ordinance requiring face masks in public.

“We need to make an effort," Mayor Paul Grenier said Monday. “To sit back and not do anything, to me, that's not an option."

The ordinance, which takes effect immediately, lasts for 60 days and would be revisited every 30 days for possible updates. It doesn't apply to children under 5.

Meanwhile, the select board in Franconia is considering an ordinance. The police chief planned to meet with Cannon Mountain management to determine if police would enforce violations at the Cannon Mountain ski area.



More than 15,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in New Hampshire since the start of the pandemic, including 279 new cases announced Tuesday. Two new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 502.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 131 new cases per day on Nov. 2 to 332 new cases per day on Nov. 16.