CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Jury trials and grand jury meetings scheduled for January in four county courthouses have been canceled because of rising COVID-19 infection rates and limited air circulation in the buildings.
The decision affects the courthouses in Newport, Strafford, Laconia and Nashua, said Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau. Ventilation in those buildings is adequate for smaller, necessary in-person hearings, she said, and video and telephone hearings will continue as well.
“Cancelling these cases is a difficult decision, and it was made to ensure the continued health and safety of jurors, court staff, and parties to these cases," she said in a statement.
Trials and grand jury proceedings will continue in other counties with lower infection rates and better ventilated courthouses.
In other coronavirus developments:
NATIONAL GUARD ACTIVATION:
Members of the state's Democratic congressional delegation said Friday they are glad President Donald Trump has extended the activation of the New Hampshire National Guard to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic but his refusal to fully fund it is unacceptable.
The activation has been extended through March 31, 2021, but since August, the state has only been reimbursed 75%.
“We are witnessing record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths – now is not the time to shortchange support for the Guard’s response efforts, which include staffing testing sites, conducting voluntary contact tracing, distributing medical supplies, and preparing for its upcoming mission to assist with vaccine distribution,” said Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas.
A GOP caucus meeting that resulted in at least four lawmakers testing positive for the coronavirus was “horribly managed," but lawmakers, not public health officials, should have alerted Democrats, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said.
Democrats learned of the Nov. 20 meeting held indoors at McIntyre ski area on Tuesday, the day before the Legislature was to be sworn-in at the University of New Hampshire.
“It was horribly managed," Sununu said Thursday when asked about the caucus meeting. There was an open buffet at the gathering, and “a lot” of the participants were not wearing masks or socially distancing, he said.
The Department of Health and Human Services conducted contact tracing to alert lawmakers who were in close contact with their infected colleagues, and a letter went out to the rest of the GOP members, he said. Republican leaders should have also notified Democrats, he said.
“It was badly managed from the beginning, and communication should've been much better,” he said.
Many Democrats skipped Wednesday's session over concerns about the virus and instead were sworn-in by phone the next day.
More than 23,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 782 cases announced Thursday that included results from several days earlier in the week. Eight additional deaths were announced, bringing the total to 552.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 401 on Nov. 19 to 592 on Dec. 3.