COVID-19 protocols for the N.H. Legislature came under new attention Wednesday after word surfaced that at least three participants in last week’s House session tested positive for the virus after the event.

On Wednesday, the House Communications Office publicly released an email it sent to all 400 representatives on Sunday saying two of those involved in the Jan. 5-6 session, who were not identified in the email, had tested positive for the virus. Their close contacts at the event were notified.

The two-day gathering marked the start of this year’s legislative session.

A third participant in the session, Rep. Chuck Grassie, D-Rochester, confirmed Wednesday he began to have COVID symptoms Monday and then tested positive for the virus.

Gov. Chris Sununu said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference that three positive COVID tests out of such a large gathering is about the same as the test positivity rate in society at large.

He also said the Legislature was taking appropriate precautions such as social distancing and air filtration.

Last week’s gathering took place at a Manchester conference center to allow more space than would be present in the Statehouse in Concord.

Face masks were not required. Those on one side of the room, largely Republicans, did not wear masks. Those on the other side, largely Democrats, wore them. Though the proceedings were livestreamed, there was no option for remote participation.

The public and media were barred from the meeting room. One set of bathrooms was for the masked; another set was for the unmasked.

Rep. Andrew Maneval, D-Harrisville, said Wednesday the House should reconsider its protocols, such as not allowing remote participation in House committee meetings and not requiring masks during legislative proceedings.

“It’s so ridiculous and so silly that we aren’t meeting remotely,” he said. “All of business, all of law, economic and business dealings are done remotely and electronically and we can’t manage that.

“Masking is a matter of courtesy done out of concern for other people. It helps with anyone who may be a potential spreader from spreading it to other people.”

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said Wednesday she wears masks to committee meetings but notices many others do not.

“I have concerns not just for House members but that they are bringing it back home to their communities,” she said.

Her bill to allow the public and representatives to participate in House proceedings remotely was voted down Jan. 5 in a 186-169 partisan vote.

Rep. Norman Silber, R-Gilford, said a Monday meeting of the Belknap County Delegation’s Executive Committee was canceled after one of the committee members, Rep. Barbara Comtois, R-Center Barnstead, tested positive for the virus over the weekend.

It’s not clear if Comtois was one of the two unnamed people mentioned in the email from the House Communications Office. Comtois, who was unmasked during the two-day meeting in Manchester, on Wednesday described her symptoms as minor.

“I thought I had the flu,” she said.

Comtois, who declined to say whether she has received the COVID-19 vaccine, has sponsored several pieces of legislation opposing vaccine mandates this session.

Grassie said he’s convinced he caught the virus at the House session because his public activities otherwise have been very limited. He said he wore a KN-95 mask at the session, taking it off only to eat lunch and during a couple of appearances at the microphone for brief comments.

He wasn’t feeling well Wednesday.

“I’ve got a cough, a chest cold and a raging headache, but I haven’t lost my sense of taste and smell,” said Grassie, who has been vaccinated and received a booster shot.

He said some House members need to be more aware of the danger of spreading the disease.

“It’s not their right to give me COVID, and that’s what they did,” Grassie said.

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keenesentinel.com or 603-355-8567.