North Dakota Legislature cancels in-person meetings after staffer tests positive for COVID-19

The North Dakota State Capitol. Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Legislature has canceled all in-person interim committee meetings for the next few weeks because a Legislative Council staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee is showing no COVID-19 symptoms, but after consulting with legislative leaders, it was decided that all in-person meetings for the next few weeks should be canceled for everyone's safety, said John Bjornson, Legislative Council director.

"Rather than (having) the chance of spreading it throughout the state by having legislators come into town here, we're going to just take the safe approach and not have any meetings for the next week for sure," Bjornson said, adding that they will take the week to decide what their remote meetings will look like.

The Legislative Council has 32 employees and Bjornson said a few of them may have been in close contact with the individual and they are now in self-quarantine.

Bjornson said he believes the staff member contracted COVID-19 through community spread and not by having contact with other legislators or staff members within the state Capitol.


Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck and the state Capitol, has emerged as North Dakota's COVID-19 hot spot over the last two months and has by far the most active cases with 297. Local officials, in conjunction with the state, recently launched a task force to rein in the number of positive cases.

So far, nine interim committee meetings have been canceled, according to the Legislature's event calendar. Bjornson said all committee meeting work needs to be completed by early October. He said he thinks the cancellations are a minor setback for the committees and that the impact should be minimal.

"We've notified all legislators of what's going on so they are fully aware of the situation, and they've been very supportive of us," he said.

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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