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COVID-19 positive test reported at Nevada Legislature

July 11, 2020 GMT
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Nevada State Sen. Yvanna Cancela and her dog, Louie arrive at Nevada Legislature on the third day of the 31st Special Session in Carson City, Nev., on Friday, July 10, 2020. Someone who works in the Nevada legislative building has tested positive for the coronavirus as lawmakers debate emergency measures involving the pandemic, an official said Friday. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent via AP, Pool)
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Nevada State Sen. Yvanna Cancela and her dog, Louie arrive at Nevada Legislature on the third day of the 31st Special Session in Carson City, Nev., on Friday, July 10, 2020. Someone who works in the Nevada legislative building has tested positive for the coronavirus as lawmakers debate emergency measures involving the pandemic, an official said Friday. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent via AP, Pool)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Someone who works in the Nevada legislative building has tested positive for the coronavirus as lawmakers debate emergency measures involving the pandemic, an official said Friday.

The announcement by Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes came as statehouses throughout the country, including Mississippi, North Carolina and California, are confronting outbreaks.

“Even though the person is asymptomatic and feeling well, they will not be returning to the Legislative Building,” Erdoes wrote in an email to Nevada lawmakers. She didn’t identify the individual who tested positive.

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All 21 state senators were in chambers at the time of the announcement. The Assembly was in recess.

Precautions had been taken in the Assembly and Senate before Nevada’s part-time Legislature converged on Carson City. Staffers cordoned off couches, set up hand sanitizer stations and erected plastic barriers to separate lawmakers from each other.

The Legislature does not intend to recess or transition to remote voting, but alternative arrangements will be made for lawmakers who feel at risk. Meanwhile, access to the building has been restricted.

If anyone is uncomfortable being in the building, “they will be allowed to work remotely or provided with additional protective options,” Erdoes said.

The Legislature convened Wednesday for an emergency special session to rebalance the state budget amid a projected $1.2 billion revenue shortfall.

Health officials and the Nevada National Guard offered testing to visiting lawmakers and their families in Carson City on Monday. Erdoes said she did not have information about whether each lawmaker agreed to be tested in the lead-up to the session.

“We provided guidelines,” she said when asked whether lawmakers and staff had agreed to be tested.

The positive test disclosed Friday came days after lawmakers sparred over a series of rule changes intended to lift in-person voting requirements in the Legislature if deemed necessary.

The Democratic majorities in both chambers approved the changes over objections from Republicans.

In a Wednesday hearing, state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said exceptions on attendance weren’t made for sick lawmakers before the pandemic.

“Realistically, not all of us are going to be healthy all the time,” he said.

Members, staff and media have largely abided by rules that require mask-wearing by individuals in the building without health conditions.

Health officials will begin a contact tracing investigation to determine whether individuals need additional screening.

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Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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