North Dakota’s lieutenant governor in quarantine
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford was in quarantine Friday with his family after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, and he will not be able to fulfill his role of presiding over the Senate as the 2021 legislative session is getting underway.
Sanford’s spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, told the Bismarck Tribune that Sanford’s wife is asymptomatic and that Sanford planned to get his own COVID-19 test Friday.
Republican Sen. Randy Burckhard of Minot temporarily presided over the Senate on Friday, the session’s second day.
North Dakota reported an additional 303 COVID-19 infections on Friday, and another 11 deaths from the virus. A total of 94,438 people have tested positive in North Dakota since the pandemic began, and 1,352 people have died. The state ranks 47th in the country for new cases per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Nowatzki said Sanford is not showing any symptoms of the virus and is expected to return around the end of January.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner of Dickinson said senators haven’t been around Sanford or in meetings with him.
Wardner said Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, a Republican from Williston, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is working remotely. Wardner said Bekkedahl has no symptoms and has not been in Bismarck this week.
Sanford attended a joint legislative session on Tuesday when Gov. Doug Burgum presented his State of the State address. Nowatzki said Burgum was not a close contact of Sanford, and that Sanford wore a mask the whole time and was socially distanced while seated in the chambers.
The Legislature adopted a mask mandate last month, requiring everyone in legislative spaces to wear a face mask or shield. A state senator and three legislative staff tested positive for COVID-19 last month— a week after the Legislature’s three-day organizational session.