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Lawmaker, staff test positive for virus after short session

December 10, 2020 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Senate’s top budget writer is among several people who have tested positive for COVID-19 following the Legislature’s three-day organizational session at the state Capitol last week.

Grand Forks Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg confirmed his diagnosis to the Bismarck Tribune on Thursday. Holmberg, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, believes he was infected with the virus during the organizational session.

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Three employees of the Legislature’s 32-person nonpartisan research agency also have tested positive and are at home. Legislative Council Director John Bjornson said he assumes the employees were infected with the virus during the short session.

North Dakota Health Department officials on Thursday confirmed 575 new cases of the coronavirus and 23 additional deaths. Officials said 17 of the deaths occurred at least three days prior to the report Thursday, including 15 from November.

North Dakota on Thursday also rose near the top of new cases in the country per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

North Dakota had for many weeks led the country in the number of virus infections compared to population, but several days of declining totals dropped the state to tenth in the country for new cases per capita in the last two weeks, according to data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project.

The state now ranks second, with 1,404 new cases per 100,000 people in North Dakota over the past two weeks. One in every 126 people in North Dakota tested positive in the past week.

The numbers Thursday follow a day when Gov. Doug Burgum extended an executive order that requires people to wear masks and limits the size of gatherings until next month, but allows high school sports to resume next week.

The state said there were 302 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday, an increase of 18 from a day earlier. The most recent data shows 20 staffed Intensive Care Unit beds and 249 staffed inpatient beds available statewide.