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“Honor system” used to enforce temperature scanning at Capitol, lawmaker says he bypassed it


Those visiting North Dakota’s Capitol have their temperatures checked when going through security at the entrance, but legislators don’t have to go through the same process.

In a legislative procedure and arrangements committee meeting Wednesday, Minot Republican Sen. Oley Larsen said he was running a fever and chose to bypass the temperature scanner before attending the meeting. The comment came as the group discussed using those scanners to gauge who can safely participate in-person this upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 5.

The meeting was meant to address changes in the upcoming session to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Capitol. Members brought up the possibility of requiring masks, virtual testimonies and spreading out seating, but Larsen’s admission raised questions about whether legislators themselves are taking steps to prevent the spread.

“I’m running a fever now, that’s why I bypassed the forehead thing, because I know I was going to be sent — ‘Go back home to Minot.’ I drove all the way down here for this. It’s a sinus infection, it’s not COVID-19, I’m going to be sent home for that? That’s absurd,” Larsen said.

There’s just one temperature scanner at the Capitol’s west entrance. The Director of Capitol Security, Sgt. Tim Coughlin, says lawmakers have access to other entrances that don’t have a scanner, but it’s still expected they use the scanner upon arrival, regardless of which entrance they use.

“We have one access point to the building that has the temperature screening at it at this time, and individuals, people that have access to the Capitol come in different doors proceed down here and get their screening done down here. It’s the honor system,” Coughlin said.

A sign posted near the door of the public entrance says “All persons entering this facility will be screened” — specifically listing the public, team members and delivery personnel, but not legislators.

Coughlin said the Capitol is in the process of getting more temperature scanning kiosks for the multiple entrances.

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