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A Nebraska legislative committee is in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure

A Nebraska legislative committee is in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure

Christie Barnes with the University of Nebraska Medical Center shows how to properly swab the nasal cavity for a COVID test.

LINCOLN — Close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 forced an entire Nebraska legislative committee into quarantine on Tuesday.

The nine-senator Appropriations Committee, which draws up a state budget, ended an informal budget review meeting at midafternoon on Tuesday after learning of the exposure.

The exposure marked the first time an entire legislative committee has been forced into quarantine during the pandemic, which disrupted the schedule of last year’s session and has prompted some alterations in the 90-day meeting this year.

State Sen. John Stinner of Gering, who chairs the committee, said members will be lining up tests and hope to be back at work in a week. He said that in the interim, the committee is trying to organize Zoom meetings to continue its review work remotely. Formal public hearings by the Appropriations Committee do not begin until Feb. 5.

“We’re working on a workaround. I think we’ll be in pretty good shape,” the senator said.

Stinner, on Tuesday evening, said he was unaware of any senators showing symptoms.

To avoid risking a quarantine of the entire 49-member unicameral Legislature, floor debate, when all senators would be present, has been delayed. Instead, committees — which typically number seven or eight legislators — have been holding public hearings all day long this week. To reduce the number of people coming to the State Capitol, testimony is also being allowed via text message this session.

Senators’ chairs on the floor of the Legislature, as well as in hearing rooms, are surrounded by clear plastic barriers, and legislators have been encouraged to wear face masks.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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