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State lawmaker wants to become state’s next health officer

BISMARCK (AP) — A Republican state representative wants to become North Dakota’s next state health officer, a position from which three people have resigned during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Rick Becker, who is a plastic surgeon in Bismarck, has a plan for addressing COVID-19 which would be a major shift from the state’s practices so far. Becker calls for eliminating mass testing, contact tracing, guidelines for businesses and marketing campaigns for masking and social distancing.

In regards to education, Becker would allow students, kindergarten through high school, to be back in the classroom full-time, five days a week, with optional masking, plastic partitions for teachers and livestreamed classes for students whose parents choose to keep them home, the Bismarck Tribune r eported.

Interim State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani abruptly resigned after a quarantine order for close contacts was rescinded one day after it was announced.

The quarantine order included a potential misdemeanor charge for close contacts to coronavirus cases who failed to quarantine for 14 days. That caused a public outcry and prompted Republican legislative leaders to ask the governor to remove the legal penalty.

Mariani is the third North Dakota State Health Officer to resign amid the coronavirus pandemic, following Mylynn Tufte and Dr. Andrew Stahl, but his tenure was by far the shortest at 12 days.

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