GRAND FORKS — Presidents at three North Dakota campuses have tested positive for coronavirus this semester.
North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott told Forum News Service Thursday, Dec. 10, of the cases, but declined to name the presidents who contracted the virus, citing privacy reasons.
“It hasn't been easy for some of them, but they push through,” Hagerott said.
Forum News Service confirmed Friday, Dec. 11, that University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost was among the three. UND spokesman David Dodds said Armacost received notification of a positive test on Nov. 2. He had tested on Oct. 31 during a routine testing event that day. He was not symptomatic. He then went into immediate isolation, with the isolation period ending on Nov. 12.
Dodds said Armacost continued working the entire time he had COVID-19 and followed isolation protocols, but added there was no change to day-to-day operations of the university.
Before and after his positive test, Armacost had been working alone either in his office at Twamley Hall or at the president’s home on the Grand Forks campus. He and his assistant rotated days they worked in the office, so they were not working together, Dodds said.
Dodds said Armacost has only had a single close contact, that being his wife, Kathy Armacost. It is unclear where or how he might have contracted the virus.
News of Armacost’s positive test comes after Grand Forks Sen. Ray Holmberg tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. Holmberg was tested for COVID-19 on Monday, Dec. 7, and on Tuesday had attended a lunch that included Armacost. Hours after the lunch, he received his positive test result.
“In hindsight, should I have gone? Probably not,” Holmberg told the news website The Daily Beast.
Holmberg said when he received the diagnosis he notified the president’s office. Dodds said Armacost had already tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 60 days and was not seated next to Holmberg at the lunch.
North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party released a statement Friday, Dec. 11, about Holmberg’s attendance at the meeting, noting there was an option to attend the lunch virtually.
“So much for personal responsibility when Sen. Holmberg couldn't even miss lunch to protect everyone else attending the event and the people who served and cooked their meals,” Democratic-NPL Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said in the statement. “It shouldn’t take hindsight to follow common sense and listen to what public health officials have been saying for months. The NDGOP has refused to take this deadly virus seriously from the beginning, and it’s costing lives and livelihoods. We sincerely hope he fully recovers and that no one he put at risk contracts COVID-19.”
Dodds said that “due to the events of the week and out of an abundance of caution, the president is currently self-quarantining at the University House, despite being well within the period of time when the CDC guidance says that quarantining is not needed and retesting is not recommended for non-symptomatic people who’ve recovered from the virus.”