MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Republican Senate majority leader in Minnesota announced Sunday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement, Sen. Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, said that he is not experiencing major symptoms or issues and that he’s been in quarantine since last Monday. He said he did not attend Thursday’s special session with other lawmakers as he was on a trip and extended it to complete quarantine.
Gazelka’s announcement comes a day after Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota criticized their Republican colleagues for not notifying them about an outbreak of COVID in their ranks. While Republicans instructed their staff members and senators to stay home for this week’s special session, they did not advise their Democratic counterparts to do the same.
Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin specifically criticized Gazelka for not announcing the outbreak among Senate Republicans, saying it was his responsibility as majority leader to tell everyone, including nonpartisan employees at the Capitol.
Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent went a step further, calling for Gazelka’s resignation as majority leader.
“Under his leadership, Republican caucus members have engaged in high-risk behaviors, he has misled Minnesotans about their actions, and they have made excuses instead of being accountable,” Kent said. “This demonstrates that he is not committed to providing for the well-being of all who work in the Senate, their families, and their communities. As a result, he cannot be counted on to lead during the crucial 2021 session.”
In his statement Sunday, Gazelka said that no one was more at risk Thursday than at any other special session. He also accused Democrats of shaming and blaming Republicans for the virus’ uncontrolled spread, when it’s really the failed Democratic leadership’s way of looking for a scapegoat amid crisis.
For the past several months, Gazelka has been critical of the Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that his use of emergency powers is heavy-handed and calling for the state for reopen for the sake of businesses, students and Minnesotans’ mental health.
But over the last few weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has surged. On Saturday, a daily case record was broken when more than 8,000 people tested positive for the virus in just 24 hours. Meanwhile, hospitalizations for COVID are at record levels and the state’s death toll is approaching 3,000.
Below is Gazelka’s full statement on his positive COVID-19 test:
“Today I received confirmation of my positive covid test. I have been in quarantine since experiencing symptoms last Monday and will remain in quarantine as long as my doctor advises me to. I did not attend session on Thursday due to a scheduled trip, and we extended our trip to avoid breaking my quarantine. We followed CDC and airline requirements during our travel and I’m very thankful my wife, Maralee, has tested negative for covid.
“I am not experiencing major issues or symptoms and I expect like 99% of people, I will make a full recovery. We have learned a lot about this virus and how to treat it, we must remain cautiously optimistic that we will find a way to live with it. Our future cannot be prolonged isolation, face coverings, and limited activities. Our children aren’t learning, our seniors deserve better than to die alone, and the rise in mental health concerns cannot be ignored.
“Finally, the blaming and shaming of a positive covid diagnosis has got to stop. Senate operations are an essential service and precautions were taken to prevent spreading covid; no one was put at any more risk than any other special session. The deliberate choice to use a covid diagnosis as a political tool to blame just Republicans when community spread is uncontrolled is indicative of failed leadership looking for a scapegoat. Minnesotans deserve better.”