The Minnesota GOP is once again under scrutiny for holding party events without observing COVID-19 face mask or social distancing recommendations.
Pictures shared in an email newsletter from Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan show a large group of party members gathered at a weekend retreat in Deadwood, South Dakota, none of whom are wearing face masks or observing distancing advice.
Unlike Minnesota, South Dakota has no statewide business restrictions in place nor does it have a face mask mandate, but mask-wearing and mitigation efforts such as limiting close contact have been cited by health experts and scientists the world over as crucial for preventing the spread of the virus.
It comes a little over two months after Senate Republicans were heavily criticized for hosting a post-election dinner party in the Twin Cities where few masks were worn.
Several senators tested positive for COVID-19 after the event, with one of them – St. Cloud Sen. Jerry Relph – dying from complications of the virus.
And it comes after a year in which some state Republicans have downplayed the severity of the pandemic, refused to wear masks inside the State Capitol, and opposed business restriction measures designed to prevent the virus' spread.
One of the most prominent opponents of COVID restrictions is South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has consistently ignored masking advice during campaign visits and touted her hands-off approach to the virus, despite South Dakota having the sixth highest per capita death rate in the country.
Carnahan's report about the Deadwood retreat is titled "A Free State," and she noted: "If only Gov. Walz would take a page out of Gov. Noem's playbook."
South Dakota Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden and State Auditor Rich Sattgast were among the guest speakers at the retreat, per Carnahan.
Among the Minnesota lawmakers in attendance were Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, – who was one of eight senators sworn in earlier this month while not wearing face masks – and Rep. Greg Boe, R-Chaska.
Bring Me The News has reached out to the Minnesota GOP for comment.