The controversy over the Senate GOP's recent COVID-19 outbreak continues, with the legislature's top Republican in particular facing renewed backlash.
In the latest development in this ongoing saga — which began earlier this month when it was revealed that Republicans had withheld their outbreak from their DFL colleagues — a new report says Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is refusing to disclose the number of senators and staff diagnosed with COVID-19.
According to Minnesota Reformer, DFL state Sen. Matt Klein wrote Gazelka this week asking how many in his caucus had tested positive for the virus, and which of those had attended the Nov. 12 special session; Gazelka replied that Klein's request "falls outside of the Senate’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, dated and distributed Senate-wide on September 28.”
The news site says he also cited privacy reasons, but Klein responded that the requested information could be shared “in a way that respects privacy concerns, by not naming individual members.”
(You can read Minnesota Reformer's full story right here.)
This past week, Gazelka — who was among at least four Republican state senators diagnosed with COVID-19 — admitted that the GOP could have handled the outbreak and its information-sharing "differently."
The statement also took some responsibility for a post-election party held by senate Republicans in Lake Elmo, which reportedly had an attendance of 100 to 150 people, many of whom were not wearing face masks.
It also emerged that the GOP had neglected to inform the Lake Elmo Inn & Event Center, which hosted the Nov. 5 dinner party, about the outbreak.
In a Friday interview with WCCO Radio, Gazelka defended the Lake Elmo event, saying it was "legal" — but he did acknowledge that holding an indoor party where guests are consuming food and beverages made it "tricky" to wear masks properly.
He added that he doesn't "regret that we had the celebration," noting the significance of Republican victories on Election Night; he also compared the event to the "Biden celebrators" who "suspended social distancing" to hold outdoor rallies following the president-elect's win.
Minnesota is in the midst of another COVID-19 surge, with 750 people succumbing to the virus this month.