Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has had COVID-19 symptoms for the past week and on Sunday he announced that he has tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"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," Gazelka said in a statement.
"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 y wife, Maralee, has tested negative for covid."
Though Gazelka's statement says he's had symptoms since last Monday, his team is now claiming that he didn't have symptoms when he left for a trip to Florida on Monday.
Gazelka, who has opposed Gov. Tim Walz's executive powers that have most recently resulted in limits on social gatherings and closing indoor service at bars and restaurants by 10 p.m, said he hasn't had major issues with his symptoms and expects to fully recover.
Gazelka and the GOP have been under fire after MPR reporter Brian Bakst shared a Tuesday memo from the Republican Senate caucus, which announced that "a number of (GOP) members and staff" had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The memo, which was apparently not sent to Democrats, instructed staffers to work from home and refrain from coming into the office, "even for Thursday's special session."
Gazelka, 61, addressed the situation again in his Sunday statement, saying "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."
His statement is a direct response to Gov. Walz on Saturday criticizing Republicans for failing to inform Democrats of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying the decision put "staff and other senators at risk."