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Republican State Senator Who Voted Against COVID-19 Measures Dies From Coronavirus

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Minnesota State Sen. Jerry Relph (R) has died from the coronavirus after being exposed to an outbreak during a GOP party at the State Capitol.

Relph, 76, went into self-quarantine on Nov. 10 after learning of his exposure at a large dinner party held by Republicans on Nov. 5 at the statehouse and began experiencing symptoms three days later, local station WCCO-TV reports.

Relph had voted along with all 35 Republicans and one Democratic state senator in July to suspend the peacetime emergency declared by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to handle the pandemic.

“The emergency declaration was made so we could prepare for the projected surge and flatten the curve,” Relph said at the time. “Those goals have been accomplished and we no longer have any need for the emergency to be dealt with unilaterally by Gov. Walz.”

Relph narrowly lost re-election to Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party candidate Aric Putnam before testing positive for the deadly virus.

DFL members called for the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka after the Nisswa Republican, Relph and state Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) all tested positive for the virus but did not notify Capitol staff of the outbreak.

“Republican caucus members engaged in high-risk behaviors,” said DFL Senate Leader Susan Kent. “Gazelka misled Minnesotans about their actions and they have made excuses instead of being accountable,” he added, according to WCCO-TV.

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