A day after it was revealed that GOP state Sen. Dave Senjem tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a Nov. 5 party caucus, news broke that Republican senators and staffers were informed in a Tuesday memo that “a number of [GOP Senate] members and staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
DFLers were not informed of the rash of cases on the other side of the aisle.
In the memo, Craig Sondag, the Senate Republican chief of staff, declined to reveal the names of the infected, citing a balance between the infected people’s right to privacy and the need of their contacts to know they had been exposed. He instructed all GOP Senate staffers to work from home, including during Thursday’s special session.
The memo, the authenticity of which was confirmed to the Star Tribune by Senate spokeswoman Rachel Aplikowski, was first reported by Minnesota Public Radio. MPR also reported that Sen. Paul T. Anderson, R-Plymouth, has tested positive for COVID-19.
The news that GOP senators and staffers were warned that COVID was spreading in their ranks but DFLers were not was met with distress late Friday.
“It is outrageous and completely unacceptable that Senate DFLers were not notified of the recent COVID-19 outbreak among Senate Republicans prior to Thursday’s floor session,” Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, said in a statement. “This lack of transparency is a blatant disregard for the health and safety of others: our DFL and nonpartisan staff, members, and the communities we go home to.”
Aplikowski said Thursday night that Senjem, of Rochester, tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend.
Senjem, 77, was tested Sunday and got the news that he had tested positive Monday night. Days before Senjem’s saliva test, he attended the Nov. 5 GOP caucus meeting in St. Paul.
Aplikowski said that during Thursday’s special session, masks and social distancing were employed and many members from both caucuses used remote voting to participate.
DFL legislators who previously have tested positive include Sen. Dan Sparks of Austin, Rep. Fue Lee of Minneapolis and Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul.
Staff writers Pamela Miller and Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.