Despite widespread vaccine availability, Senate DFL wants to keep restrictions in place

Sen. Susan Kent tweeted that Senate Republicans “believe the rules shouldn’t apply to them" following Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka's decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on the Senate floor.

Left: Sen. Susan Kent/Facebook. Right: Sen. Paul Gazelka/Facebook.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is facing criticism for his decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions for members of the Senate during floor sessions.

Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, a Democrat, said the decision was “premature,” going into effect before restrictions are lifted for all of Minnesota.

“The Senate should lead by example for the rest of the state around workplace safety, not create exceptions for ourselves,” she said.

She noted in a statement that Gazelka did not discuss the matter with any DFL leaders or the COVID-19 Working Group in the Senate, but moved forward with the announcement anyway.

“The policy change shows real disregard for others who work in the Senate,” Kent said, noting that many “DFL and non-partisan staff and members are not yet fully vaccinated” and making no mention of Republican senators and staff.

It’s possible, however, that the majority of Senate members and staff have been vaccinated, but a spokesperson said the Senate does not require disclosure of vaccination status. Since March 30, all Minnesotans over the age of 16 have been eligible to receive the vaccine, and supply is beginning to outpace demand, MinnPost reported. Sixty percent of Minnesotans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Kent herself has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and probably both at this point.

Kent also said in a tweet that Senate Republicans “put others at risk” and “believe the rules shouldn’t apply to them.”

While the Legislature is legally exempt from following executive orders, Kent said, “we shouldn’t be exempt from basic respect and concern for others.”

The Minnesota DFL also released a statement on Friday calling out Gazelka for “playing politics with [the] pandemic [and] public health.”

“Unfortunately for Minnesotans, this is nothing new for Gazelka and his Republican colleagues, who repeatedly pushed to completely reopen Minnesota during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a press release from the Minnesota DFL states.

Gazelka announced on Friday that masks and social distancing would no longer be required on the Senate floor.

Gov. Tim Walz’s rollback on restrictions includes capacity limits and social distancing until May 28 and masks until July 1 or when 70% of the population above 16 years old is vaccinated.