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Gazelka says essential Capitol workers should be COVID-19 vaccine priority group

Minnesota's Senate Majority Leader said essential Capitol staff should be in line behind the elderly and frontline workers.
Credit: KARE

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's Senate Majority Leader says some state Capitol employees should be a COVID-19 vaccine priority group.

Republican Sen. Paul Gazelka said in a forum hosted by Fluence Media that he thinks the 2021 session will be done in a hybrid model, with some sessions virtual and some in person.

“And I’m encouraging the vaccines as one of the priority groups after elderly and some of our frontline workers that we think about the people who have to be essential at the Capitol,” Gazelka said in the forum.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent said she appreciates Gazelka's comment but said she has concerns about meeting in person next year, according to KARE 11 news partner, MPR News.

“We have an obligation to our own communities. If we come together and if people come to the Legislature and intermingle and go back to all over the state of Minnesota, that’s how spread happens,” she said in the Fluence Media forum. "We have an obligation not just to ourselves and our staff, both partisan and nonpartisan, but to the people of Minnesota to make sure that we’re not irresponsibly being a vector for the spread of this disease.”

House Minority Leader Republican Kurt Daudt said he would "absolutely" take the vaccine right away because he has "complete confidence in it."

"But I won't, because it needs to go to people that need it, it needs to go to those high-risk folks," Daudt said. "And the sooner we can get it to folks in nursing homes, that will slowly help us to open up."

Daudt did acknowledge that at some point he would support high-risk people in the Capitol, or those with high-risk household members, getting the vaccine.

"If that helps us get back in person sooner, I would support that," he said.

Representatives Steve Drazkowski, Tim Miller, Cal Bahr, and Jeremy Munson, members of the New House Republican Caucus, issued a statement on Friday.

"During the last few days, several government officials have discussed the possibility of state legislators in Minnesota receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before the Minnesota public. We want to be clear on this issue, the citizens of Minnesota must be the priority when it comes to vaccine rollout, not self-interested politicians," the statement reads. "Front line workers, elderly populations, health care professionals, first responders, and vulnerable groups must be put first."

Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent also issued a written statement after her comments during the forum.

“First and foremost, we need to prioritize vaccination for the populations that are most affected, such as health care workers, older Minnesotans, and people with chronic illnesses," Kent wrote. "It’s also critical that the Minnesotans that help our society return to normal, like teachers and child care workers, have access to a vaccine.”