Minnesota state lawmaker dies of coronavirus complications

MINNEAPOLIS — A state senator from St. Cloud has died of complications related to COVID-19.

The Star Tribune reports 76-year-old Jerry Relph was the first Minnesota lawmaker to succumb to the virus.

Relph was among a number of Republican legislators who contracted COVID-19 after contact with colleagues in mid-November. At the time, Rachel Aplikowski, the Senate GOP spokeswoman, said Relph tested positive after having had close contact with someone in the chamber who had the virus.

Relph started quarantining on Nov. 10 and did not attend that week’s special session. He was also excused from a special session this week.

In a statement confirming the news of Relph’s death late Friday, his wife, Pegi Broker-Relph, said her husband “dedicated his life to service.”

First elected in 2016, Relph recently lost in a close race for reelection against DFLer Aric Putnam. Before serving in the Senate, Relph had a career as a small-business owner and attorney, and previously worked for 3M. Relph served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

Shortly after the virus hit in March, Relph authored a $21 million COVID-19 response bill to buffer the state’s public health emergency response resources.

State health officials on Saturday reported 57 more deaths due to COVID-19 and more than 2,700 new coronavirus cases.

Since the pandemic began, the state has reported 394,635 positive cases, 20,468 hospitalizations and 4,780 deaths.

Residents of long-term care and assisted-living facilities accounted for 34 of the newly announced deaths, and 3,104 deaths since the start of the pandemic.