Minnesota state lawmaker dies of coronavirus complications

Published 9:36 pm Saturday, December 19, 2020

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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.

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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.