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COVID-19 hits home for Minnesota’s most prominent politicians

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz announced on Twitter that he was self-quarantining after a member of his security detail tested positive for the virus.
Monday was the day the coronavirus got personal for Minnesota’s top elected officials.

In short sequence, COVID-19 hit the families of U.S. Amy Klobuchar and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. Klobuchar’s husband John Bessler has been hospitalized for COVID-19 and Flanagan’s brother died over the weekend of complications from the disease.

Then, at 10:15 a.m., Gov. Tim Walz announced on Twitter that he was self-quarantining after a member of his security detail tested positive for the virus.

“The Governor was in close proximity to this individual late last week,” his office wrote. “While the Governor is not showing any symptoms, he will begin his self-quarantine today, Monday, March 23, 2020 until Monday, April 6.”

“The most important thing Minnesotans can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home,” Walz said in a statement. “I’m using this as an opportunity to lead by example. Though I’m feeling healthy and not showing any symptoms, I’m going to work from home and model the protocol we are asking all Minnesotans to follow.”

The governor used his situation as a way to urge others to stay home if they can. His staff had already said he wouldn’t be ordering a shelter in place order at a press briefing today, something governors in California, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts have already done.

“Because our state must maintain essential services, not every Minnesotan is able to stay home,” he said. “Those of us who are able to work from home must do so out of respect to our health care professionals, first responders, pharmacists, grocers, child care providers, and all Minnesotans who are working to keep us safe during this crisis.” 

Klobuchar’s senate office sent out a media release at 9:45 to announce that Bessler was in the hospital. He is an attorney and law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

“I have news that many Americans are facing right now: my husband John has the coronavirus,” Klobuchar wrote. “We just got the test results at 7 a.m. this morning. While I cannot see him and he is of course cut off from all visitors, our daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing. We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person.”

John Bessler
REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi
Daughter Abigail Klobuchar Bessler and husband John Bessler, right, looked on as Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke to supporters in Concord, New Hampshire, in February.
According to Klobuchar, her husband started to feel sick when she was in Minnesota and he in Washington, D.C. He thought it was a simple cold but quarantined himself as a precaution, including not going to his college job.  

Klobuchar said that it has been 14 days since she was last in contact with her husband “my doctor has advised me to not get a test. As everyone is aware, there are test shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don’t qualify to get one under any standard.”

Flanagan announced on Instagram that her brother Ron had died in Tennessee. “Almost exactly two months after we buried our dad, my brother Ron passed away on Saturday,” she wrote. “To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second COVID-related death. But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father, and husband.

“Ron was a tough-as-nails Marine who was a big teddy bear on the inside. He never left my dad’s side during his final weeks and took care of everyone else in the way only he could,” she wrote. “His politics didn’t match mine AT ALL (and we joked about it constantly) but Ron was a very good man who had an amazing capacity to love. I miss him dearly.

“Several weeks ago, Ron was diagnosed with cancer,” Flanagan wrote. “His immune system was compromised and he contracted COVID-19. He was put in a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator. He fought it as hard as he could but it was simply too much for his body. THIS is why we must #stayhomeMN

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan posted this image of her and her brother on Instagram, with a note on his passing.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan posted this image of her and her brother on Instagram, with a note on his passing.
“If you feel fine, that’s great. But please consider the possibility that you’re carrying the virus and don’t know it, and then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public.

COVID-19 now has a personal connection to me. Please do all you can to prevent one for you.”

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Barry Peterson on 03/23/2020 - 11:50 am.

    Heartfelt condolences to LT Governor Flanagan for her loss of both her brother and her dad. Whether or not one agrees with her politics, she is helping millions of employees, moms, dads, and children. Let’s support her at this tragic time.

  2. Submitted by Elaine Frankowski on 03/23/2020 - 12:53 pm.

    My condolences to my U.S. Senator and my Lieutenant Governor. And thanks to them both for using their personal adversity to reinforce the wise messages from scientists: don’t take a test unless your doctor thinks you need one; stay home unless you must be out to protect our community, our “herd.”

    Tests are too scarce to use on everyone right now. Your herd needs tests to be saved for those who need them the most. Going out is a necessity only for those who are saving our lives; the rest of us should suffer all the inconveniences of social isolation to protect the first responders from illness.

    Be well, be good, and defer to the herd’s needs.

  3. Submitted by Robert Ahles on 03/23/2020 - 03:20 pm.

    Do you recall seeing newscasts of China this last January and February during the Corona-19 outbreak? I recall seeing just about everyone in public squares wearing face masks with few if any exceptions. I thought the following article was very informative and I thought I’d just pass it on to you.

    Guidance against wearing masks for the coronavirus is wrong – you should cover your face

  4. Submitted by Leslie Davis on 03/23/2020 - 07:35 pm.

    I wrote, called, and emailed the Lt. Gov. multiple times to brief her on the Davis Money Plan and how it would help Minnesota and she never responded. She does much less important stuff than meeting with me. While I sympathize with her grief, it was more likely that her brother died of cancer rather than C19. Let’s be brave and not whiny over all that’s going on. And would you trust the Minnesota Health Department after the way they handled the lead poisoning of children, electro-magnetic pollution of dairy farmers, mesothelioma of miners, and the fluoridation of our water?

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