A Republican state senator from Minnesota who tested positive for the coronavirus last month has died, his wife said in a written statement.
“I’m heartbroken to share that my husband, Jerry Relph, has passed away and entered his heavenly home,” his wife, Pegi Broker-Relph, said Friday. “Jerry dedicated his life to service and representing Senate District 14 was one of the highest honors he had.”
Mr. Relph, 76, represented a region that includes St. Cloud. He was a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and had worked as an attorney and businessman.
“He loved serving the people of St. Cloud in the Senate, and he cherished every minute of it,” she said.
Several state senators, including Mr. Relph, tested positive for the virus after attending a caucus leadership meeting on Nov. 5 and a post-election party that evening with more than 100 people present, local media outlets reported.
Mr. Relph began quarantining on Nov. 10, after being informed that he had been in close contact with someone who had the virus at the Senate, said Rachel Aplikowski, the communications director for the Senate Republicans. He received positive test results on Nov. 13, and went to the emergency room twice with symptoms but was not hospitalized, she said.
His condition had worsened in recent weeks, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
On social media, friends and colleagues poured out their condolences. “Covid-19 has claimed the life of Sen. Jerry Relph. I will remember him as a kind man and dedicated public servant,” Laurie Halverson, a member of the state House of Representatives, said on Twitter.
Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, called Mr. Relph’s passing “terrible news.” “Jerry lived his entire life in service to his community,” Mr. Walz wrote on Twitter.
In mid-November, Minnesota was announcing new single-day records of coronavirus cases, and daily new case reports in Minnesota had doubled in the time since Halloween, prompting the state health department to warn residents that even small gatherings pose risks of transmission.
Since then, new case numbers have declined. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,989 cases per day — a decrease of 52 percent from the average two weeks earlier, while deaths have risen 17 percent.
Other state legislators have died from Covid, including New Hampshire’s new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives earlier this month. In North Dakota, David Dean Andahl, a Republican known as “Dakota Dave,” was elected posthumously to the state House of Representatives after dying from the virus.