Walz, Flanagan quarantined after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The governor's spokesman said the pair, along with Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, were around a staffer who was later confirmed to have the illness Monday at a news conference.

Walz Flanagan quarantining
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks with Democratic lawmakers Monday, March 15, 2021, about the recently passed American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief package. Wednesday, March 17, Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and health commissioner Jan Malcolm began quarantining after possible exposure to COVID-19 by a governor's staff member Monday. The only event on Walz's public schedule Monday was at the Mall of America with Flanagan and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as U.S. Reps. Angie Craig and Betty McCollum. (Screenshot courtesy of KSTP-TV livestream)
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan are set to quarantine following potential exposure to a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19, the governor's spokesman announced Wednesday, March 17.

Walz abruptly canceled a morning appearance at a vaccination clinic in St. Cloud on Wednesday morning with just 10 minutes' notice. In the hours that followed, inquiries about what spurred the absence went unanswered.

Around 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Walz's spokesman Teddy Tschann said the governor, lieutenant governor and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Monday had been in a room with a staff member who later learned they had COVID-19. The staff member took a test on Tuesday and got results confirming they had COVID-19 on Wednesday morning.

The news of the possible exposure and decision by each to enter 10-day quarantine reignited calls from state health officials to take the pandemic seriously and to keep up mitigation measures until Minnesota reaches herd immunity.

While the three weren't within 6 feet of the person for more than 15 minutes, "they were in the same room as the staff member for the duration of a press conference on Monday," Tschann said. The governor also rescheduled his State of the State address, which was scheduled for Sunday, March 21.


"In the meantime, Gov. Walz looks forward to communicating with Minnesotans virtually," Tschann said.

The only news conference on Walz's public schedule for Monday, March 15, was at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Walz appeared alongside U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as U.S. Reps. Angie Craig and Betty McCollum.

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Spokespeople for Klobuchar, Smith, Craig and McCollum said via email that none of the four congresswomen came within 6 feet of the infected staffer for more than 15 minutes Monday, not meeting the CDC's definition of "close contact" that requires quarantine. All of the lawmakers wore face masks throughout the press conference, except when they were speaking, and they are fully vaccinated.

Flanagan has received one dose of the Moderna vaccine and Malcolm remained in the 14-day waiting period after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Walz has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, citing a desire to wait his turn to get a shot.

"I'm going to do my part to limit the potential risk to anyone else should I be infectious," Malcolm told reporters. "While we are so close to the end of this pandemic, we can see it from here, we absolutely have to continue to take COVID-19 seriously."

Another potential exposure by a Walz staff member last year sent the governor and his family into a 14-day quarantine period. The governor delivered the 2020 State of the State address from the basement of the governor's residence via a live stream.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson and Sarah Mearhoff @sarah_mearhoff .

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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