"We love him very much and pray for his recovery," the Minnesota senator said in a statement on Monday. "He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person"

By Adam Carlson
March 23, 2020 11:14 AM

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Monday morning that her husband, John Bessler, has been hospitalized in Virginia with pneumonia after contracting the novel coronavirus that has sickened more than 33,000 people in America.

“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,” Klobuchar, 59, said in a statement. “We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person.

“Not being able to be there at the hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease,” said the senator, who was a presidential candidate until earlier this month.

Bessler, 52, “now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator,” Klobuchar said.

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She said he first started to feel sick while in the Washington, D.C., area — he teaches at the University of Baltimore’s law school — “and like so many others who have had the disease, he thought it was just a cold.”

“Yet he immediately quarantined himself just in case and stopped going to his job teaching in Baltimore,” Klobuchar said. “He kept having a temperature and a bad, bad cough and when he started coughing up blood he got a test and a chest X-ray and they checked him into a hospital in Virginia because of a variety of things including very low oxygen levels which haven’t really improved.”

The test results confirming his diagnosis of coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, came in at 7 a.m. Monday.

“I hope he will be home soon,” Klobuchar said.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (center) with daughter Abigail (left) and husband John Bessler

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She noted, however, that she was not going to be tested for the virus because “John and I have been in different places for the last two weeks and I am outside the 14-day period for getting sick” and so her doctor had advised against it.

“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,” she said.

“I know so many Americans are going through this and so much worse right now,” she said. “So I hope and pray for you, just as I hope you will do for my husband. Meanwhile I am working in the Senate to get help to the American people.”

The new coronavirus, which first emerged in China in late 2019, has infected more than 353,000 people worldwide as of Monday morning, including about 33,000 people in the U.S., according to available data.

There were 428 deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. and about 15,400 deaths globally.

Political figures, whose jobs require extensive contact with the public, have been vulnerable to infection as have their families (though in Klobuchar’s case she said her husband had not been with her in recent weeks).

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul confirmed over the weekend he had tested positive for the virus. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive earlier this month after a trip to the U.K.

Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have tested negative after coming into contact with people who later discovered they had the virus.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.

Health officials have also urged people around the country to practice “social distancing” and avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible to slow new infections.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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