Gov. Tim Walz ordered the temporary closure of all K-12 public schools in Minnesota Sunday in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the executive order, all schools will be closed to students by Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27 to accommodate teachers and administrators as they devise a long-term plan for responding to the virus.
“My top priority as governor is the safety of Minnesotans. As a former teacher, and father of two teenage kids, I’m especially focused on the safety of our children,” Walz said during a press conference.
“I am ordering the temporary closure of schools so educators can make plans to provide a safe learning environment for all Minnesota students during this pandemic. Closing schools is never an easy decision, but we need to make sure we have plans in place to educate and feed our kids regardless of what’s to come,” he continued.
He said the “decision to close schools has a magnitude of consequences that will change life in Minnesota.”
As such, his executive order requires schools to provide care for the elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers so the “first line of defense against COVID-19 can stay on the job.”
Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said public schools need to prepare distance learning opportunities in the event that schools are closed for more than eight days.
“The safety and well-being of our students is always our top priority,” she said. “That is why we are committed to creating an education delivery model that can sustain learning, no matter the circumstances. Minnesota has long valued education and we will continue to work with our school leaders to ensure that our students continue to receive the education they need and deserve. Educators are caring, creative people and I am confident they are going to work to meet the needs of our students in these extraordinary times.”
As of Sunday afternoon, Minnesota had 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – up 14 from Saturday’s 21 confirmed cases. Counties with a confirmed case now include Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Stearns, Waseca, Washington, and Wright.
Health officials also confirmed the first three cases of “community transmission” of the virus, meaning it is now spreading among people who haven’t traveled out of the state.
Gov. Walz declared a peacetime emergency in Minnesota during a Friday press conference and said his team is “working around the clock to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
The state has tested 1422 patients for the virus as of Sunday and plans to test at least one hundred people per day. The governor sent a letter Friday to Vice President Mike Pence asking the federal government to increase Minnesota’s access to COVID-19 testing kits to a minimum of 15,000 tests per month and said the state’s public health lab has been “forced to ration the number of tests performed.”
Walz’s full press conference can be watched below:
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