Minnesota Department of Health reports today there are 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, after reporting 21 cases yesterday. Over 1,400 have been tested.
Governor Tim Walz today signed Executive Order 20-02, authorizing the temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools to students in order for school administrators and teachers to make long-term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools will be closed to students by Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27 to accommodate this planning between school staff, teachers, and administrators with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
“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.” said Governor Walz. “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.”
Executive Order 20-02 requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers during previously planned school days to ensure Minnesota’s first line of defense against COVID-19 can stay on the job.
“There is nothing more important than the health, safety, and well-being of Minnesotans,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “This decision was made with children and families in mind, as well as our educators, to best support our schools and educational system in the weeks and months ahead and make sure that we have a plan in place for our kids who rely on school for meals and other critical needs.”
The Executive Order also makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need.
“The safety and well-being of our students is always our top priority,” said MDE Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “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.”
The Governor advises and urges Minnesotans to continue following the Minnesota Department of Health’s community mitigation strategies during this temporary closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while students are not in school.
Several schools in the Metro area will close starting Monday, but superintendent Tim Lutz of Bemidji Area Schools says their closure will begin Wednesday.