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Governor closing Minnesota schools for COVID-19 planning

Associated Press

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Medical staff wearing safety garments assist a driver at a new coronavirus drive-up test clinic, one of several in the metropolitan Twin Cities area, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Bloomington, Minn. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday ordered the temporary shutdown of public schools to allow administrators and teachers to make plans to combat COVID-19 as new cases continue to grow.

Schools will be closed to kindergarten through 12th grade students by Wednesday and will remain shut down through March 27, the governor said.

“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,” Walz said in a release. “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.”

Walz said Sunday the number of cases of the new coronavirus in Minnesota had risen to 35, up 14 from Saturday. Among the new cases was a person in their 30s in Renville County, in southwestern Minnesota.

Walz’s order requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of healthcare professionals, first responders and other emergency personnel during previously planned school days to make sure those workers can continue their defense against the virus.

“There is nothing more important than the health, safety and well-being of Minnesotans,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said.

While investigations are not complete yet, the state’s infectious disease director, Kris Ehresmann, said the cases had clear links to someone with confirmed COVID-19 or to a travel history, either domestic or international.

On Friday, Walz declared a peacetime state of emergency and issued a series of recommendations for Minnesotans to take to limit the spread of the disease, such as canceling or postponing gatherings of 250 people or more.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of victims recover.