Governor closing Minnesota schools for COVID-19 planning

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday ordered public schools to temporarily close to give administrators and teachers time to make plans for switching to distance learning as the number of people with COVID-19 increases.

Schools will be closed to kindergarten through 12th grade students by Wednesday and will remain shut down through March 27, the governor said at a news conference. Some schools have already announced plans to close by Monday or Tuesday.

“While children have proven to be less vulnerable to this virus (and) we haven’t seen significant spreading in our schools, we do anticipate that COVID-19 will have a sizable impact on our education system in the coming weeks, months and potentially the coming year,” Walz said. “We cannot wait until the pandemic is in our schools to figure things out.”

The governor said the number of cases in Minnesota had risen to 35 as of Sunday morning, up 14 from Saturday.

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 people recover within weeks.

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.

On Friday, he 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.

“The one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that Minnesotans pull together in time of challenge,” said Walz, a former high school teacher and football coach. “Minnesotans care for their neighbors. Minnesotans plan and prepare as well as any people, and we are prepared to take this head on.”

According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases of COVID-19 recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases may take three to six weeks to get better. More than 156,000 people have been infected, and more than 73,900 have recovered. More than 5,800 people have died.