Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced this morning at a press conference that he is ordering K-12 public schools across the state to close by Wednesday and remain closed through March 27 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said this order allows “for school administrators and teachers to make long-term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” It “requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of healthcare professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers” so those individuals can stay on the job. It also “makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need.” Employee’s will continue to receive pay and transportation resources may be used to deliver meals to children at home. This plan will also help the state prepare to close for the school year if needed. The state will monitor hour by hour over the next two weeks.

School planning kits and documents are being sent out this morning. The decision affects more than 850,000 K-12 students and more than 135,000 teachers and staff in public K-12 schools across the state. Some districts had already announced plans to close Monday and Tuesday.

Minnesota’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose from 14 on Friday to 21 on Saturday.