MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday ordered all of Minnesota’s K-12 schools to temporarily close starting Wednesday in the hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The executive order 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.

RELATED: Coronavirus Resource Page

The governor set March 27 as the reopening date for schools after an 8-day period of “distant learning” planning for educators. Walz announced during his press conference on Sunday that the number of cases of COVID-19 in the state has risen from 21 to 35.

CLOSINGS: Click here for the list of school closings.

“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.” 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. 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.”

The executive order also makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need.

RELATED: Coronavirus In Minnesota: COVID-19 Cases Rise To 35

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

On Friday, Walz declared a peacetime emergency, as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to expand across the state.

For most people affected by COVID-19, symptoms are mild. However, the disease can be threatening to the elderly and people with sensitive lungs. Even so, the vast majority of people who get the virus recover. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, health officials are urging the public to wash their hands regularly, stay home if sick and avoid close contact with people.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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