St Paul (KROC-AM News) - The thousands of health care workers in southeast Minnesota and elsewhere in the state played a major role in the decision by Gov. Walz to close K-12 schools.

When asked last Friday about his decision then to keep schools open, Walz said one of his main concerns was the impact that would have on health-care workers who are needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His new order addresses that concern by directing school districts “to provide care to students aged 12 and under who are children of emergency workers (including providers of healthcare, emergency medical services, long-term and post-acute care, law enforcement personnel; personnel providing correctional services, public health employees, firefighters and other first responders and court personnel).”

School employees have been directed to "report to work in accordance with applicable labor agreements and as required by their employers to assist with the emergency management planning activities.”

The order also directs districts to continue paying hourly workers. He is also asking employers to be mindful of parents affected by the closure.

The state will reduce the minimum days and hours of instruction required for districts and charter schools by the number of days and hours of instruction during the closure period.

The order also directs "schools and school districts, in cooperation with state agencies, to support communities disproportionately impacted by inequities, including, but not limited to, low-income families and families experiencing homelessness. Schools are expected to provide meals to their students during the closure."

Walz has also directed the Department of Human Services "to submit a proposal addressing strategies to continue supports for center-based and family child care centers, accommodate the continuation of child care providers, and enable providers to serve new families needing care because they are assisting in emergency relief."

Also, "state agencies will create a hotline specifically to address child care provider concerns and prioritize establishing mechanisms for financial, operational, and other technical assistance resources that will enable providers to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic."

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