DULUTH -- Wisconsin schools will be closed beginning Wednesday, March 18, until an anticipated reopening on April 6.
Gov. Tony Evers directed Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order mandating the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, as part of the state’s efforts to respond to and contain the spread of coronavirus in Wisconsin.
The mandated closure was announced in order to give school districts ample time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff. School districts, particularly those in counties with reported cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, may choose to close earlier than Wednesday. The reopening date is subject to change pending further information.
“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers said in a news release.
Earlier Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 11 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 19 cases, including one individual who has recovered.
“Kids and families across Wisconsin often depend on our schools to access food and care,” Evers continued in the news release. “We are going to continue working to do everything we can to ensure kids and families have the resources and support they need while schools are closed.”
State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor issued a statement regarding Evers' executive order.
“The safety and health of our students, educators, and families remain of the highest importance," Stanford Taylor said. "When considering the length of school closures, we are asking our local school districts and local health departments to be in close coordination in making these decisions.
"We know schools are thinking about the anticipated academic and economic impacts, and unintended impacts of these decisions, and are planning for ways to provide critical supports to kids and families, such as food and security."
Stanford Taylor added that the Department of Public Instruction remains in constant communication with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
"We are committed to offering our continuous support to students and educators,” she said.
On Thursday, the governor signed an executive order that directs DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidences of COVID-19. It allows the department to purchase, store, or distribute appropriate medications, regardless of insurance or other health coverage, as needed to respond to the emergency. It also authorizes state funds to support local health departments with costs related to isolation and quarantine, as well as the use of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Decisions about the implementation of other community measures will be made by state and local officials based on CDC and DHS guidance, as well as the scope of the outbreak.
People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:
- Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
- Covering coughs and sneezes;
- Avoiding touching your face;
- Staying home when sick.
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