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Governor Walz to announce 'sweeping' education plan Monday

The governor will address Minnesota at 2 p.m. Monday.
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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will hold a press conference Monday afternoon in what a press release from his administration says will be to announce a "sweeping education plan." 

The press conference will be held at 2 p.m. "to announce an education plan to address the immediate impact of the pandemic while building a world-class education system that prepares every student for success." 

Joining Walz will be Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Vikings legend Alan Page. 

Students will also be part of the press conference. 

The news conference is scheduled as some Minnesota schools have already begun bringing elementary students back into classrooms for in-person instruction, with many more districts planning full-on in-person learning beginning in February. 

Students will be returning to their full classrooms in many districts, meaning social distancing won't be possible at a time when the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have dropped to their lowest points since before the November surge.

But how long the lower case numbers last is unknown, though University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm has said as recently as last week that he expects the B.1.1.7. strain of the coronavirus to cause major problems in the United States, including in Minnesota. 

Osterholm believes the coronavirus variant could become the dominant strain in Minnesota in March, which is why he is advising Hennepin County District Court to delay the murder trial for former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin, which is scheduled to begin with jury selection on March 8. 

"Right now we have that virus here in the United States and it is spreading at this point and it is very likely that by mid to end of February into March we could see major increase again in our transmission here in Minnesota as well around the country," Ostersholm said in an interview with WCCO Radio last week. 

Students returning to school urged to get tested 

Meanwhile, Minnesota has updated its COVID-19 guidance to state that any children or college students returning to classes, youth sports, or extracurricular activities should get tested for the virus.

The Minnesota Department of Health says its new guidance is focused on ages 12-25, though families are also advised to get elementary-age students tested ahead of a time when schools across the state gradually reopen their buildings for in-person instruction.

The department is expanding its recommendations for who should get tested for the virus to include:

  • Students returning to school, youth sports, or extracurricular activities.
  • College or trade school students returning to campus or classes.
  • Anyone who regularly interacts with people outside of their family unit or household.

These categories are in addition to existing recommendations for testing, which states anyone with symptoms, anyone exposed to someone who tested positive, and anyone working at places that remain open during the pandemic should get tested.

Vaccine distribution is happened at Minnesota schools, though supplies are extremely limited so not all teachers and staff will have received any vaccine doses by the time students are back for in-person instruction. 

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