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Minn. Legislature to shift to remote working, will address new coronavirus response Monday

The news comes as the state announced 14 new cases of the coronavirus, including 3 community transmissions.

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Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, left, discusses how the state is preparing for COVID-19, the coronavirus sweeping the globe, during a news conference with Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders at the State Capitol in St. Paul on Monday, March 2, 2020. Christopher Magan / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Legislature is set to shift its working procedures to allow for more remote working options amid the spread of the coronavirus, legislative leaders announced Sunday, March 15.

In a statement, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, said lawmakers would boost telework efforts, increase social distancing and cleaning at the Capitol and attempt to limit large gatherings.

And they said they would provide additional details about the new efforts Monday morning at the Capitol. The leaders said they would continue work remotely and in-person as needed on an on-call basis from Monday, March 16 to April 14.

The move comes as the Minnesota Department of Health reported 35 cases of COVID-19, the illness that stems from the coronavirus. So far 1,422 people in the state have been tested. And three of those cases stemmed from community transmission, which means the source of the infection was unclear.

“We are working together to ensure the safety of our members, our staff, and the public at this time," they wrote.

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State leaders on Sunday also announced that K-12 schools in the state would close Wednesday or earlier and teachers would start directing distance learning until at least March 28.

Gov. Tim Walz signed Executive Order 20-02, authorizing the temporary closure of Minnesota public schools, on Sunday. The order also 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."

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Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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