As schools across Arkansas prepare to reopen on Aug. 24, state officials are asking local district leaders to communicate with the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Education for guidance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today (Aug. 20) that the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) has been able to increase the level of data for school districts to show the number of new cases over the past 14 days per 10,000 residents, the trends for the number of new cases and the number of tests at the county level.
He said that school districts will have “more options for modifications of operations as needed depending upon the level of risk in their particular community.”
Secretary of Education Johnny Key also pointed out that the Arkansas Department of Education has established three different response levels with guidance for school districts to consider certain adjustments in relation to the level of risk.
He emphasized that the new ACHI data is “a tool, a data point, but not the only data point,” and that the three different response levels with guidance is not a “policy document.”
According to Key, there are other local contexts that should be taken into consideration as well. For example, some communities have isolated events at churches, human development centers and other facilities with new cases.
“What this does is provide more flexibility for school leaders and superintendents to make these decisions on how to adjust their plans, how to adjust their on-site learning operations and make the modifications accordingly,” said Key.
Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero reported 549 new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas, bringing the cumulative number of cases to 54,765. While the number of hospitalizations has not changed from yesterday at 499, the number of related deaths has increased by 10 to 641.
The number of active cases continues to decline as the number of recoveries increases. Romero said the number of recoveries has reached 48,558, up 792 from yesterday.
There have been 115,915 PCR tests and 10,358 antigen tests completed across the state since the beginning of August.
Romero stressed the importance of individuals needing to quarantine for 14 days if they have been exposed to the virus and tested negative.
“A negative test does not mean that you have not been infected by the virus,” he said. “It only means that the virus has not decided to make enough of itself to detect.