New report to show COVID-19 cases per school; Hurricane damage results in emergency declaration

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,025 views 

The Arkansas Department of Health will, beginning Thursday (Aug. 27), post information on COVID-19 cases in school districts, with the data updated twice a week. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the data will provide a baseline to measure the virus as schools open to in-class instruction.

Gov. Hutchinson and Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key said the new report will include new known COVID cases and active cases among teachers, staff and students for all public schools, most private schools and higher education institutions. The data, which goes back to June 15, also includes students and any faculty included in virtual learning. Districts with fewer than five cases will not be listed in the report, but their numbers will be included in the totals, Key said.

The first report shows there are 222 cases in all public and private school districts between June 15 and Aug. 27. Gov. Hutchinson, who initially thought there were 30,000 students returning to school until corrected by Key that 480,000 students were returning, said 222 is a “very modest number” when considering the total.

“So you think about 480,000 students that we have out there, with this number it’s no surprise at all,” Gov. Hutchinson said when asked if the number was higher than he expected.

He also said the new report will give state officials, school officials, parents, and others a way to know the extent of COVID spread in each school district.

“We will be able to measure from that, you know, two weeks from now, three weeks, four weeks from now. I expect that number to go up. But, we will see,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Following are the top five school districts when measuring the most active cases.
• Fort Smith: 17
• Little Rock: 15
• Hector: 13
• Lead Hill: 11
• North Little Rock (tie): 10
• Van Buren (tie) 10

Following are the top five school districts when measuring the most cumulative active cases since June 15.
• Fort Smith: 57
• Little Rock: 41
• Springdale: 31
• Van Buren: 29
• Bryant (tie): 24
• DeQueen (tie): 24

The report also shows there have been 411 cumulative active cases in public schools, 28 in private schools that report to the Arkansas Department of Health, and 77 cases in colleges and universities between June 15 and Aug. 27.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 58,745 on Thursday, up from 58,023 on Wednesday, with 6,682 test results from the previous 24 hours. Of the 722 new cases, 71 were from correctional facilities. There are 5,341 active cases.

The number of deaths rose from 732 to 739. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 433 on Thursday, down from 435 on Wednesday. There are 99 patients on ventilators, down from 108 on Wednesday. There are 52,665 cumulative recovered cases.

The top five counties with new known cases were: Pulaski (64), Benton and Sebastian with 37 each, Pope (34), Jefferson (32) and White (29). The six counties accounted for 35.8% of the 651 new community cases. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said White County numbers reflect 19 cases from a nursing home.

As of Thursday at 1 p.m., there were 5,843,293 U.S. cases and 180,118 deaths. Globally, there were 24,266,622 cases and 827,527 deaths.

Gov. Hutchinson also said during his daily COVID briefing that President Donald Trump had declared a state of emergency in Arkansas because of the damage from Hurricane Laura that hit Louisiana about 1 a.m. Thursday.

The governor also ordered three high-water teams with the Arkansas National Guard to support Arkansas State Police Troops F, G and K with emergency response operations. According to the Guard, six light medium tactical vehicles (LMTV), two Humvees and 24 Guard members are stationed in Hope, and three LMTVs, one Humvee and 12 Guard members are in Texarkana.

An LMTV is a 2.5-ton cargo truck that offers high ground clearance, allowing them to operate safely in up to four feet of water. Each LMTV can carry up to 15 people, which includes a 3-person operating crew.

Entergy, which serves most electric utility customers in south Arkansas, reported early Thursday afternoon there were 17,706 customer outages in Arkansas, down from a peak of 18,086. The New Orleans-based utility reported around 260,000 outages in Louisiana and 158,000 in Texas.