COVID-19 deaths rise above 800; tests decline in August and school case numbers raise questions

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 717 views 

COVID-19 test numbers fell in August compared to July, the first decline in monthly tests since testing began in March. The 3,530 test results reported Tuesday (Sept. 1) were the lowest since early July, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is “confident” the testing shows the virus is not accelerating.

According to figures provided Tuesday during Gov. Hutchinson’s daily COVID briefing, there were 186,379 COVID tests conducted in August, down 13.3% compared with July. Following are the monthly test numbers since March.

• August: 186,379
• July: 214,868
• June: 198,881
• May: 82,506
• April: 38,040
• March: 8,940

“I feel confident that we’re steady, that we’re not escalating our cases,” Gov. Hutchinson said when asked if the lower testing numbers allow state officials to understand the virus spread. “You can see that in the data. But whenever you have increased activity, you’ve got to continue to make sure we do the right thing, follow the guidelines, or we’re going to have an acceleration of cases.”

Gov. Hutchinson set a September testing goal of 180,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 10,000 antigen tests. Antigen tests are not as reliable as PCR tests, but provide on-site results, whereas PCR tests must be processed by a lab.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said the state has distributed 38 antigen testing machines, with two at the University of Arkansas, one at Arkansas State University, and the remainder sent “uniformly” to public health clinics in Arkansas’ five health regions. The tests, Romero said, are typically used to screen those with possible COVID exposure.

Recent numbers from the Arkansas Department of Health show 440 cumulative active cases in all public schools as of Aug. 31, up from 411 on Aug. 27. However, the report also shows 1,198 cumulative COVID cases among faculty, staff and students as of Aug. 31, surprisingly down from the 1,524 cumulative cases as of Aug. 27.

The ADH report also shows 104 active cases at the University of Arkansas as of Aug. 31, but the University of Arkansas reported 222 cases as of Aug. 31. The ADH said the cumulative tally was an error and will be updated, and said the difference in the UA number reflects a lag between what the university reports and when the state publishes its report.

Following are the ADH numbers on COVID cases in public and private schools, and in colleges and universities.

• Public schools
Cumulative active cases
Aug. 31: 440
Aug. 27: 411

Cumulative cases
Aug. 31: 1,198
Aug. 27: 1,524

• Private schools
Cumulative active cases
Aug. 31: 20
Aug. 27: 28

Cumulative cases
Aug. 31: 72
Aug. 27: 96

• Colleges/Universities
Cumulative active cases
Aug. 31: 190
Aug. 27: 77

Cumulative cases
Aug. 31: 367
Aug. 27: 308

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 61,497 on Tuesday, up from 61,224 on Monday, with 3,530 test results from the previous 24 hours. Testing numbers have not been this low since early July. Of the 273 new cases, 15 were from correctional facilities. There are 5,036 active cases.

The number of deaths rose from 797 to 814. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 423 on Tuesday, up from 420 on Monday. There are 85 patients on ventilators, down from 87 on Monday. There are 55,647 cumulative recovered cases. Gov. Hutchinson reported that of those hospitalized since the pandemic began in Arkansas, 78.9% have recovered.

The top four counties with new known cases of more than 20 were: Pulaski (44), Benton (29), Sebastian (24), and Washington (21). The counties accounted for 45.7% of the 258 new community cases.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 6,045,064 U.S. cases and 183,870 deaths. Globally, there were 25,559,850 cases and 852,109 deaths.