With a rise in COVID-19 cases at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the Labor Day weekend is a “critical time” in determining if all involved are able to prevent significant outbreaks at colleges and universities.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported Thursday (Sept. 3) 211 new known COVID cases in Washington County (home of the UA), with 81% of those among ages 18 to 24. In Jefferson County, where UAPB is based, there were 38 cases with around 50% among college-age demographics, Gov. Hutchinson said during his daily COVID briefing.
The UA was on Thursday reporting 399 active COVID cases among students and faculty.
Gov. Hutchinson called on college students to better follow health guidelines and to take “more seriously than the average college student takes a pandemic.” He said college students must be careful during their off-campus activities during the Labor Day weekend in order to avoid the COVID case count from rising higher.
“It’s just a signal that we have a lot of work to do here in Arkansas, that the virus is still out in our community in various ways, and we have to protect each other,” Gov. Hutchinson said of Thursday’s COVID report. “And I want to urge all of the college students, as we go into the Labor Day weekend … you’ve got to be cautious over this weekend, because 900 cases can be 1,500 cases. 211 cases in Washington County could become 500 cases in Washington County.”
Although acknowledging that the biggest challenge in containing the virus among college students is what happens off-campus, Gov. Hutchinson said he is not going to close bars and restaurants in college towns. He said it’s up to bar and restaurant owners to follow the “strict guidelines in place.”
“I am calling on all of our establishment owners to help us. It’s in your interests to make sure that our students are encouraged to do the right thing, and that you set the right example,” he said.
Gov. Hutchinson also said he does not see the need for him to regulate certain colleges or universities because he trusts plans in place for the higher education system to respond to COVID cases.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero doubled down on the governor’s holiday weekend warning.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of this (being careful during the Labor Day weekend), because this will increase significantly more if it’s not brought under control now,” Romero said.
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 63,081 on Thursday, up from 62,112 on Wednesday, with 7,827 test results from the previous 24 hours. Of the 969 new cases, 23 were from correctional facilities. There are 5,331 active cases.
The number of deaths rose from 841 to 861. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 425 on Thursday, down from 435 on Wednesday. There are 91 patients on ventilators, up from 90 on Wednesday. There are 56,889 cumulative recovered cases.
The top five counties with new known cases were: Washington (211), Pulaski (90), Benton (47), Jefferson (38), and Sebastian (36). The counties accounted for 44.6% of the 946 new community cases.
As of Thursday at 1 p.m., there were 6,125,916 U.S. cases and 186,185 deaths. Globally, there were 26,102,099 cases and 864,691 deaths.