The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the Natural State and since mid-September the transmission rate in Northeast Arkansas has been the highest in the state, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The growth rate in the region was 7.4% from Sept. 13-19. It outpaced central Arkansas, which had a growth rate of 5.7%.
The number of cases and deaths in the region per county continued to rise at a dramatic rate. Mississippi County had 1,619 confirmed cases as of Wednesday (Sept. 23) and a region leading 50 deaths. Craighead County had 2,646 confirmed cases, the most in Northeast Arkansas, with 21 deaths. Crittenden County had 1,895 cases with 45 reported deaths.
St. Francis County, once the epicenter of new cases in the region, now has at least 1,478 cases with five deaths. Lawrence County has 379 confirmed cases with 12 deaths, and the second most populous county in the region, Greene County, has 805 cases with eight reported deaths.
During the last 24 hours, Craighead County reported 30 new cases, the third most of any county in Arkansas.
Arkansas State University announced Wednesday afternoon it had cancelled its home game against the University of Tulsa. Several ASU players reportedly have tested positive for the virus.
The football team will continue its practice schedule this week since it wasn’t the volume of total players unavailable, but rather the inability to field a safe number of players among the depleted position group that required the game to be rescheduled.
The football team will resume its 2020 schedule on Oct. 3 with its Sun Belt Conference opener at Coastal Carolina.
“We are postponing our game against Tulsa because the amount of unavailable players at one specific position group doesn’t allow for us to safely play the game,” said ASU Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir. “This is a result of a combination of positive tests on Monday and other players still displaying symptoms, as well as having time to safely reacclimate prior to the game. This decision is based on the ability to safely field a two-deep at the position group rather than the total number of players unavailable. We are taking all precautions as our student health and safety remains our first and foremost priority.
“We are working with Tulsa to mutually reschedule the game, and we look forward to beginning Sun Belt Conference play next week with our Oct. 3 game at Coastal Carolina.”
It’s been a month since school districts in the region began in-class instruction and several districts have students and faculty members out after contracting the virus. The Jonesboro School District reportedly had 14 active cases with 12 cumulative faculty/staff and 35 cumulative student cases. The number of quarantined students has forced the Douglas MacArthur Junior High to switch to remote learning starting on Wednesday and it will last until the end the week at a minimum, according to ADH.
Valley View School District reported six active cases with 26 total cases among students and staff. The Nettleton School District reported nine active cases and 30 cumulative student cases. Buffalo Island Central announced earlier this week it would go to virtual learning until at least Monday (Sept. 28).