UA to suspend on-campus events, limit off-campus event sizes; COVID testing hits new daily record

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,134 views 

Photo courtesy of the University of Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday (Sept. 4) praised the move by University of Arkansas officials to suspend on-campus events and limit off-campus events to 10 or fewer people. The action comes as COVID-19 cases continue to spike among college-age people in Washington County.

The Arkansas Department of Health on Friday reported 215 new COVID cases, with 82% of those among individuals in the 18-24 age range. Friday’s report follows 211 new cases reported Thursday, with 81% being in the 18-24 age range.

Charles Robinson, interim provost and vice chancellor for Student and Academic Affairs, noted in a memo that case numbers tied to the campus are “too high,” resulting in the need to suspend on-campus events between Sept. 5 and Sept. 18.

“To be clear, this suspension does not affect in-person classes, labs, or other instructional activities and does not relate to practices or related activities for intercollegiate athletics. Whether this might need to be extended will be evaluated over the next two weeks,” Robinson noted.

Robinson’s memo also included the following guidance: “Until further notice, if the Office of Student Standards and Conduct receives a report of large parties and similar social gatherings involving 10 or more student guests, without very clearly maintained safety elements such as social distancing and mask-wearing, and the report is verified, the University will treat the event as a violation of the Code of Student Life by organizers and by attendees. Organizing and conducting such an event will be considered a serious matter and students will be held accountable.

“In addition, if the Office of Student Standards and Conduct receives a report of students in the Dickson Street entertainment district or elsewhere congregating in large groups to socialize, not maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing, the matter will be treated as a Code of Student Life violation.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during Friday’s daily COVID briefing that he spoke with UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz about the university’s response to the recent rise in COVID cases.

“He understands what he is facing on the campus, and they are taking some very quick action to address that,” the governor said.

Gov. Hutchinson said he is not considering any special rules or restrictions for university towns “because our targeted approach (with testing and contact tracing) has been very effective and we want to be able to continue to do that.” He also said it is not smart to close a university or college and send thousands of students back into their communities. He said he and Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero are talking to university and college leaders around the state “to see what kind of additional support we can give” and “if there are any additional steps that should be taken.”

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 64,175 on Friday, up from 63,081 on Thursday, with 11,254 test results – a new record for daily test results – from the previous 24 hours. Of the 1,094 new cases, 123 were from correctional facilities. There are 5,755 active cases.

The number of deaths rose from 861 to 873. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 401 on Friday, down from 425 on Thursday. There are 86 patients on ventilators, down from 91 on Thursday. There are 57,547 cumulative recovered cases.

The top five counties with new known cases were: Washington (215), Pulaski (87), Benton (56), Craighead (47), and Jefferson (24). The counties accounted for 44.2% of the 971 new community cases. Of the 47 cases in Craighead County, home of Arkansas State University, 43% were among those in the 18-24 age range.

As of Friday at 1 p.m., there were 6,173,562 U.S. cases and 187,152 deaths. Globally, there were 26,398,466 cases and 870,650 deaths.

The ADH on Thursday updated its tally of active and cumulative cases in schools and universities. As of Sept. 3, there were 1,991 total known COVID cases in public schools, up 30.6% from the Aug. 24 report. Following is part of the data from the Sept. 3 report.

• Public schools (as of Sept. 3)
Cumulative active cases: 412
Cumulative cases: 1,991

• Private schools (as of Sept. 3)
Cumulative active cases: 14
Cumulative cases: 110

• Colleges and universities (as of Sept. 3)
Cumulative active cases: 327
Cumulative cases: 743