School district infection rates hit new record; President Biden rolls out broad vaccination plan

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 927 views 

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) on Thursday (Sept. 9) reported a record 59 Arkansas public school districts with COVID-19 infection rates of 100 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period. The previous high was 54 during the week of Jan. 11.

ACHI said 189 school districts have COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, up from 188 last week. The information, found on the ACHI website, is based on Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) data obtained Monday.

“We continue to see more communities exceed 1% of their population newly infected with COVID-19. These numbers reflect the risk in the communities from which students, teachers, and staff come each day,” ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson said in a statement. “We must do more to protect our children from the delta variant. Everyone who is still unprotected should get vaccinated as soon as possible, bearing in mind that people who are too young for vaccines are relying on the rest of us to keep them safe. I also urge schools boards that have rejected mask requirements to rethink that position, and I urge parents to support their local school boards.”

Known infections reported by ACHI include confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases are based on verbal reporting and antigen test results, as identified by the ADH.

Following are the top five public school district in terms of active COVID cases as of Sept. 9. The data is from the ADH.
• Cabot: 130 active cases, 397 cumulative
• Fort Smith: 90 active cases, 367 cumulative
• Springdale: 84 active cases, 485 cumulative
• Bentonville: 73 active cases, 361 cumulative
• Jonesboro: 73 active cases, 204 cumulative

Also on Thursday, the ADH reported 2,481 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 469,977. Active cases rose by 214 to 19,714, and deaths rose by 27 to 7,169. Hospitalizations declined by 15 to 1,194, and COVID patients on ventilators fell by five to 315.

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled an expansive plan the White House hopes will result in more vaccinations to combat the summer surge in cases and deaths resulting from the Delta variant of COVID-19. As of Thursday, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine reported a cumulative 654,268 U.S. COVID deaths and 40.572 million cumulative cases. In the past 28 days, there have been 4.266 million new U.S. cases and 33,985 deaths – or more than 1,213 deaths per day.

The White House statement mentioned efforts by corporations like Springdale-based Tyson Foods to vaccinate employees.

“Since July, the share of job postings that require vaccination are up 90%. And we know these requirements work. At the beginning of August, when Tyson Foods announced its requirement – only 45% of its workforce had gotten a shot. Today, it stands at 72%, meaning half of Tyson’s unvaccinated workers have now gotten a shot – well ahead of the company’s November 1st deadline,” noted the White House statement.

Following are key provisions in the new federal plan.
• The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.

• Requiring vaccinations for all federal workers and for contractors who do business with the federal government.

• Requiring vaccinations for more than 17 million health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals, nursing homes and other health care operations.

• Asking entertainment venues like sports arenas, large concert halls, and other venues where large groups of people gather to require that their patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.

• Requiring employers to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.