Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor Hutchinson announces school year will begin week of August 24

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that the 2020-2021 school year will begin the week of August 24, but starting no later than August 26.

The governor said the reason for moving the start date is to give school districts more time to make adjustments.

Graphic provided by the Governor’s Office. Graph illustrates how school districts will respond to COVID-19 cases in schools

During the news conference Thursday, Gov. Hutchinson also showed the response levels for on-site learning.

The first is a limited response, which is limited or no closure needed, contact tracing and a 14-day quarantine initiated. School districts will consult the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Education for guidance. This would mean there’s minimal spread. Officials will reinforce hand hygiene, enforce physical distancing, intensify cleaning and disinfecting and postpone non-critical gatherings and events.

The second level is moderate response, which may require building dismissal. School districts will consult the ADH and ADE for guidance. This would mean there’s a moderate spread of the virus. Officials will initiate blended learning, alter meal locations, stagger schedules and encourage alternative transportation.

The last level is critical response, which would be an extended period of building dismissal. District closure will be determined in conjunction with ADH and ADE. This would mean there’s a substantial spread. Officials will restrict on-site access, pivot to remote learning and postpone or cancel school events.

The response levels for on-site learning will be released to local school districts for guidance and feedback.

Governor Hutchinson said the state will “start with a goal of having students physically present”.

Education Secretary Johnny Key said the resources being provided will require substantial professional development.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 26,052 total COVID-19 cases and 309 deaths, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson. That’s an increase of 806 cases and four deaths from Wednesday.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the state saw its second highest day of new cases.

Governor Hutchinson said the numbers are high, but predictable.

State officials said hospitalizations due to the virus in the state are currently at 394, an increase of 36.

Dr. Smith said out of new cases, 110 are in correctional facilities while 696 are in communities.

The governor said the top counties with new cases are Pulaski County (104), Washington (78), Sebastian County (56), Faulkner County (51) and Benton County (49).

Dr. Smith said there are currently 5,751 active coronavirus cases in the state, with 131 cases in nursing homes, 434 in correctional facilities and 5,176 in communities.

State officials say the seven-day rolling average is expected to go up.

State officials say there are 394 hospitalizations in the state due to the virus, an increase of 36 from Wednesday.

Dr. Smith said 82 people in Arkansas are on ventilators due to the virus.

According to Dr. Smith, 19,992 people have recovered from the virus in Arkansas, which is 596 more than Wednesday.

Dr. Smith said, “We need to be careful in all parts of the state.”

Dr. Smith said 4,734 tests were completed Wednesday.

During the news conference Thursday, Dr. Smith showed a slide of the top 10 Arkansas cities with active cases. Springdale topped the list with 641 active cases and a rate of 79 per 10,000. Little Rock was second on the list with 414 active cases and a rate of 21 per 10,000. Rogers was third with 256 active cases and a rate of 37.3 per 10,000 cases. Fort Smith has 255 active cases and a rate of 29 per 10,000 cases. Conway has 203 active cases with a rate of 30 per 10,000. Texarkana has 119 active cases with a rate of 40.1 per 10,000 people. Russellville has 116 active cases with a rate of 39.8 per 10,000 cases. Danville has 96 active cases with a rate of 397.8 per 10,000. Bentonville has 78 active cases with a rate of 14.2 per 10,000.

Smith noted while Danville was number nine on the list, the city has the highest rate per 10,000 people.

Smith also said while Little Rock had the second-highest amount of active cases, the capital city is towards the bottom of the top ten for rate per population.

The governor also mentioned Thursday marked 100 days since the first briefing.

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