Coronavirus in Ark.: Governor Hutchinson, state officials give update on state’s COVID-19 cases, education

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson, interim Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero and Education Secretary Johnny Key gave an update Tuesday afternoon on the state’s coronavirus response and an update on how schools are planning on reopening in August.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 34,655 total COVID-19 cases and 374 deaths in the state, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson.

That is an increase of 728 new cases and 11 deaths since Monday’s news conference.

Governor Hutchinson said of the 11 deaths announced Tuesday, six of them were late reportings and did not happen within the last 24 hours.

According to the governor, 122 of the new cases are from correctional facilities and 606 are from communities.

Hutchinson said seven counties had more than 20 new cases. Those counties are Pulaski County (110), Washington County (62), Crawford County (46), Benton County (45), Sebastian County (30), Jefferson County (29) and Saline County (24).

Dr. Romero said there are 6,998 active cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas. According to Romero, 138 are in nursing homes, 921 are in correctional facilities and 5,939 are in communities.

According to Gov. Hutchinson, there are 488 hospitalizations, an increase of 17 from Monday.

The governor said the number of hospitalizations is still concerning and state officials are still watching it closely.

According to Dr. Romero, there are 110 people on ventilators due to the virus in Arkansas, which is one less than Monday.

Dr. Romero said 27,283 people have recovered from the virus in Arkansas.

Hutchinson said there were 5,670 tests completed Monday, and one-third of the tests were completed by the Arkansas Department of Health.

According to state officials, 119,769 tests have been completed so far in July. The governor said the state has already tested 4% of the population in July, but he wants to do more and says the state still has time.

Governor Hutchinson said the commercial labs are not producing the same numbers as a month ago.

Hutchinson said ADH and UAMS are performing tests at a consistent level.

Hutchinson said the state remains committed to starting school the week of August 24, but there have been questions raised that need to be answered.

In the news conference, the governor spoke about an NBC News interview with five pediatric infectious disease experts and all five said they would send their child to school in the fall.

Key mentioned how some school districts are preparing to begin school in August.

According to the education secretary, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District has a plan that includes on-campus, remote and blended learning and is taking safety precautions that include social distancing, staggard lunch schedules and no assemblies.

Key said Mountain Home’s Ready for Learning committee includes a medical doctor and two infection preventionists from Baxter Regional Medical Center, along with parents, teachers and community leaders. Key said Mountain Home also has seven specific actions that include a start strong instructional plan and addresses student wellness, including mental health. The district also described their enhanced cleaning procedures and have committees of teachers making sure the plans are operational, according to Key.

Secretary Key said Quitman is using August 24 and 25 to stagger students’ return in order to acclimate students and teachers to revised practices and procedures.

During the news conference, Key also recognized Stuttgart Public Schools for using their social media to show safety precautions in each building and changes to morning drop-offs and school meals.

Key said Springdale schools have students and representatives from the Marshallese and Latino communities. According to Key, the Springdale School District instituted a multi-phase communications plan that has been deployed throughout the summer to provide their most up-to-date plans. Key said Springdale teachers are using video tools to communicate with students and families to increase comfort.

Key said the Department of Education will continue to work with school districts on reopening.

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