Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson reported there are 549 new cases of COVID-19 since Wednesday. The cumulative number of positive cases in the state is at 54,765. COVID-19 deaths in Arkansas are at 641, and 48,558 individuals have recovered. Four hundred ninety-nine (499) persons are hospitalized with COVID-19.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) received reports for 6,898 tests within the past 24 hours. The counties with the highest number of new cases in the last 24 hours are:
- 51 in Pulaski County
- 35 in Sebastian County
- 29 in Jefferson County
- 22 in Crawford County
- 24 in Garland County
- 21 in Craighead County
- 20 in Mississippi County
- 20 in Pope County
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) map of all cases can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
Governor Hutchinson thanked the efforts of ACHI, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) for their efforts to provide a breakdown of cumulative cases and active cases per 10,000 individuals living within a district catchment area. The district-level breakdown also provides trend line information as well as the level of testing for the county.
“We start next Monday in-classroom instruction. We’re excited about it. Everybody is working hard for it. I know the Department of Education is working extraordinarily hard and we’ve partnered with ACHI, led by Dr. Joe Thompson, in terms of the data. Everybody wants more specific data broken down by the school district level,” Governor Hutchinson said.
ACHI Executive Director Dr. Joe Thompson said ACHI has been able to provide pieces of information which is tiering the risk that are within the school district geographic areas themselves because many rural school districts pull from multiple communities. It’s important to note this data does not include correctional or nursing home cases.
Dr. Thompson said, “This is not a triggering indicator for any active decision. It is a tiered risk indicator so that school districts can know ‘am I in a school district that I am in a low-risk situation or am I in a school district that I am in a high-risk situation’.”
ACHI went back to the end of July, so there are at least four data points for each school district to provide a trend line over the month of August. When viewing the trend information, the rate per 10,000 is included for each data point unless than 10.
“We anticipate updating this on a weekly basis. So, we will add a new data point each week to allow for a monitoring mechanism for parents, for school district officials, for school personnel, for the state to know where to allocate resources and where we need to hold increased vigilance to break the spread of this tricky virus.” Dr. Thompson said.
Arkansas Department Education Secretary Johnny Key provided an update on PPE in school districts. He showed an example of the screening kit ADE is delivering to school districts all over the state. Secretary Key said 2,000 kits were ordered and that there are 1,055 school buildings, so each building will get at least one of these kits.
DESE also continues to provide support to those districts with supply chain issues by providing PPE from their strategic stockpile.
As a result of the new district-level data available on ACHI’s website, ADE has updated its Response Levels for On-site Learning Document to provide context to ACHI’s numbers.
“One thing that I want to make sure is clear. There is not a one-to-one transfer from this scale to the response levels. We have a green, yellow and red. They have a similar scheme, but there are other data points that must be considered in addition to the data that Dr. Thompson and his team have released today,” Secretary Key said. “This is a refinement of things to consider for districts as they understand their local data and they understand this relative risk that is now being provided to them at the school district level of some of the things that they may need to consider when they look next week at their plans, as they bring students and staff onsite — there may need to be some adjustments. This data along with what they learn next week can help them establish what those adjustments are according to the appropriate response levels. Some of the districts on the list this week may not have been on the list last week. There are things they can track to. Again it’s within the catchment area, but not necessarily a reflection of what is coming into the school buildings.”
“This is not a policy document. We are not saying that if you fall into one of these categories, you must do these things. Again, the local context always has to be in consideration, and as the Governor said, what this does is provide flexibility for school leaders and superintendents to make these decisions as to how to adjust their plans and how to adjust their onsite learning operations and make the modifications accordingly,” Secretary Key said.
When asked why high-risk districts could not be given the option to start virtually, Secretary Key said, “Because they have plans in place. We want them to see how those plans are going to work, and we want them to see, again, some of these that may be on the map as high risk, the local context may be different in that they are not high risk when looking at all the data points. It is still a situation where we expect, and we have said all along, we expect onsite instruction to begin in August. That’s what we are holding to, we are simply giving another set of tools for them to use to make adjustments as they move forward.”
The Governor was asked if every district has sufficient PPE.
“Yes. All the districts have received funds for the purchase of PPE. We’ve had our reservoir of $1 million of PPE acquisition at the Department level to supplement the need. So if anybody is short, they can have that supplemented by the Department of Education. So there should not be any issues with PPE in any district,” Governor Hutchinson said.
The question was posed if school nurses being considered critical infrastructure workers could increase the potential of spreading the virus within schools.
“School nurses being healthcare professionals, we have worked with the health department to create a situation where they are being looked at as similar to healthcare professionals in other settings. So there is an added layer of protection for these professionals even though they are on a school site and not on a medical site. That’s why school nurses have added layers. We have made sure we have added N-95 masks, so their PPE standards are higher. It’s one of those things where if you have the school nurses that become unavailable, then that’s a critical response of the medical side of things that happen at a school that would be missing, and school nurses are hard to find. It’s the same treatment as other nurses in other medical settings are also subject to,” Secretary Key said.
“Nurses are considered essential workers healthcare personnel. There are exceptions where as a healthcare personnel if there are critical shortages can return to work under certain situations and certain screening. This will depend on what goes forward as to Secretary Key pointed out, they are in a different category. They are being given PPE that is appropriate for them, and we will guide the department of education regarding these individuals,” ADH Secretary José Romero said.
To view the Governor’s briefings, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/GovernorAsaHutchinson/live.
District COVID Response Communication List
Superintendents should make sure to watch for a list being created by the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) of DESE staff designated by Educational Service Cooperative who will serve as the Coop area’s COVID Response point of contact.
Class Size Loads
DESE legal staff will be sharing guidance clarifying teacher loads in regards to digital learning. Be sure to watch for a Commissioner’s Memo to be issued soon.
APSRC wants to highlight the innovative ways schools are preparing their students, staff, families and community for back to school. We plan to share these stories on the APSRC Facebook page as well as our website.
The COVID pandemic has required educators to find innovative ways to engage and motivate students. Dr. Sandra Smith, Wynne High School Assistant Principal, was able to secure a $1,000 mini-grant through the Arkansas Community Foundation to support a webinar series targeted to members of the schools African American Achievers (AAA) and Wynne High School Seniors.
Dr. Smith said the response and support for this webinar series has been tremendous. They have been able to cover topics ranging from tips on how to deal with COVID-19 and the related social/emotional anxiety to addressing post-graduation plans, and speakers have included Ron Harris, CEO of ALEVELUP; Dr. Cathie Cline, East Arkansas Community College President; Dr. Candace Davis, FedEx Manager of Recruitment and Sales Leadership Development, Rev. Samuel Moses, National Cash Register Corp. Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Clay Hughes, Hughes Life Counseling, Wynne School District officials, Wynne High School staff and students, and more.
“It has been thrilling. It’s been exhausting,” Dr. Smith said about launching and hosting these sessions. “These are the best of times, even though they are the worst of times, because the door is wide open for innovation and creativity.”
To view clips of the webinar sessions, click on the link below:
Please send us your back-to-school photos, videos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just may select your school for recognition.
Be sure to regularly check our website. We will continue to provide daily updates and additional resources on APSRC’s website at https://www.apsrc.net/departments/communications/covid-19-updates/.