Nearly 700 Arkansans have died from COVID-19 as schools across the state reopen for in-class instruction.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced an increase of 320 new coronavirus cases , which brought the state’s total to 56,894, while an additional nine deaths from COVID-19 brought the death toll to 696.
Speaking in the governor’s daily briefing on the pandemic, Education Secretary Johnny Key said the state aims to keep schools open for in-class instruction even with high levels of virus activity in the general public.
"What we saw in the spring was a decision to close to on-site instruction. We are going to work with districts to not have to close for on-site instruction even if in a critical response," Key said. "That means we're going back to what we did in the summer, which was limiting the number of students and staff in a room back to the limits of 10, making sure that with those numbers social distancing could take place."
Key also responded to reports of some schools delaying the start of classes because of coronavirus concerns.
"Do I expect we'll see more this? Yes, but if it's only one positive here and there and can control it, that's what we want to do. That's why we put the precautions in place so districts can handle this and be successful at it," Key said.
The Woodlawn School District in Cleveland County said on Sunday it will delay the start of school indefinitely to allow for all staff members to get tested for COVID-19. The KIPP Delta charter school in Helena-West Helena will also begin the school year with all-virtual classes after a staffer tested positive.
The number of Arkansans hospitalized decreased by 34 Monday for a total of 466, with 106 patients currently on a ventilator. Pulaski County added 46 new coronavirus cases with 36 cases from Faulkner County and 23 from Poinsett County.
Hutchinson said, despite delays in receiving results due to nationwide shortages of testing materials, it’s also largely up to the public to boost the state’s testing numbers.
"People have to want to go in and get a test. There either [has] to be a need, they have to be symptomatic or they have to be traveling, or they simply say, 'I'm worried and I need to go get a test,'" Hutchinson said. "School is starting, that could increase the need for testing, but part of this is the ability to get the test done and part of it is to make sure that there [are] people wanting to go in and get the test."
Arkansas received a total of 4,629 test results over the past 24 hours. Health Secretary Dr. José Romero stressed the need for people who don’t have symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested if they believe they’ve been exposed.
"One-third of all of the positive cases on that particular day, that is Aug. 10, were asymptomatic… they presented for testing and we found them to be positive," Romero said. "What that means for us as the public is that an asymptomatic individual can place you at risk for acquisition of COVID."
Romero said asymptomatic individuals can get tested for COVID-19 at any of the Health Department’s Local Health Units across the state. As of Monday Arkansas had 5,509 active cases of COVID-19.