The cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arkansas has now surpassed 80,000 as the state added over 400 confirmed cases Tuesday.
According to numbers from the Arkansas Department of Health, the state added 706 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. 482 of them are confirmed, while 224 are considered probable. The total number of confirmed cases is 80,003. Adding probable cases increases that total to 82,755.
Hospitalizations decreased by six to 490. Speaking during his weekly briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the decrease in hospitalizations good news.
"I just remember that high-water mark of 520 and I want to stay under that, obviously. I’m encouraged, we checked around the hospitals, there is that capacity, but I was happy to see that number go down today," Hutchinson said.
However, the state did see an increase of 21 more deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the confirmed death toll over the 1,200 mark to 1,204. Of those deaths, nine were from nursing homes.
The state also recorded the testing results of 5,394 PCR tests in the past 24 hours, which is the lowest number of daily-recorded PCR tests in weeks. 1,167 antigen tests were submitted as well.
Today’s PCR testing numbers did put the total number of PCR tests given in the state past the one million mark with 1,002,538 in total.
According to the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Arkansas remains in the "red" zone when it comes to the number of cases in the state. Hutchinson said the report also places Arkansas in the “yellow” zone in terms of test positivity.
"Arkansas has seen stability in new cases and stability in test positivity over the last week. So it is important to recognize what they see in terms of national experts on trend lines, they see some stability," Hutchinson said.
Washington County led the state Tuesday in new cases with 65. Pulaski County added 49 and Sebastian County added 33.
Currently, 36 schools in Arkansas are under modified instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Arkansas Department of Education.
According to data from the state, there are currently 717 active COVID-19 cases in K-12 public schools across the state, a decrease from 748 cases a week earlier. Additionally, 490 cases are confirmed at Arkansas colleges and universities, a larger decrease from the 701 cases reported the week of September 21.
Hutchinson spoke on the decreased number of cases in schools and universities.
"Actions make a difference and the clear steps that have been made at the college level particularly have reduced active cases. Students have responded with more discipline, with understanding what’s at risk and wanted to recognize that progress. K-12, that’s progress so we hope that we can continue to make that," Hutchinson said.
According to Education Secretary Johnny Key, of the 36 schools under modified instruction, 26 of them began said instruction last week. He credited Labor Day weekend as a reason for the increase.
Key also spoke on the Little Rock Education Association’s initial call for online-only education Sunday night, before voting to call off that demand the following evening.
"We said from outset last April that our expectation is schools would be onsite providing virtual options. The options are at the discretion at the parents and the district has been very flexible in making those options available. They’ve also worked with the teachers to accommodate certain situations where they can make sure teachers’ needs are met," Key said. "I think the issue though becomes when you’re setting demands that are unreasonable to say ‘We’re only going to teach virtually until these things happen, that leaves parents out, that leaves students out and it doesn’t meet their needs and we need to continue to do that to have a successful school year."
The LREA said in a statement issued Sunday night that the district is not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. More than 200 teachers in the district did not show up for in-person classes Monday, with 69 of them now facing disciplinary action. However, a letter issued Tuesday by Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore delayed the disciplinary meetings set for the teachers who said they would not teach in-person classes.