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Governor extends public health emergency

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a service to our readers, The Sentinel-Record publishes updates released each weekday by the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.

The following stats were shared Friday at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

• 52,392 total confirmed cases, up 626 from 51,766 on Thursday.

• 6,359 active cases, down 223 from Thursday.

• 44,602 recoveries, up 786 from Thursday.

• 587 deaths, up five from Thursday (one is a delayed report).

• 466 cases requiring hospitalization, down seven from Thursday.

• 113 cases requiring a ventilator, up one from Thursday.

• 1,155 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 21 from Thursday.

• 238 active cases in Garland County, down six from Thursday.

• 900 recoveries in Garland County, up 27 from Thursday.

• 17 deaths in Garland County, no change from Thursday.

In the past 24 hours, the number of new cases in Arkansas was 626, with 437 from the community and 189 from correctional facilities. Counties with the highest number of new cases in the past 24 hours included Chicot with 141, Pulaski with 53, Hot Spring with 30, White with 28 and Saline with 23.

Garland County had 21 new cases reported Friday.

The number of tests completed in the past 24 hours was 5,519. At 73,150 cumulative tests for the month of August, the governor said the state is “running a little bit behind where we want to be” toward the goal of 180,000 tests for the month.

Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said test samples coming to the ADH Public Health Lab from local health units have recently begun to decline. He encouraged the public to get tested for the virus if there has been possible exposure or if there are COVID-related symptoms. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to see what our actual numbers are. So, again, please continue to test,” he said.

Hutchinson signed an executive order Friday extending the public health emergency another 60 days.

“The pandemic has not abated; it has not gone away,” he said. “In Arkansas, we have over 500 deaths as a result of this pandemic. We have over 50,000 cumulative cases. We have over 6,000 active cases. And while we’re making progress, we do remain in a state of emergency, public health wise.”

A directive to public and private school superintendents and athletic directors was being issued Friday from ADH that will provide guidelines for large outdoor venue and indoor venue plans for school-sponsored team sports. Facilities will not be allowed to exceed 66% capacity, and wearing of masks, social distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals or families will be required. More specific guidance will also be provided on the ADH website — healthy.arkansas.gov — for bands and music teams.

For team sports, intrasquad games will be allowed to proceed this weekend. Next week, interschool preseason squad games will proceed, followed by the schedule developed by the Arkansas Activities Association.

“Of course, the only exception to that rule is that if we don’t do our responsibility, we don’t maintain our discipline in terms of our public health requirements and the guidelines for these activities,” Hutchinson said. “Let’s not only start the season this year, but let’s work to finish the season; and that’s what’s important.”

Secretary of Education Johnny Key announced that every elementary school in the state — public and private — will be receiving copies of “A Kid’s Guide to the Coronavirus.” He said it’s a kid- and parent-friendly guide for families to understand this virus and guidelines related to lowering its spread.

Key also shared that the first week of classes at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts has gone smoothly. Around 200 students moved onto campus last week.

Romero said the current plan for response to cases or outbreaks at schools,”is in evolution.” When there are symptomatic students, teachers or staff at schools, they will need to seek out a test at their county health unit. Antigen, or point-of-care, testing will be done. If they receive a positive result, they will be added into the ADH system for contact investigation and tracing. If the result is negative, they will follow up with a standard PCR test for confirmation. ADH is currently exploring the possibility of having up to 10 teams to deploy out to schools with outbreaks for mass testing purposes.


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