Governor Hutchinson announced the second-highest day of new COVID-19 cases but he said it was to be expected because of increased testing.
He also said the big case counts that have developed in a number of counties indicate the state is testing broadly.
I think this is known as whistling past the graveyard.
It was not perfect timing to announce — yet again — that the governor was planning on the resumption of school in classrooms next month. He said the state will be flexible. But he also announced the school start date would be 10 days later than planned, the week of Aug. 24, or no later than Aug. 26. He said the delay was necessary so schools can be prepared for the coronavirus circumstances.
He added, “We are committed to school and on-site instruction.”
He acknowledged concerns among workers and parents. He unveiled guidelines for how schools will respond when positive cases develop.
Education Secretary Johnny Key said the state will rescind previously approved waivers to allow districts to open Aug. 13. He said there were “urgent but reasonable concerns” about the ability of all districts to start on that date. This includes not only health concerns but training for teachers to provide instruction in the classroom and remotely. Some equipment needs are also part of the reason for more preparation time.
The daily COVID-19 count
Arkansas added 806 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours (110 in prisons), increasing the total to date from 25,246 to 26,052. Deaths rose by four to 309. Hospitalizations rose by 36 to 394. 82 are on ventilators. Active cases: 5,751.
The top counties with new cases in the last 24 hours: Pulaski, 104; Washington, 78; Sebastia, 56; Faulkner, 51; Benton, 49. The overall state positivity rate is rising, now at 7.2 percent, where the WHO says 5 percent is a danger point.
Total tests in 24 hours: 4,734.
Other topics and Q&A
Key confirmed it will be up to local districts to decide whether masks will be required, whether on buses or in classrooms.
There is no state plan if staff illness causes problems. That’s a local responsibility, Key said. “It’s hard to organize a substitute teacher response from Little Rock,” he said.
Key said the Little Rock School District was still working on modifying its plans for coronavirus. He said he didn’t know if it was a final decision on not having a mask rule for students. Really?
Key also said the change in the start date wouldn’t affect contract days for teachers or contact days for students. “We want to make sure we have a full school year,” Key said.
Key said he expected the end of the school year in late May or early June, but district calendars differ and circumstances might require individual changes.
Some of the response level to outbreaks in schools will be subject to judgment calls, Hutchinson said.
Asked to cite the biggest misstep in three months of response, Hutchinson said he couldn’t pinpoint a mistake. He said some problems had been outside the state’s control. He said he was sure history would look back and say some things could have been done better. But it’s too early to look for missteps now, he said. Health Director Nate Smith also said it would be better to look back later. But he said, in retrospect, he wished the state could have been done more to reduce the transmission rate in some immigrant communities.