Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Covid-19 cases at schools rising but at slower pace


Growth slowed in the number of active covid-19 infections in public schools statewide, according to a state Department of Health report Monday.

The 202 active cases among students and staff marked an increase of less than 4% compared with Thursday’s total of 195 infections. The Health Department releases case totals for schools twice each week.

This month cases have been on the rise. Since April 1, cases are up about 32%.

But case counts have yet to climb above the level seen just before spring break week, March 22-26. A Health Department report dated March 18 listed 302 active cases in public school districts.

The covid-19 totals for public schools remain well below the mid-January peak of more than 3,400 active cases.

Covid-19 continues to affect school operations, however.

The McCrory School District on April 6 sent home a group of sixth-graders and shifted them to virtual instructio­n because of covid-19, said Nathan White, superinten­dent of the district located roughly 80 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Such abrupt shifts to online-only instructio­n became rare in Arkansas schools after infection levels decreased statewide. On March 23, Education Secretary Johnny Key said no school district had shifted to virtual instructio­n because of covid-19 since the first week of February.

School districts in Arkansas have been encouraged to report such changes to the

state Department of Education.

White said staff talked to every parent of the nearly 40 children affected by the change.

“It is an inconvenie­nce, but they understood. So, overall I haven’t gotten any kind of negative feedback,” White said.

He said that as of Monday, he only knew of one active covid-19 infection within the group.

But White said there was uncertaint­y about whether students had possibly been exposed to the infection. Students interacted with each other at the school’s gym, making it unclear who might have been in contact with whom for an extended time period, he said.

“Just to be on the safe side, we said we’re going to send everybody home,” White said, describing the April 6 decision. Students are expected to complete their quarantine and return Thursday, he said.

The McCrory district has continued to require face coverings after the statewide mandate ended, he said. The district’s next school board meeting is set for Thursday.

Statewide, the Bentonvill­e School District topped all others with 16 active cases, followed by the Cabot School District with 14 and the Springdale School District with 13 cases, according to the latest Health Department data. The Monday report listed 13 school districts as having five or more active cases of covid-19.

The Health Department report Monday showed a decline in covid-19 at the state’s colleges and universiti­es.

Active infections fell to 90 at colleges, down from the 101 cases listed in Thursday’s report.

The University of Arkansas, Fayettevil­le topped all colleges with 27 active cases, followed by the University of Central Arkansas with 12 cases. No other colleges were listed as having more than seven active infections.

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