As the virus’s case count continues to decline in Arkansas, State officials have implemented new guidelines to schools regarding the quarantine protocols of students who may have COVID-19 exposure.
In Governor Asa Hutchinson’s media briefing on Tuesday, he presented the updated COVID-19 case reports. As of October 19, the state has a total active case of 5,853, a decline of 99 cases from the October 18 report. In another COVID-19 report released by the Arkansas Department of Health, there are 12,452 total COVID-19 cases in public school districts and 61 cases in private schools from August until today.
Gov. Hutchinson announced on the same media briefing the protocol changes that would redefine “close contact” in a school setting, reducing it from within six feet from a COVID-19 positive individual to three feet for 15 minutes. Additionally, Hutchinson announced that the test-to-stay protocols are not limited to school days but also extracurricular activities.
The protocol changes were accepted by school administrators, including Education Secretary Johnny Key and Cabot Schools Superintendent Tony Thurman. They noted that while concern about the virus persists, there is still an increasing concern about learning loss among students removed from in-person learning. Thurman also said that redefining “close-contact” help students, teachers, and parent alleviate stress.
State’s COVID-19 Case Report
Dr. Jose Romero, Secretary of Health, stressed that these protocol changes would affect only K-12 institutions, adding that primary schools and colleges would continue to follow previous protocols. Dr. Romero also assured that the state’s health officials would monitor how these changes will affect case counts in schools, noting that the state could revert to previous protocols if rises in cases are observed.
Gov. Hutchinson also presented the vaccination status in the state. The Arkansas Department of Health data projected a 1,376,741 total of vaccinated citizens and 283,967 citizens who received their first dose.
Dr. Romero highlighted the state’s vaccination status among the youth, stating that providing vaccines to students aged 12-18 was slowing. He also indicated that he is anticipating vaccine eligibility for children aged 5-11 to be announced sometime next month.