According to information released Thursday afternoon by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, 88 school districts across the state have 50 or more new known COVID-19 infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period.
Local school districts included on the list include Glen Rose, Magnet Cove, Malvern, Ouachita and Poyen.
The Ouachita School District reportedly has had more than 100 new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period or more than 1 percent of district residents, according to the center.
Ouachita school officials announced last week a switch to virtual learning because of the amount of students and staff who were in quarantine.
ACHI identified school districts with high infection rates by analyzing data received Monday from the Arkansas Department of Health. The infections are among community residents living within the geographical boundaries of the school districts and are not specific to school employees and students. Known infections include confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases are based on verbal reporting and antigen test results, as identified by the Department of Health, according to the center.
ACHI identifies districts with 50 to 99 new known infections per 10,000 residents as being in the “red zone” and districts with 100 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents as being in the “purple zone,” according to the news release.
Fifty-one schools were added to the ACHI list this week.
“This huge increase in school districts with high rates of infection among residents is deeply concerning,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “We must get this virus under control to protect our schools, keep our hospitals from being overrun, and save lives.”
Thompson said these infection rates are especially troubling with Thanksgiving just a week away.
“Ideally, members of different households should connect electronically for the holiday this year, but if you do plan to hold a gathering with members of different households, please see the recommendations of ACHI’s Health Policy Board at achi.net/givethanksnotcovid,” he added.
This week, state officials have reported a spike in new cases statewide.
In hopes of reducing the spread of the virus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that businesses that are licensed to sell and allow consumption of alcohol on their premises must close by 11 p.m.
The directive covers restaurants, bars, and private clubs with “on-premise” permits. The directive is effective today, and remains in effect through January 3, 2021.
“This is a balanced approach that is limited and targeted as we work to reduce new COVID cases in our state,” he said.
Hutchinson is also set to speak about the rising number of COVID-19 cases during a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today.