COVID-19 in Arkansas: Active cases, hospitalizations continue to fall, state offering counseling for school staff

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Governor Asa Hutchinson outlined the continued decline in COVID-19 cases in Arkansas during a news conference Wednesday.

Data Hutchinson shared from the Arkansas Department of Health showed the active case count fell by 217 to 7,879. The state reported 882 new virus cases, pushing up the state’s total case count to 499,886 for the pandemic.

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 fell by 40 in the last day, with the current caseload in Arkansas at 624 patients. There are 173 patients on ventilators, a drop of 15 from the day prior.

The governor announced that six new deaths had been added to state tallies in the last day, moving that number to 7,781.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero outlined the effects seen in pediatric patients to the delta variant of the virus.

Romero shared data comparing cases in January with those in July, noting an 84.4% increase in pediatric hospitalizations and a 63.6% increase in pediatric ICU cases as delta variant cases spread through the state.

Vaccinations are continuing to grow in the state, though Hutchinson noted that the majority of new vaccine doses are being administered as booster doses.

The state recorded 10,272 doses given in the last 24 hours. There are currently 1,351,713 Arkansans fully immunized from the virus, with another 288,852 receiving partial immunity.

State Secretary of Education Johnny Key announced a new pilot program in Russellville, Springdale, Cabot and Bentonville that will allow students and staff exposed to the virus to used enhanced testing to avoid quarantine. The program will be evaluated to see how it could scale to the rest of the state.

Key also discussed the extraordinary efforts teachers and other school employees had made to keep students in class, as well as the toll it had taken on those staff members. He noted that the Employee Assistance Program is open and available to provide mental health resources for staff and their families.

Hutchinson noted that only a single private school was in a community that had reached the 70% vaccination level the state set that would allow schools to not require quarantine after COVID-19 exposure.

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