COVID-19 in Arkansas: A Weekly Snapshot, Sept. 12-18, 2020

September 18, 2020


Pader Moua, MPH
Policy Analyst

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In a reversal of its Aug. 24 COVID-19 testing guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest revision now recommends testing for individuals who do not have symptoms and have been in close contact infected individuals. ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson criticized the previous guidance in an op-ed on Aug. 29, saying there was no scientific justification for recommending against testing for people who may be infected and able to spread the disease despite having no symptoms. The New York Times reported this week that the Aug. 24 guidance was issued over the objections of CDC scientists.

On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) rolled out a more detailed version of its COVID-19 Case Update dashboard. Arkansans can now view the numbers of antigen tests and COVID-19 probable cumulative positive cases, probable active cases, and deaths among probable cases. Based on the CDC’s surveillance case definition, probable case status is designated by ADH for a person who:

  • Had COVID-19 symptoms AND contact with a known COVID-19 case, but no laboratory testing performed for COVID-19.
  • Had a positive antigen test for COVID-19.
  • Had a death certificate that lists COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2, but no laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2.

During a Tuesday, Sept. 15, COVID-19 update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced plans to add to the ADH dashboard 139 new deaths among probable cases. These deaths were reflected in the dashboard beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Hutchinson also announced that ADH had received a two-month supply of antigen tests, or 12,000 tests, to be dispersed to all local health units, small rural hospitals, critical access hospitals, the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health’s Educational Institutions Report released on Thursday, Sept. 17, there are 610 active cases among staff members, students, and teachers in the state’s public school districts. Total positive cases increased by 311 since the Monday, Sept. 14, report to 3,230, of which 2,414 are student cases. At colleges and universities, there are 785 active cases. The three institutions with the highest number of active cases are the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with 460 cases, the University of Central Arkansas in Conway with 53 cases, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with 34 cases. Total positive cases increased by 349 to 3,021 cases. Of these, 2,436 are student cases.

On our COVID-19 in Arkansas page this week, we added a new graphic that shows the intersection of positive cases and testing across Arkansas. The graphic overlays a heat map showing the density of positive cases on a map showing test numbers by county.

We’ve also updated all the data in the dashboard, which now run through Monday. Some key data points:

By School District

There are two school districts in the red zone this week as of Monday, down from three last week. One of the districts, Fayetteville, was in the red zone in the prior week. School districts in the red zone have 50 or more new cases per 10,000 residents in the community during a 14-day period. These districts are:

  • Buffalo Island Central: 81 new cases per 10K residents
  • Fayetteville: 71 new cases per 10K residents

Neither of the school districts in the red-zone have high school football games scheduled tonight. Due to students testing positive for COVID-19, two games tonight are canceled: Stuttgart-DeWitt and Mountainburg-Hackett. Little Rock Southwest’s football program will be suspended through Sept. 29, and the 7A-Central Conference game on Oct. 2 against Cabot is canceled. The Hamburg-DeWitt and Lincoln-Hackett conference games scheduled for Sept. 25 are also canceled.

By Community

The 10 communities with the highest new case rates per 10,000 residents as of Sept. 14:

  • Monette: 150 new cases per 10K residents
  • Gould: 125 new cases per 10K residents
  • Central City: 50 new cases per 10K residents
  • Lavaca: 50 new cases per 10K residents
  • Fayetteville: 44 new cases per 10K residents
  • Jasper: 44 new cases per 10K residents
  • Pottsville: 42 new cases per 10K residents
  • Pine Bluff: 41 new cases per 10K residents
  • Gassville: 40 new cases per 10K residents
  • White Hall: 40 new cases per 10K residents

By Zip Code

The five zip codes with the highest rates of new cases as of Sept. 14:

  • 72447: 150 new cases per 10K residents
  • 71643: 125 new cases per 10K residents
  • 72701: 114 new cases per 10K residents
  • 72941: 50 new cases per 10K residents
  • 71601: 50 new cases per 10K residents
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