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Arkansas schools still cautious as COVID-19 cases decrease

Health and school officials are reporting a decrease in COVID-19 cases in schools across Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It's welcoming news for students, parents, and teachers as COVID-19 cases across the state are declining inside schools. 

Over the past two weeks, Pulaski County Special School District's COVID-19 cases have been on the downward slope, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Janice Warren.

Dr. Joe Thompson with Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said he's remaining cautiously optimistic. 

"We're going in the right direction but we're not in the safe zone by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

It's a sense of relief, but it's not time to let go just yet.

That's what both Thompson and Warren said they're feeling as school COVID-19 cases decline.

"Knowing that those numbers could at any time increase, we're still going to continue to be cautious," she said.

Pulaski County Special School District had 63 positive cases at its peak. That number dropped to 35 the week after. 

Now, according to Warren, the district is at its lowest case number yet at 27.

"Those cases that we have seen, the majority of them have either been in the elementary schools where students are not vaccinated or athletic, cheer, activity type," she said.

Warren contributes the consistent drop in cases to the district's safety measures. 

"The success that we have had keeping our students in school. I do believe the mask have contributed wholeheartedly to that," she said.

They're not the only district in Arkansas experiencing this, according to Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.

Two weeks ago, Thompson said the state reached its high of 201 schools in the highest level of transmission on their COVID-19 cases map, but that story has changed.

"We had 161 last week, so I'm optimistic that we may have hit at least the peak. We still have a lot of transmission and so we need to keep our defenses up," he said.

Defenses, like vaccinations and masks, are what Thompson said schools need to keep doing to continue this downward slope.

"As we see this trend going down, as we get into a safer level, if we can hold it, then we can take away some of the defensive measures, but we're not there yet," he said.

Dr. Thompson said he's optimistic if the COVID vaccine becomes available for kids soon that these numbers could continue to decline.