LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas on Thursday reported at least 411 students, teachers and staff at public schools are actively infected with the coronavirus as the state's new cases continued rising.
The state began releasing numbers of active virus cases at public school districts four days into the new school year. The state also detailed the number of cases at districts with at least five confirmed cases.
Arkansas' public schools have about 480,000 students and more than 69,000 teachers and staff. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he wasn't surprised by the figure and called it modest compared to the number of students the state has, but cautioned the number at this point is more a reflection of activity before the school year started.
“If there was an infection, the students would have got that outside the school activities for it to be a statistic right now," he said. “So we'll be able to measure from that two weeks from now, three weeks, four weeks from now. I expect that number to go up, but we will see."
Arkansas' public schools are allowed to offer classes online or a hybrid option that includes some on-site classes. But the state is requiring schools to be open five days a week for students who need in-person instruction, a requirement that has drawn complaints from teachers' groups.
Education Secretary Johnny Key said the state planned to update the school numbers twice a week. The figures also showed 41 active cases at Arkansas' colleges and universities.
The Health Department reported 722 new confirmed virus cases in the state, bringing its total cases since the pandemic began to 58,745. Of those cases, 6,632 are active ones that don't include people who have died or recovered.
The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The number of people who have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, rose by seven to 739. The number of people hospitalized fell by two to 433.