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Here's what determines a COVID-19 outbreak in an Arkansas school district

There have been thousands of COVID cases in Arkansas schools: but none have been labeled an outbreak. This is how the ADH determines if it's an outbreak.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The Arkansas Department of Health's latest COVID numbers for the state's public schools show there are 3,352 active cases. There have been 6,450 total cases since classes started.

"Technically, what defines an outbreak within a specific group of people is they spread it to each other. They didn't get it from somewhere else," said Joel Tumlison, an Outbreak Response Physician for the Department of Health.

The Department of Health said these cases are not considered outbreaks because they were not traced back to campus, and so far they haven't seen any outbreaks this year. 

Instead, they believe these cases came from outside the classroom.

"Often we will have maybe a few cases within a classroom, but when you investigate: 'oh that person's mom was positive' or 'that person was with their cousin over the weekend who turned out to be positive,'" said Tumlison.

The Little Rock School District (LRSD), one of the largest districts in the state, has reported more than 500 students and staff quarantined and more than 100 positive cases since the start of school last week: none of which considered as outbreaks.

"We prefer to not have any cases, but I think we are managing things pretty well and that's an attribute to students, parents, and staff all doing the right thing," said LRSD's Superintendent Michael Poore.

LRSD has had to pivot some classes to virtual because of positive cases. More of those cases are from younger students who can't get vaccinated yet.

The district implemented a mask mandate after a federal judge blocked the statewide ban earlier this month, which the superintendent said has helped tremendously. 

Arkansas Department of Education guidelines state students who had close contact with a positive case do not have to quarantine, as long as they have no symptoms and both were wearing masks.

LRSD's COVID report Wednesday showed 68 more people are in quarantine and there are 12 more positive cases.

This article has been updated to include the latest number of active school cases in the state.

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