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VERIFY: Data tracking COVID-19 in Arkansas schools

During a COVID-19 press briefing, we learned about new data tracking positivity rates in Arkansas schools.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — On Tuesday, August 11, Governor Hutchinson gave a COVID-19 press briefing and we learned about new data tracking positivity rates that will soon be available to parents as their children return to school in Arkansas.

But the announcement has already raised several questions about what this means and what those numbers will look like. 

As we approach the first day of school in Arkansas, many parents still have so many questions about what this upcoming school year will look like—especially when it comes to whether their kids will be at risk for contracting the coronavirus. 

"The number of tests and the accuracy of that data to have an accurate positivity rate is going to be important as well," said Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key.

Tuesday afternoon, Key announced a partnership with the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement that will provide school district level COVID-19 data. 

President and CEO of the ACHI Dr. Joe Thompson said he thinks the most important information for parents is whether testing happening in the area represents their children's school district.

"Number two, how many of those are positive, and how many active cases are there?"

Dr. Thompson broke down how the state has been reporting county-level data for weeks now and explains the center will be zeroing in on those numbers to put out school district-level data. 

"The data flows to the health department from the testing labs both within the state and across the country. We then get a transfer of the COVID-19 positive individuals and we geo-code which school districts they reside in and then we divide it by the population of that school district," Dr. Thompson said. 

Dr. Thompson anticipates updating these numbers on a weekly basis to try to minimize the effects of testing lags and get the information out to parents as quickly as possible.

"When we put this first piece of data out, it'll be a single report of the number of active cases."

The department of education is looking at rolling out this new data out later this week, and we'll be sure to give context for that information when it comes out.