ARKANSAS, USA — During Wednesday (Sept. 8) the statewide covid-19 update, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and state officials say cases in school districts are higher now than this time last year.
“Our number as reported by the health department up in school cases are higher this year and than they are last year which is to be expected with the Delta Variant however the number of interruptions has not been as frequent this year,” said Johnny Keys, Arkansas Department of Education Secretary.
As the number of cases continues to rise, school districts in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley currently have some of the most cases in the state. School districts in our area make up three of the top five schools with the highest active covid cases in Arkansas.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Cabot has the most active case, with Fort Smith schools trailing behind with the second highest in the state. Springdale Schools following not too far behind with the fourth highest and the Rogers School District with the fifth highest.
Keys says it may not seem like the number of covid cases in schools across Arkansas is as high as they are because we have not seen as many districts pivot to virtual learning as we did last year. Pointing at the vaccine for the reason why. Urging more educators and school staff to get vaccinated.
“What we’re seeing in the districts, especially those districts that are having more challenges are typically lower vaccination rates with the staff. Especially the staff,” said Keys.
Officials say scientific data is proving that school districts with higher vaccination rates and mask requirements in place have a lower number of cases compared to those who don’t have these requirements.
An example of this is the Waldron School District. They began the school year without a mask requirement and said that at one point the district had around 400 students in quarantine. Now, the district is now requiring masks for the next 30 days to slow the spread.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement shows that about 25 percent of Waldron residents are fully vaccinated. While in Northwest Arkansas, 40% of Springdale residents are fully vaccinated. In Rogers, 44 percent of their residents are fully vaccinated.
Governor Hutchinson is now offering ways to combat these low vaccine rates.
“Make sure that they have vaccination clinics, that they have a good education material for both parents, students, and staff,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “The key is increasing vaccination rates for those that are 12 and older. I’ve advocated for schools to have the option to have masks,” Governor Hutchinson continued.
Schools in Arkansas do have a choice whether to require masks after Act 1002 was temporarily blocked.