(07/31/20) Plans established for school sports

7-31-20 ADH daily graphicThe following statistics were shared Friday, July 31, at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Little Rock and posted on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website:

  • 42,511 total confirmed cases, up 752 from 41,759 on Thursday. 
  • 6,645 active cases, up 65 from Thursday.
  • 35,413 recoveries, up 676 from Thursday.
  • 453 deaths, up 11 from Thursday.
  • 507 cases requiring hospitalization, up three from Thursday.
  • 100 cases requiring a ventilator, down one from Thursday.  
  • 786 cumulative cases in Garland County; today’s data yet available.
  • 238 active cases in Garland County; today’s data not yet available.
  • 541 recoveries in Garland County; today’s data yet available.
  • 7 deaths in Garland County; today’s data yet available.

In the past 24 hours, the number of new cases was 752, with 719 from the community and 33 from correctional facilities. The governor shared the top counties for new case counts, which included Sebastian with 81, Pulaski with 77, Benton with 51, Washington with 41, Independence with 31, Crittenden with 29, Union with 29, Mississippi with 25, Jefferson with 23, Saline with 21 and Craighead with 20. 

There were 7,207 test results received by ADH in the past 24 hours. The governor said he was pleased that the testing went up significantly in the past day and that, despite this increase, the new case count remained flat. He acknowledged that “the positivity rate is not good” and that “the state has a lot of work to do in this area” to bring the rolling average down below the CDC’s recommended high point of 10%. “We’ve got to watch that. We’ve got to do better in terms of positivity, which just means there’s a lot of spread in our communities still,” he said.

Hutchinson announced that steps are being taken “to lead the state to be able to have a regular sports season this fall.” A plan was approved by the state from the Arkansas Athletic Association (AAA) for football teams to have practice with helmets next week, August 3-7. AAA will be presenting a plan to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to allow regular seasons for football, volleyball and cheerleading this fall. ADH will review and develop guidelines for mitigating the virus risk associated with contact sports. A high school sports advisory group is also being formed to make recommendations to the governor and to assist ADH in best practices for protecting student athletes and school personnel. Cheerleading and volleyball will also be practicing next week, and guidelines for school bands should be released next week as well. 

“Sports is a very important part of the development of our youth,” he said, mentioning that he had heard this sentiment from parents, student athletes, coaches and many other educators. “If we do not have sports, then many of the student athletes will be traveling out of state to participate in sports, which adds another level of risk.”

The governor and Dr. Jose Romero explained that high school contact sports will be a fluid situation in which they learn as practice begins, which may also benefit the reopening of schools in general.

“We have over three weeks before school starts with students in the classroom, and we’re going to learn from the next three weeks of training and practice in the fields of sports, cheerleading and other activities. We will learn what adjustments need to be made, and we will improve our safety protocols,” he said.

The governor set a challenge for student athletes after making this announcement. 

“My message for the football players for Monday is to grab your helmet and be ready for practice. Then after practice, I want you to grab your mask so that you can protect others that you might be around. And this is very important as we enter into this season that the risk is not just on the practice field, but the risk is also as we go about the community. And our coaches, our trainers need to emphasize this the players. They need to understand it, and they need to set the example for their peers about wearing masks. And even during this time of athletic competition, to support our state in staying healthy along with everyone else,” he said.