LITTLE ROCK ― In a single week, the number of Arkansas public school districts with COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period has seen a nearly five-fold increase, going from 28 last week to 138 this week, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said Wednesday, citing its analysis of Arkansas Department of Health data current as of Monday.
The number of districts at this high level of community spread is not a record ― 201 districts were at 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents in the week of Jan. 11, 2021, and again in the week of Aug. 23 ― but the week-to-week increase is the largest on record.
"Arkansas is experiencing uncontrolled spread of the omicron variant," said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. "Arkansans need to take immediate precautions, and local school leaders need to take actions to protect our children."
Thompson urged all school districts to require masks for students and staff, encourage vaccination, and redouble efforts at social distancing, hand washing, and increased ventilation. School leaders should also be prepared to transition to virtual learning, he said.
Of the 138 districts with 14-day rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents, 39 have infection rates of more than 100 new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, up from five last week.
ACHI's map showing COVID-19 infection rates in school districts ― available at achi.net/covid19 ― uses the following color key: 0 to 9 new known infections per 10,000 residents over 14 days, dark green; 10 to 19 infections per 10K residents, light green; 20 to 29 infections per 10K residents, yellow; 30 to 49 infections per 10K residents, orange; 50 to 99 infections per 10K residents, red; and 100 or more infections per 10K residents, purple.
As of Monday, the following area school districts had infection rates of at least 50 new known infections per 10,000 district residents over the previous 14 days. An asterisk indicates that a district is new to the list this week.
Camden Fairview* – rate of 100 or more new known infections per 10K residents
El Dorado* – rate of 100 or more new known infections per 10K residents
Harmony Grove (Clark, Dallas, and Ouachita Counties)*
The color-shading of a district is based on infections among community residents living within the geographical boundaries of each school district and not on cases among school employees and students.
Known infections reported by ACHI include confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases are based on verbal reporting and antigen test results, as identified by the Department of Health.
Infection rates and counts are not shown for districts with fewer than five reported infections to reduce the possibility of identifying individuals. School district counts do not include infections among incarcerated populations, in nursing homes, or in human development centers.
ACHI also updated the maps and tables on its website displaying vaccination rates by public school district, community, and ZIP code, using Department of Health data current as of Monday. Twenty-one school districts have achieved vaccination rates of at least 50% of district residents, one of them over 60%: Bentonville, at 61%.
ACHI is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development.