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Coronavirus in Arkansas: Governor announces public schools remain online through end of school year

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Monday all public schools in Arkansas will remain closed to in-person classes, but online or Alternative Method of Instruction (AMI) would continue for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

The governor said the continuation of the school closure was based on public health concerns.

Johnny Key, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education, said Arkansas AMI, which is in partnership from Arkansas PBS and the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, currently has lessons planned through April 17, but will have lessons prepared through May 1.

According to Key, this gives schools three weeks to plan for the remainder of the school year.

Key says most school districts say they can deliver AMI through the rest of the school year.

Charter schools will also get resources from the Department of Education, Key says.

Key expects more districts will make services available when it comes to internet connectivity. He said some districts were waiting on what would happen with the school year.

School districts can continue providing student meals as long as they follow CDC guidelines.

Key says he expects school districts to be flexible.

Key also said seniors who were in good standing in the third nine weeks will meet the state standards for graduation, but also told seniors to continue their classwork.

AP students will be able to take their test at home, according to Johnny Key.

Key said core content should be the focus, but use art, music and physical education in conjunction to make the content engaging for students.

Key warned teachers to be careful of introducing new content, but encouraged them to review and help students master what they already learned.

According to Key, graduation ceremonies are subject to the Arkansas Department of Health’s guidance on social gatherings. Key says he knows of districts that are working to plan something, either virtual graduations or onsite graduations when restrictions can be loosened.

As of Monday afternoon, there are 875 cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas. That is an increase of 45 cases from Sunday afternoon.

No new deaths were announced Monday. The coronavirus death toll in Arkansas remains at 16.

Seventy-four people are in the hospital due to COVID-19, according to the governor. Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, said that was seven more than Sunday afternoon.

Twenty-two people are on ventilators, which is five fewer than Sunday.

Dr. Smith said 102 Arkansans have recovered, which is five more since Sunday’s news conference.

Dr. Smith said there are now 65 counties with reported cases of the virus. Izard County was the latest county to be added, Smith announced Monday afternoon.

Of the 875 cases, 2.3 percent are children, 6.7 percent are adults 18 to 24 years old, 30.3 percent are adults 25-44, 34.9 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64 and 25.7 percent are aged 65 and older.

Dr. Smith said 122 healthcare workers have the virus. Fifteen of those are physicians, 36 are nurses, 15 are certified nursing assistants and the rest are various licensed and unlicensed healthcare workers.

Dr. Smith said the Department of Health is following 13 nursing homes where at least one resident or one staff has a case of the virus.

Four of the coronavirus-related deaths has been associated with a nursing home, according to Dr. Smith.

Thiry-two nursing home workers have the virus, according to Smith.

Dr. Smith says the state has slowed the rate of growth and he hopes to slow it even more.

Governor Hutchinson also announced Monday that Arkansas will send five ventilators to Louisiana. According to Dr. Smith, the state has just short of 800 ventilators, with 500-550 of them not currently being in use.

You can watch the full press conference above.

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