LITTLE ROCK — Eighty-eight Arkansas school districts have had 50 or more new known COVID-19 infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, up from 48 districts a week earlier, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said Thursday. Fifty-one school districts were added to the list this week, and 37 remained on the list.

ACHI also found that seven districts had more than 100 new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period, or more than 1 percent of district residents: Armorel, Cedar Ridge, Earle, Manila, Ouachita, Rector, and White County Central. All but Ouachita are in Northeast Arkansas. One district, Cedar Ridge, had a rate of more than 300 new known infections per 10,000 residents, driven by a concentrated outbreak in a congregate setting.

ACHI identified school districts with high infection rates by analyzing data received Monday from the Arkansas Department of Health. The infections are among community residents living within the geographical boundaries of the school districts and are not specific to school employees and students. Known infections include confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases are based on verbal reporting and antigen test results, as identified by the Department of Health.

ACHI identifies districts with 50 to 99 new known infections per 10,000 residents as being in the “red zone” and districts with 100 or more new known infections per 10,000 residents as being in the “purple zone.” The districts are shaded in these colors on the school district map on ACHI’s COVID-19 in Arkansas web page.

“This huge increase in school districts with high rates of infection among residents is deeply concerning,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “We must get this virus under control to protect our schools, keep our hospitals from being overrun, and save lives.”

Dr. Thompson said these infection rates are especially troubling with Thanksgiving just a week away.

“Ideally, members of different households should connect electronically for the holiday this year, but if you do plan to hold a gathering with members of different households, please see the recommendations of ACHI’s Health Policy Board at achi.net/givethanksnotcovid,” he said.

Rates of new known infections in school districts across the state, as well as counts of cumulative and new infections, are tracked on ACHI’s COVID-19 in Arkansas web page. Rates and counts are not shown for districts with fewer than five 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.

Eleven districts that were in the red zone a week earlier have dropped below that level this week: Barton-Lexa, Blevins, Brinkley, Cedarville, Fouke, Horatio, Lafayette County, Marion, Nashville, Pangburn, and Prescott.

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