LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — For the first time, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement reported Thursday, Jan. 20 all of Arkansas’s 234 contiguous public school districts having COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over a 14-day period.
This is up from 226, the previous record high from last week, ACHI said, citing its analysis of Arkansas Department of Health data current as of Monday, Jan. 17.
Last week, ACHI added a new color of pink, to the maps on its COVID-19 dashboard to signify an infection rate of 200 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents over the past 14 days, or at least 2% of the district’s population.
A district with 100 to 199 new known infections per 10,000 residents is shaded purple, and a district with 50 to 99 new known infections per 10,000 residents is red.
The map released Thursday includes seven districts in red, 57 in purple, and 170, or 73% of districts, in pink. Last week, ACHI reported that 48 districts were in red, 120 were in purple, and 58 were in pink.
“Every school district being in red, purple, or pink on our map means that COVID-19 is spreading uncontrolled in all our communities,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “In nearly three-fourths of the districts, at least 2% of the local population is infected. In four districts, more than 5% of the population, or one out of every 20 people, is newly infected.”
The infection rates reported by ACHI are based on infections among community residents living within the geographical boundaries of each school district, the news release said. They are not only on cases among 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 Arkansas Department of Health. ACHI said reported rates do not include complete results from at-home testing, which makes the true level of infections likely higher than initially reported.
Infection rates and counts are not reported for districts with fewer than five reported infections to reduce the possibility of identifying individuals. School district counts also 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 ADH data current as of Monday: 24 school districts have achieved vaccination rates of at least 50% of district residents.
One district is above 60: Northwest Arkansas’s Bentonville.
Thompson also urged school boards and school leaders to act to protect students and staff, saying “Every available tool needs to be used to halt this hopefully short-term surge driven by the highly infectious omicron variant.”