LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas health officials on Tuesday said their biggest growth in new coronavirus cases is among college-aged people as the number of active infections at the University of Arkansas’ main campus approached 1,000.
The Arkansas Department of Health on Tuesday reported 294 new confirmed virus cases statewide, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 66,021. Cases among people 18 to 24 years old grew by nearly 17% last week, two to three times more than any other age group.
“We’re clearly seeing what we believe to be a reflection of those cases in colleges and universities,” Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, said.
The university on Monday reported 439 new cases during the weekend, bringing its total active cases to 923. The vast majority of the cases are students, the university said. The state Health Department in a separate report said the school has 961 active cases.
The spike comes days after the school moved to restrict on-campus events and off-campus parties over concerns about the outbreak. The school told students they would treat organizing or attending large parties without masks or social distancing as a violation of the student code.
Arkansas State University in Jonesboro on Tuesday reported 107 active cases on campus.
The number of people statewide who died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, rose by nine to 917. The number of people hospitalized rose by 10 to 409.
The department also reported 20 positive cases through antigen testing. The state has 5,844 active virus cases.
The actual number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson also announced that the state is spending $4 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to purchase an additional 120,000 antigen tests. The tests are being purchased through a multi-state purchasing agreement and the goal is to have them available in October through the end of the year, he said.
A Little Rock middle school on Tuesday also shifted to online-only classes after a staff member tested positive for the virus. The Little Rock School District said nine employees and 42 students from Dunbar Magnet Middle School who came into contact with the staffer will be quarantined for 14 days.
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