Gov. Hutchinson issues plan for school-sponsored team sports events

Also extended the public health emergency in Ark.

FULL BRIEFING 8/14: Gov. Hutchinson, ADH, ADE, and AAA COVID-19 update for Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday afternoon that he extended the emergency order for another 60 days as he looks at ways to help schools with activities during the pandemic.

The Department of Health says active cases and hospitalizations are down today.

The governor said the Northeast region of the state has gotten a better handle of the virus, however, there’s “still work to do.”

The governor also announced a directive Friday to give guidelines to the state on school-sponsored team sports events.

The facilities are expected to not go over 66% of capacity, to social distance six feet, and to wear a mask.

Education Secretary Johnny Key unveiled a kid and parent-friendly guide to help provide them a better understanding of the coronavirus.

They will distribute the books, which just came in a shipment, across the state.

Key also addressed the concerns that teachers have with personal protective equipment, saying they are dedicated to making sure all schools have what they need to begin the new year.

Lance Taylor, executive director of the Arkansas Activities Association, gave an update on school sports and activities.

He feels that students are safer at schools with their coaches or directors as they follow social distancing guidelines than what they may be doing while being out of school.

“Continue to wear this,” Taylor said as he held up a mask. “Continue to make a difference.”

In terms of contact tracing at events, the school district will operate just like other industries do in the state and report the positive cases to the department of health.

The ADH will be responsible for then following the procedures, but the governor says state officials are working to streamline the process.

Secretary Key said they keep getting feedback from educators about the start of school, but he really feels that there’s a need for in-person instruction across the state as there’s a need to stay safe from the virus.

“There are students whose needs will not be met solely by virtual ways,” Key said.

Key added that they will look at how they can adjust their plan as more feedback surfaces.

Dr. Jose Romero wants students and educators to seek testing at the local county health unit.

“If there’s an outbreak at school, we have a team of 10 that we can deploy immediately to the area to conduct testing of students,” Dr. Romero said.

Gov. Hutchinson said they are mass testing prisons this month again to make sure we get ahead of the outbreaks in the prison system.

He said a board dealing with prisons is looking to release more nonviolent offenders that meet a specific guidelines in efforts to battle COVID-19 in prisons.

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