Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday that state school districts will have to wait until after July 1 to hold traditional high-school graduations.
At his daily COVID-19 briefing, Hutchinson said decisions will be announced next week regarding the lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions, but large gatherings such as graduations still represent too big a risk.
“Everybody is ready to be normal. We’re not there yet and won’t be for some time,” he said. “But we’re looking at ways to begin lifting some restrictions.”
Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key said his department will begin accepting proposals for virtual graduations from state school districts. “In many communities, high-school graduations are one of the largest events of the year. We simply can’t mitigate the risk,” he said.
Hutchinson also announced three new deaths related to the virus. Arkansas’ total number of COVID-19 deaths now sits at 49. Currently, 104 Arkansas patients have been hospitalized due to coronavirus. That number is unchanged from April 24.
Citing data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle that projected more than 2,000 COVID-related hospitalizations in Arkansas by April 25, Hutchinson said state officials are confident in the ability “to manage the patients that we have now and even into the future.”
Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas Health Secretary, said the first day of the state’s surge campaign saw 1,003 test results with just 4.2 percent of them positive. He said the state has seen 2,830 positive cases as of Saturday with 826 of them coming from the inmate population at the state’s Cummins prison. Three inmates have been hospitalized, and the vast majority of inmates testing positive are not symptomatic, Smith noted.
Smith said 194 cases in the state are associated with nursing homes, up 18 from a day ago. Thirty-seven nursing homes in the state currently are under investigation for the virus.