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Daily testing has hit a lull as schools prepare to reopen and the governor announces a 60 day extension of the state’s health emergency.

Gov. Hutchinson addressed the slow down in testing in recent weeks and the need to catch up at his daily briefing on Friday afternoon. There were around 6,200 tests administered daily in July, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The average daily testing number for August is around 5,200. The testing lull comes as the daily number of cases continues to fluctuate between.

"The pandemic has not abated, it has not gone away,” Hutchinson said. “In Arkansas, we have over 500 deaths as a result of this pandemic. We have over 50,000 cumulative cases. We have over 6,000 active cases. And while we're making progress, we do remain in a state of emergency, public health wise."

Testing is behind where Hutchinson wants it to be and the state has some catching up to do in that area, he said.

The ADH reported 52,665 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Arkansas on Sunday, an increase of 673 in a day and 3,282 in a week.

Active cases rose to 6,494 from 6,687 on Saturday. Over the course of a week, active cases decreased by 893. As of Sunday, there were 478 patients hospitalized, up by 14 in a day and down by 36 in a week.

Statewide, 120 patients were on ventilators Sunday, up by 12 in a day and by five in seven days, according to the ADH.

There were no new deaths reported Sunday and one death from Saturday was removed for being a false positive. The number of deaths rose by 55 from Aug. 9, for a total of 599. Sunday was the first day since July 19 that no deaths were reported. Of active cases, 198 were in state correctional facilities.

Washington County reported 30 new confirmed cases between Saturday and Sunday, making its total cumulative cases 6,430 and its active cases 232. Benton County reported 17 new cases, for a total of 4,917 cumulative cases and 204 active cases. Of active cases in the state, 6.7% are in Northwest Arkansas.

Since Aug. 9, cumulative cases increased by 132 in Washington County, and by 143 in Benton County.

Health Secretary Jose Romero urged Arkansans to maintain social distancing and health guidelines during the weekend Friday afternoon.

Romero addressed the need for people to get tested as testing numbers begin to wane at local health units.

“I want people to go in and be tested,” Romero said. “It’s important to do so. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to see what our actual numbers are.”

There have been 91,800 tests administered in August according to the ADH. The total number of people tested statewide jumped from 588,660 on Friday to 616,101 on Saturday as the ADH completes some database cleaning.

As students make their way back to colleges across the state some have asked about how students will be counted after testing.

State Rep. Denise Garner (D-84) shared information on student testing on Twitter Sunday.

“For college students coming from out of state – if the student tests positive for COVID in the first two weeks of being in Arkansas, then that number will be attributed to their home state,” Garner wrote. “After two weeks, a confirmed positive test will count toward Arkansas numbers.”

The return to school and fall sports have been regular topics during Hutchinson’s daily briefings as the first day for public school gets closer.

Hutchinson announced the "Arkansas Ready to Learn Healthy School Guide” at his Thursday afternoon briefing. The 20-page guide addressing a number of back to school topics was developed by officials from Arkansas Children's Hospital, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the state departments of health and education.

The return to sports and other extracurriculars are only briefly mentioned in the guide and it refers readers to the ADH for more information. A letter issued by the ADH on Thursday gives more insight to the high school sport venue numbers Hutchinson mentioned in his briefing and how those extracurriculars will work.

Requirements include maintaining social distancing requirements for spectators, face coverings for all people over 10 years old and proper signs being displayed in the venue. Private and public school athletic events that meet the requirements listed on the document will not will not be required to submit COVID 19 compliance plans to the ADH.

Public schools will begin the academic term Aug. 24.

Abbi Ross is the Editor in Chief of the Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as senior staff reporter.

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