Virus cases jump at Arkansas schools in 2nd week of classes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — More than 3,100 active coronavirus cases have been reported in Arkansas public schools among students and employees, according to newly released numbers from the state.

Most students returned to the classroom last week — and the majority of public school students attend districts that are requiring masks. The mask requirements emerged after a judge in Little Rock temporarily blocked a state law that bans mask mandates in schools and public places.

The Arkansas Department of Health’s latest report on schools, released Thursday, found 3,102 active cases in 173 school districts in the state. The Bentonville, Springdale, Rogers, Cabot and Fort Smith districts all reported more than 100 active cases among students, faculty and staff.

A week ago, the state reported just under 1,800 active cases at schools.

Meanwhile, a judge in Lonoke County on Friday ruled against a group of parents who sued to block Cabot schools’ mask requirement. Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore wrote that most of the parents who sued had already received mask exemptions for their children or withdrawn them from the district, so she denied their request to block the requirement.

Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.