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story.lead_photo.caption This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes covid-19. - Photo by NIAID-RML via AP

The numbers of active covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and patients on ventilators in Arkansas all rose on Sunday, even as the Arkansas Department of Health reported 549 new confirmed cases, a decrease compared with recent days.

The confirmed-case total for Sunday was the lowest single-day tally since Sept. 14, when 399 confirmed cases were reported in the state.

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The Department of Health's confirmed-case total since the start of the pandemic increased to 73,690 on Sunday. Of the newly reported confirmed cases, 47 were in correctional facilities.

Health officials' tally of confirmed cases -- defined as covid-19 cases verified using a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test -- combined with the department's count of 2,033 probable cases brought the cumulative case total since March to 75,723.

The probable-case count rose by 14 on Sunday from 2,019 the day before.

No additional deaths were reported on Sunday, leaving the confirmed death toll in Arkansas at 1,033. The confirmed and probable death toll associated with the covid-19 outbreak stood at 1,181, according to the Department of Health.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Sunday's new-case total marked a decline compared with the preceding days last week, when Arkansas reported more than 700 new confirmed and probable cases for five days in a row.

Nevertheless, in an interview, state epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said, "I think that may be more a function of it being on the weekend and fewer testing being done."

She added, "So I think we're still at a place in our state where we're having a lot of community spread."

Dillaha also expressed concern about recent social gatherings that have contributed to transmission of the virus in the community.

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"It's not just that people are out and about and they don't know where they got exposed," she said. "A lot of times, people do know where they got exposed, and it was at a social gathering that did not maintain appropriate physical distancing or people were not wearing their face masks."

Results from 8,838 PCR tests were reported on Saturday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson in a tweet on Sunday sounded encouraged by that testing figure, adding that Arkansas was on track to "meet and exceed" its testing goal of 180,000 PCR tests during the month of September.

Laboratories in the state have conducted 148,092 PCR tests this month, according to the Department of Health. The state fell short of its 190,000-test goal for August by about 3,600 tests.

"Continue to wear your mask to protect your friends and family," Hutchinson wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Of the 393 rapid, less-sensitive antigen test results that were reported in Arkansas on Saturday, 30 tests were positive, the Department of Health said.

The department's count of hospitalizations and patients on ventilators both rose on Sunday.

The number of individuals hospitalized because of covid-19 was up five, for a total of 412, a day after the number of hospitalizations jumped by 26 on Saturday.

The number of patients on ventilators increased by four, for a total of 85.

The Department of Health's tally of patients who have been hospitalized for covid-19 since the start of the pandemic reached 4,967 on Sunday.

ACTIVE CASES CLIMB

The number of known active cases in Arkansas on Sunday reached its highest point since the second week of August after beginning an upward trajectory during the first days of September.

As of Sunday, there were 6,256 confirmed active cases, up 155 from the previous day. At one point in early August, Arkansas health officials reported that approximately 7,400 active cases were in the state.

Active cases in Craighead and Jefferson counties have remained high. On Sunday, health officials reported 318 confirmed active cases in Craighead County and 482 in Jefferson County.

Those counties have seen fewer deaths compared with more populous counties in Arkansas, such as Pulaski, Benton and Washington counties. Craighead County's confirmed-and-probable death toll was 20 as of Sunday, while Jefferson County's was 62.

Dillaha suggested the significant number of active cases in Craighead and Jefferson counties was due to the presence of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The Department of Health's most recent report on educational institutions, from Thursday, listed 34 known active cases at UAPB and 32 at ASU in Jonesboro.

Dillaha described social distancing and mask requirements as "a very difficult thing for young people, so we all need to support them and help them to do the right thing because developmentally, it's a difficult thing for them to do."

There were 613 confirmed active cases in Pulaski County on Sunday, the Department of Health reported, the most in a single county in Arkansas.

Washington County's confirmed active-case total was at 522, and Benton County's was 314 as of Sunday. In Faulkner County, health officials reported 297 confirmed active cases. In Sebastian County, 277 confirmed active cases were reported.

Dillaha said that starting today, the Department of Health will begin offering flu vaccinations at its local health units.

The flu vaccine will be offered at no cost to people who want to be vaccinated, but Dillaha asked that patients arrive with insurance information, if they have it, so the department can recoup costs by billing insurance companies.

"This year, we are especially encouraging people to get their flu vaccination because we do not want flu and covid-19 circulating at the same time," Dillaha said.

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