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Campus covid-19 numbers declining

Spring break isan added factor by Jaime Adame | March 24, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
University of Arkansas students are shown on the lawn in front of Old Main on the campus in Fayetteville in this file photo.

Active covid-19 cases in schools continue to decline as many public school districts and several colleges are on spring break this week, while the state's largest university Monday reported having a single active infection.

But the count by the University of Arkansas fell below that of the university's case count as published by state health authorities, highlighting again how school and campus counts can differ from state data.

One of the state's private universities, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, on Friday held an on-campus vaccine clinic for students less than a week after Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that college students living in residence halls and Greek housing were eligible.

Statewide, cases among students and staff in public school districts fell to 265, according to a report Monday from the state Department of Health.

Reports on active and cumulative covid-19 cases are published by the department twice each week. On Thursday, the department reported 302 active cases in public school districts.

The Monday report listed 17 public school districts as having five or more active cases. At the peak of infections in mid-January, 163 school districts had at least five active cases.

Rogers School District topped all others with 24 active covid-19 cases, followed by Springdale School District with 14 cases, according to Monday's report.

COLLEGE COUNTS

The latest Health Department report also showed a decline in case totals among students and staff at college campuses throughout the state, with active cases falling to 80. Last Thursday, the department reported 103 active cases at colleges.

UA -- despite posting on its website Monday that it had only one active case -- according to Monday's state report had 18 active cases.

The different totals reflect who is included.

The state Health Department includes in its active cases "any student, faculty or staff currently affiliated with the university regardless of on-campus living or learning," department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill said in an email.

UA, for its totals as updated three times weekly, considers active cases "involving individuals who may have been on campus," according to the UA website.

Mark Rushing, a UA spokesman, on Monday further clarified how the state's inclusion of all students can lead to different case counts.

"Since a number of students are not yet taking in-person courses, they may be living across the state and not visiting campus (in addition to those attending via online courses on a regular basis), so these individuals, as we understand it, would be included in the state's cumulative numbers but would not be included in our cumulative numbers of those who have been on campus," Rushing said.

Rushing added: "We believe this accounts for the difference of several hundred cases over the course of the past eight months when the university has been tracking and reporting these numbers. It seems the state's numbers are higher than the university's numbers because some of those counted by the state as affiliated with the university [haven't] actually been on campus during these reporting periods."

Monday's state report listed a cumulative total of 3,713 coronavirus cases tied to UA since June 15.

UA listed a total of 2,883 covid-19 recoveries since Aug. 10.

There are also differences in when a case is considered a recovery.

With UA's reporting method, individuals are "considered recovered 10 days from the date of testing or 10 days after symptoms appear if at least 24 hours have passed without fever and without fever-reducing medication," according to the university's website.

The state Health Department counts a case as no longer active after attempting to make contact with the infected person following a 10-day isolation period. This period starts with the onset of symptoms or the date of testing for asymptomatic individuals. If the person reports no fever and improving symptoms, they are considered recovered; if no contact is made, a recovery is counted 14 days after symptom onset unless there is hospitalization or death.

VACCINE CLINIC

About 470 Ouachita Baptist University students had registered by late last week to get a dose of covid-19 vaccine at a clinic held last Friday, university spokeswoman Brooke Zimny said.

"Combined with students vaccinated off-campus, approximately half of our on-campus students have received at least one dose of the vaccine," Zimny said in an email Monday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 16 announced an expansion of eligibility for vaccines. College students living in residence halls and Greek housing were among the groups made newly eligible in Arkansas.

Among other colleges and universities, Arkansas State University has announced three days of on-campus vaccine clinics for students beginning March 30.

The University of Arkansas in a message Friday, says the campus medical center has requested additional doses for the UA community.

Teachers and staff at Arkansas schools, colleges and universities became eligible to receive shots in mid-January.

SPRING BREAK

Students at UA weren't given a full week of spring break out of concern a week off would lead to travel and further spread of the virus.

Colleges and universities in the state differed in their approach.

Several large universities are giving students this week off, including Arkansas State University, the University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and Henderson State University.

Others have split their traditional typical weeklong break into smaller holidays, including Hendrix College and Ouachita Baptist University.

The University of Arkansas at Monticello opted to delay the start of its spring semester and thus is not having a traditional week of spring break. Southern Arkansas University also opted for a condensed semester without a full week of spring break. Lyon College also is among the colleges not having a traditional spring break week.

Harding University held its weeklong spring break March 8-12.

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