Bryant schools to pitch mask change
The Bryant School District proposes amending its mask mandate.
The proposal calls for the district to review the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement website's weekly report on covid-19 cases at all school district boundary levels. The report covers a 14-day period. The report is posted Friday. A district is assigned a "color coding" based on a numerical range.
Under the proposal, the Bryant district would use the color coding system to determine whether masks will be required for students, employees and visitors.
If the number of known infections for a 14-day period per 10,000 residents is 29 or below (yellow level or below), face coverings on a school bus or in a school district building "shall be voluntary but highly encouraged."
If the number is at least 30 (orange level or above), face coverings will be required.
The weekly decision will take affect the next school day.
The usual exceptions will remain in place, such as: while eating and drinking; a medical reason as determined by a doctor's note; or during "face covering breaks."
The Bryant School Board will consider the policy change at a regularly scheduled meeting that begins at 6 p.m. today.
On Aug. 10, the board approved a resolution requiring masks for students, employees and visitors to buildings, with few exceptions. The board stated at that special meeting it would review the mask policy at its regular meeting in September.
32 agency workers get positive results
The Arkansas Department of Transportation has 32 employees in isolation after testing positive for covid-19, according to a top agency executive.
Another 64 are in quarantine either because they have been exposed to someone who tested positive or have covid-related symptoms, Crystal Woods, the division head of human resources for the department, said Wednesday.
The agency has had 800 employees test positive since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Woods said. The department has a total of 3,715 permanent and temporary employees, said Dave Parker, the department spokesman.
Woods' office has tried to track the source of exposure. A total of 43% didn't know the source of the exposure, 28% got the virus from someone in their household, 15% got it from work, 9% from an extended family member who isn't part of the household and 5% from another source "such as a friend or someone at church," Woods said.
The pandemic peaked at the department the week after Christmas when 58 employees tested positive. The cases declined until June and July and began falling again in August, Woods said.
"We saw a slight uptick last week due to the Labor Day holiday, but hopefully we're starting to see the end of the second surge," she said at a presentation she made to the Arkansas Highway Commission. "As of this morning, we've had [five] positive tests so far this week."
A total of 58% percent of the workforce -- or 2,157 employees -- has had at least one shot of the vaccines, Woods said. More than 1,000 participated in an on-site vaccine clinic in April, 435 took advantage of bonus payments in July and another 700 did so in August.
Six employees have died from covid-19, including one in the last 10 days, she said.
-- Noel Oman
Hospital responds to opt-out requests
About 5% of the staff at the privately run Conway Regional Health System has requested religious or medical exemptions from getting vaccinated against covid-19.
Many major religious denominations have no objections to the covid-19 vaccines. But the rollout has prompted heated debates because of the longtime role that cell lines derived from fetal tissue have played, directly or indirectly, in the research and development of various vaccines and medicines.
Conway Regional responded to the requests by sending employees a form that lists a multitude of common medicines -- including Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, Preparation H and Tums -- that it said were developed or tested using fetal cell lines.
The form asks people to sign it and attest that "my sincerely held religious belief is consistent and true and I do not use or will not use" any of the listed medications.
In a statement, Conway Regional Health President and CEO Matt Troup said: "Staff who are sincere ... should have no hesitancy with agreeing to the list of medicines listed."
-- The Associated Press