By Ray King

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Friday will update the status of contact sports like football during his daily COVID-19 update.

Currently, high schools are permitted to conduct conditioning drills, but physical contact is prohibited in football and volleyball, as well as cheerleading. The Governor also said school will begin the week of Aug. 24 as planned.

Over the past 24 hours, 791 new cases of COVID-19 were reported statewide, bringing the total of cumulative cases to 41,559. Of those, 6,580 are active. There are currently 504 people hospitalized, that’s four less than on Wednesday, and eight additional deaths were reported, bringing the state total to 448.

Chicot County reported the highest number of cases for any county in the state with 152, followed by Pulaski County with 73, Sebastian County with 57, Benton County with 47, Garland County with 44 and Washington County with 37. Independence County reported 34 cases, Jefferson County 31, Pope County 30, Craighead County 29, Mississippi County 23 and Faulkner County 21.

According to the A.C.H.I. website, there have been 549 active cases of COVID-19 in Pine Bluff since the pandemic began March 11, and as of Monday, there are 168 active cases. The City of White Hall 151 cumulative cases since March 11 and there are 3 cases currently active.

Acting State Health Officer Dr. Jose Romero announced Thursday that a directive requiring all elective surgery patients to have a pre-surgery COVID-19 test was being eliminated. Instead, the decision on whether or not to administer the test will be left to the discretion of the physician and the hospital where the surgery is to be performed. Romero said after an analysis of the test results showed a far less than one percent positivity rate, it was decided to drop the state requirement.