By Ray King

Arkansas reached a new high in the number of people hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 with 17 additional patients admitted in the past 24 hours.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that the new patients bring the total in Arkansas to 488. There have been 11 deaths reported although not all of them were reported in the past 24 hours. That increases the number of deaths to 374.

The Governor said an additional 728 new cases of COVID-19 were reported with 122 of them in correctional facilities and the remaining 606 in community settings.

Seven counties in the state reported more than 20 new cases, led by Pulaski County with 110, followed by Washington County with 62 and Crawford County with 46. Benton County had 45 new cases, Sebastian County 30 cases, Jefferson County 29 cases and Saline County 24 cases.

State Health Officer Dr. Jose Romero said there are currently 6,998 active cases. Of those, 138 are in nursing homes, 921 in Correctional facilities and the remaining 5,939 on community settings. A total of 27,283 people have recovered.

Hutchinson and State Education Commissioner Johnny Key also talked about the return to school which is set to begin the week of Aug. 24. The governor said in his travels around the state, he has me with school administrators and teachers who have expressed various concerns and said the state was working to alleviate those concerns.

School is scheduled to start state-wide the week of Aug. 24.

Asked to be specific, Hutchinson said school superintendents are concerned about the schools being ready from a physical standpoint, health issues and the availability of personal protection equipment and teachers are concerned about their own safety and health, and questions about how they would be compensated if they have to quarantine.

“We’re still 30 days out,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve got to do better in terms of our number of cases and the positivity rate.”

He said medical experts say that it could be two weeks before the mask mandate might show a decline in the number of cases.