With coronavirus numbers increasing daily, Arkansans are continuing to ask about school returning April 17.

In an exclusive interview with Talk Business & Politics on Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he planned to speak about school closures this Monday.

“I talked to [Arkansas Department of Education] Secretary [Johnny] Key today and we talked about the schools,” he said. “We intend to make an announcement on Monday as to what’s ahead. He wants to put some plans together as to exactly how we address that in our schools.”

Schools across the state slowly began to close after the COVID-19 crisis hit across central Arkansas in early March. Hutchinson made the decision to call a statewide school closure on March 15 for two weeks to open back March 30 after the districts’s spring break weeks.

Then, later, he made the call to extend that date to April 17, with off-site instruction with staff and students using AMI days, AMI paperwork, Google classroom and other resources to keep education going.

“Obviously, we’re not going to reopen the schools when you’re continuing to go up in your cases, but we also want to make sure that we have all of our facts together before we make a formal decision next Monday,” Hutchinson said.

During his daily update on Saturday, the governor confirmed Arkansas’ COVID-19 number of positive cases at 743 with 72 hospitalized. He said that’s important because they were also able to perform 1,000 tests in the last 24 hours.

The department of health’s Dr. Nate Smith added three other counties had been added to the list as well including Lafayette, Dallas and Prairie.

Smith also spoke about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidelines.

According to CDC officials, the use of cloth face coverings and masks is now recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 since it is transmitted through speaking, coughing, sneezing – respiratory droplets – in close proximity.

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain [...] especially in areas of significant community-based transmission,” CDC officials said. “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining [six]-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.

“CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

The Log Cabin Democrat’s media partner KATV Channel 7 contributed to this story.

Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at handrews@thecabin.net

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