201124_COVID-19 Press Briefing
9:29PM Nov 24, 2020
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Secretary Johnny Key (ADE)
Chelsea Helms - KNWA
Kendall Ashman - 40/29
Troy Wells - Baptist Health
Leslie Peacock - Ark Times
Thank you for joining me for today's weekly COVID update. And I want to wish everybody safe holiday as we enter into the Thanksgiving season. I'm glad to be joined today by Dr. Jose Romero, the Department of Health Secretary johnnie key of the Department of Education. And then today we also have Troy wells, who's the CEO of Baptist Health System for an important update in terms of our hospital capacity. He's also a member of our winter COVID Task Force, and I appreciate his work on that. Let me first wish Priscilla Boyle, a happy birthday. She today is 106 years old. And she is from Moscow, archit, Moscow, Arkansas. And she spent one month in the hospital in June, as a result of contracting covid. She was released from the hospital. She's tested negative, repeated times. And she has celebrated her 106 birthday. She moved a little rock in 1942. And she is 28 years old. She was active at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. And she was a Sunday school teacher Vacation Bible School Teacher as well. And she was engaged in business. And she owned White's beauty shop in Little Rock. And so happy birthday, Priscilla Boyle, I thought that was a good story of start off Thanksgiving and be thankful about her long life, and what that she means to her family and all those who care about her. Let me go to the next topic, which is contact tracing. And I've get asked quite a few times as to how's our contact tracing going. And, you know, is there any delays that we need to worry about in our contact tracing. So let me review a little bit of history here. And first, these are the current case investigation status from our Department of Health. And as you can see, the time from specimen collection by the provider to entry in the Department of Health redcap system is two and a half days or 37 hours. And that statistics As of the week of November 16. So that is two and a half days to get from the specimen collection to our internal system. And then from entry into the redcap system to a case investigation, where a nurse investigator makes the first call that is the week of October 5, it was one day in one hour and October 26. Week, it increased to one day in 17 hours, and then the week of November 16, that it increased to two days and 20 hours, you can see a pattern here. That's the timeframe in which our cases went up, which caused a clog in the system, which caused a delay in the first case investigation call to the positive case. And so that is the facts that we see right now that are Department of Health here in Arkansas. Now let's move to the positive test reported to contact tracing. This is Arkansas statistics. Again, it just another way to look at the same fact. And this is when you get the test reported to the contact tracing, you can see the timelines back in June, we were way up there close to four days. We made progress on that in August. And of course, our cases dropped if I remember right during that time, and then in September is fairly flat. But you can see what's happened in the last week that we've gone back up the delay in our contact tracing, which is four days there. So that's a little bit background. And the next one will show that yesterday the CDC change their recommendations on contact tracing. I illustrated it here with Arkansas facts multiply that across the nation with the delays that every state is experiencing because the volume of cases CDC made a judgment and there's a lot of material there. But the bottom line is that for cases prioritize case investigations for people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past six days, and they make the point that if it's after six days, it's beyond the timeframe that the contact tracing that the case investigation is meaningful. And so priority ties, it's got recommendations and how to prioritize that. Even with that suggestion that we prioritize case investigations have been diagnosed when the past six days. Now you recall back, our statistics was that the medium timeframe is five days in Arkansas. So we are doing better than most and ours is not going to be cut off in terms of the majority of cases. But there'll be some cases that we're getting late in from a commercial lab. And we can then say, we're not going to prioritize that for case investigation. Because of that delay. Now, let's go on to specifically how we apply this in Arkansas, on the Department of Health. The case investigations will be conducted on all COVID positive cases, we will prioritize first the positive cases with that's been received less than six days ago, that will go to a department of health nurse or a vendor nurse for case investigation. That is the first contact. That is where you identify where they've been exposed, you go through the question, you give them instruction on isolation. And then the second priority, though, is that if it's been greater than six days, those will be assigned for case investigation to a non nurse contact tracer. So it will still be followed up with, but it will be a lower priority, not utilizing our Department of Health Nurse for the case investigation. And so they'll all be case investigated, contacted, told to isolate all the procedures to follow. But if beyond that, we will not be doing the contact tracing, which is a difference for a small number of cases that come in late. We're trying to utilize and maximize our resources to the best way possible. And that's consistent now with CDC guidelines. And so with that, let's go to, to an important reminder, answer the call. It's still important. So more than ever, that we identify, and that we advise people if they've been exposed to a covid positive case. And here's the numbers that you might be called from answer the call. That's important. And now let's go to today's case report.
Let me dig it out for me. So in the case report, let's first look at confirmed PCR cases. There's a increase of 1421 cases plus 701, positive probable cases. So a total case increase of 2122. Now I'll just comment that many of you will recognize it yesterday, we had about 1000 less cases in that. And of course I asked the question, How can this happen? Because if you look down here, you see that our testing is over 10,000 PCR test and but it was also over 10,000 PCR tests. Yes, yesterday as well. The difference is our antigen test yesterday, our antigen tests were very low. And today we've had over 4500 antigen tests that have been performed. And that is the probable cases. That's an increase of 701. So the primary difference is simply the antigen test. Kick back in, which it does after the weekend on a Tuesday. And so that is an explanation as to why we're at 2122. If you look at our hospitalizations, our hospitalizations have increased 14 our ventilators have been down four, so we have 160. On ventilators. We have in terms of our testing, as you can see is very strong. Our deaths have increased of 18 deaths 18 Arkansans have succumb to COVID-19. And that is a sad note to enter the Thanksgiving holiday on. So that's an update on the cases. Let's go through it in a graph form. This will be abbreviated we're not going to go through the same level of graphs we often do. I think you're used to this. But the number of new cases you can see the trend line a little bit more. You can see the number of antigen cases on that last line in the last 24 hours. Next you'll see the seven day rolling average, which for a while it looked like maybe we're not going to keep Going up, but we are right now, we need to get that back down. This is by region. And this is the only one I'll show by region. But here again, you can see previous to that date in October, when we added our probable cases and added our antigen testing, you can see the difference that made. But this allows us the greatest ability to account for all of our cases, and to reduce the spread by adding the antigen test in in there as probable cases. But you can see the region that has the largest growth and highest numbers is Northwest, followed by the blue, which is northeast Arkansas, followed by the yellow, which is Central Arkansas. And then the green is Southwest, and the red is south east. And so you can tell whatever region you have your state in the extent of the cases, the volume of the cases and the trend line. And now you can see the seven day rolling average of positivity for PCR test. And we got up where we did not want to be which is over 10%. Now some of those lighter days are going to be backfield. So we're still waiting to see wherever that will be, we need to get that under 10%. And then if you add in the antigen test, it gets higher because more people are positive on antigen tests than they are on PCR tests. And it's not because of the testing is because people who want a quick response go for that rapid test. And so that is the greatest indicator of the number of cases that are out there are testing. Again, we are testing at a very high level in Arkansas, with over 258,000 PCR tests being done to this stage of the month. And so we're far exceeding our goal. And we're not to the end of the month yet in our antigen tests are the same way. We're doubling our goal. People are used to our antigen test, they like that rapid response. And it's proving very beneficial to have that information.
This is one I'm going to say for Dr. Romero. But that completes my case report today. And so Dr. Romero if you could come and make your comments and followed by Troy wells of Baptist Health to come to talk about where we are with our hospitalizations within his system.
Thank you Governor. May I have that first slide, please. So I'm going to talk a little bit about I want you the the public to keep in mind that we're coming up on a important holiday. We know it is family time it is get together time. But we are in the middle of a pandemic. And this slide really I think drives home the issues that I want people to keep in mind that is avoid travel, stay home, have a nuclear that is a nuclear family, Thanksgiving. stay outside if you can, if you're going to have your Thanksgiving at home, try to do it outside where there's air circulation, keep your contacts brief. That is don't spend a lot of time up close. Keep your contacts as brief as possible. Avoid the hugging and kissing that we do stay apart, watch your distance, that six foot interval between you is very important that helps cut down on transmission and wear your mask. Wear your mask at all times during the get together except when you're eating food. Because that can be a source of transmission. I know that that that this holiday is very important. It's up as part of our culture. But it's also very important that we do this in a safer manner than we have in the past. We don't want to see these numbers increase after the holidays, have hospitalizations and deaths, because that is a very grave possibility today. So let me move from this to some more positive news if I can, and that is the on the vaccine front. There is now a third vaccine that has shown efficacy and we believe we'll be moving forward to EPA approval that's emergency use approval with the FDA. The first of the three vaccines that will be looked at will undergo review on December 10. And then shortly after that will be reviewed by the second organization which is the AC AIP for prioritization and safety with regard to that those vaccines once they have been approved approved by both the FDA and the AIP, they will be shipped to the states we will receive an allotment, that allotment will not be enough to cover the entire state. It will be the beginning of therapeutic vaccine vaccination of our healthcare providers and high risk individuals, but again, will not be sufficient for everybody within the state. We should be receiving more and more vaccine over the first few months. But it will not be until either the second quarter or beginning of the third quarter of next year that we have enough for everybody. With regard to therapeutics, there's also good news in that front, we now have a second monoclonal antibody, these are drugs that are given as an outpatient. This particular drug called regeneron by regeneron, is the one that was given to the president as you may have heard, so now we have to, at this time in the state, we have approximately 1200 doses of the two monoclonal antibodies that are available. And they they are available for an outpatient use, you want to use them before you become ill, which means that you want to keep a close tab on your symptoms. If you have it, get tested early, and seek medical attention. And lastly, I want to drive home the three W's again, I'm sorry, I keep saying this over again. Actually, I'm not sorry. I'm very happy to keep saying this over again. You have to watch your distance. Wash your hands and wear your mask everywhere. We have the potential to overload our healthcare system if we do not act appropriately. So I'll end here and turn this back over to the governor sorry, to Troy wells.
Good afternoon, and thank you, governor for the invitation to be here today to share some information. And thank you Dr. Romero for that last message of yours because I do want to talk briefly about how we're doing from a hospital capacity standpoint. Just to give you a brief update from the Baptist Health System. I think it's safe to say that most hospitals around the state are very busy right now, both taking care of the usual patients that we care for, but also many taking care of high numbers of COVID-19 patients at Baptist Health. Let me just share some numbers with you and give you a little context for those numbers. This morning, we were caring for 199 COVID positive hospitalized patients within our health system. So throughout the state. 90 of those patients are at our little rock campus 45 are at our Fort Smith facility, and 42 are at North Little Rock and the rest of those COVID-19 patients are spread throughout the remaining smaller hospitals that are part of our health system. Now again, context is important. So for Baptist Health on a given day, throughout our health system, we have somewhere between 1100 and 1200 or more patients in hospital beds. So we're talking just under 20% of our inpatient caseload is devoted and committed to COVID-19. inpatients. 60 of those 199 patients are in critical care. And 47 of those patients are on ventilators. That number 64 critical care is really important because we know that critical care beds and staff is a real scarce resource in Arkansas. So we watch those numbers closely. Those 60 cases in critical care make up about one third of our Baptist Health System critical care bed capacity. So that number has stayed relatively stable for the past several weeks in terms of critical care COVID-19 patients. So it's really important that we watch that. I mentioned critical care beds and nurses being our greatest need. All health systems are trying to continue to expand their capacity to take care of more patients. But you have to always remember that we only have so many nurses available in our state. So that's that's a really important asset we have to take care of. The last thing I would mention is Baptist Health in January of 2021, we'll be opening an additional critical care unit with another 18 critical care beds that are lower on campus. This is really important to be able to continue to expand that capacity. Again, having the critical nursing care is also important though you can open more beds, but you got to have the staff and the physicians, we think we have a plan to do that. So that's another bit of good news. And finally, I would just want to say as always do thank you to our healthcare workers in Arkansas. I know they're tired. I know you're stressed. And we all appreciate what you're doing. And they keep showing up every day. And I really appreciate that. So thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you, Troy. Those are good words and exciting news about having the staff capacity and a plan for the additional critical beds in January. With that I'll ask Secretary Johnny Key to give a brief update on our schools and it will turn out for questions.
Thank you, Governor, as we review the data regarding the on site modifications of instruction. Last week, we had 41 schools that made modifications that's down a bit from the week before when we had 46. of total, that brings us right now to 37 districts that have some type of modification that has been implemented, and 267, that are inactive, which means they have returned to normal instruction. We do have a new analysis of the data this week, that shows the scope of the modification with respect to was the entire district were select grades within a school or was it an entire school within a district. And that data shows that the schools are doing a very good job of targeting their response 67% of these modifications were were conducted at a school level with grades within a school. So very targeted to specific grades 29% were the entire district that also includes those times during the early in the school year when we had weather closures. And only 4% were an entire school within a district. So again, this is a good analysis showing that school leaders are doing a good job of targeting their responses. Like Troy said, I would echo his message to the health care workers, I would echo that to our teachers were in this the Thanksgiving week, we have a traditional break, some districts are taking the entire week, some have three days. whatever time you have off, teachers, thank you for your continued work. Thank you for your dedication, take this time to get some well deserved rest. We appreciate everything you're doing to meet the needs of your students. Thank you, Governor.
Thank you. And we'll turn to questions.
site in terms of contact tracing? Do we if the if their response is getting delayed? Do we need more contact tracers? And have you considered just adding you know hiring more contact tracer?
Let me answer that and Dr. Porter might or Dr. Cima one of them will let come up here and address that as well. But the delay is in to a large extent coming from getting it from the lab and their processing, getting it back. So you've got some initial delay even before it gets to us. And so we did increase our staff in your recall that we put 30 National Guard resources over there Department of Health specifically for case investigation support. So we've tried to address that. And I think that's the reason that this change will only impact a small number of our cases, because you know, our timeframes are much better than that. You know, in the contact tracing is where we have our con tracks. And if we need to be foes up, we will but it's not meaningful them to do the work if they're getting those cases assigned to them with such delay. Did y'all have anything to add to that? I think we're good. There'll be needed for another question. I got a feeling. Yes, Leslie.
Question from a nurse. And that was that. A nurses are grateful for the waiver. However, those graduating in December have already paid that fee that you have waived the application. And so and that is not something they can get back. So they were wondering about, you know, whether you could do anything about that 80% of them already paid their their application fee?
Well, I mean, we can have that address with the nursing board. And we can look into that further. But, you know, the design was not to go retroactive. But it was forward looking as to how we can accelerate those that are in the pipeline now to get them the license that they need. And so, you know, we can there's always going to be some that did not make that cut off that obviously wish they would have. But this is perspective looking. And if there's some way we can make it more fair, we'll look into that.
was that the new nurses not going to ICU units right away?
Oh, sure. And and the, I mean, the nurses that come out have to be trained, they have to have experience, but whenever they come into the workforce that frees up others that have more experience and capacity to move into more sensitive areas. So Sure, absolutely. This doesn't mean we've got immediately resources for ICU beds, but it does backfill that talent pool, relieve some pressure on the system, and will ultimately help others to be able to move into those areas that require more experience.
Jay asked this last week, but are we still glean anything from contact racing, especially with it being as delayed, as it has been just pure volume? But is there still anything that we're actually getting from that
those contacts being made?
Absolutely, absolutely. And so the, in many instances, the contact tracing is done immediately by might be the employer, it might be the school, it might be any situation in which they immediately do their own contact tracing. But the contact tracing is beneficial because you're alerting someone that you could have been exposed and you need to quarantine for 14 days. And so that prevents the additional spread of COVID-19. So absolutely, it still makes a difference. That's why we prioritize it. That's why we ask people to respond to the call, because that is the one tool that we have, that we can stop that spread through isolation quarantining as need be.
We know how much the ballpark figures on how many, you know, vaccines will get in sort of the early rounds.
I was on a conversation with Secretary a czar yesterday. And it's as Secretary Romero said, is going to be bi per capita. But I think it depends. First on on what is the which vaccine gets the approval first, what is their volume of production, and then the federal government will actually make the allocation. And then once we know the allocation, then we will be able to prioritize and know where that goes. Dr. Merrill, do you have anything else to add on it? Yeah.
So our planning and modeling at this time is planning for somewhere between 45,000 45,000 and 90,000 doses as an initial allotment. And that will continue to come to us over a period of several weeks and into next year.
Obviously, to help coworkers, most analysts are going to be sort of that highest priority, but will there be any other tiers under underneath that?
So within the within the healthcare workers, there may have to be additional prioritization, given the amount of vaccine within that first year, there is discussion of having individuals living in long term care facilities, the ACP has not finalized their groups. But those are the two major groups in what we call tier one a and tier one B, it looks like it's going to be the essential personnel that will include teachers will also include individuals and correctional institutions working there, and other individuals that keep the society going.
I know it's still early in the process, but once we get to that general public, step on on how that's going to be passed out, without incurring, you know, a massive rush on.
So So our pharmacies are going to play a major role in the distribution of both the first year and then the second tier doses. So it will be available there. We are enrolling providers to engage in vaccination and a health care clinic. So we want to be able to have this vaccine available widely throughout the state.
Let's go remotely Is there a question?
Hey, Governor elms with Kane who news and Fayette L. faithfuls Board of Health has been pushing for the University of Arkansas to go online following the Thanksgiving break. As you know many of our students, they are from Texas where we're seeing a pretty sizable spike in covid 19 cases. So my question for you is do you have any concerns with these students coming back to Fayetteville, especially since Washington County is traditionally in the top five cases for new COVID k top five counties rather for new COVID-19 cases in the state on a regular basis? Sure.
I'm concerned about the movement of people over the Thanksgiving holiday. If students go home, they come back. Did they protect themselves? Did they Keep distance and they wear a mask. You know how many households we've been into? Do they, you know, all of those are questions that are appropriate to ask. The university I'm sure is giving good instructions to the students. And I hope that when they come back that they get tested, there's antigen tests that are available. And I hope that that is encouraged and utilized as a tool to make sure that those who might have been in places they shouldn't be or did not protect themselves the right way to get the tests they needed, do not further expose anyone else.
gov. Just a follow up if I could, you had mentioned hoping that students come back to Fayetteville and do get tested. But we are seeing a people being turned away from testing sites. And it's not like we were saying at the beginning of the pandemic, when we just simply didn't have the test. But some of the sites are actually lacking personnel. So how can we keep up with the demand of people needing to be tested if we simply just don't have the staffing?
Well, we can look into it further specifically to Washington County, but the Department of Health has the capacity to do testing. And so that's it's a resource that many people don't think about, you know, they think about going to the hospital or to their clinic for testing. But there's always the option of the public health, the county health facility, and our public health nurses that are there, they can give a test, I can give an antigen test, they can take a PCR sample as well. And I haven't received any information that there's backed up or they're not capable of handling all of the those that come in for a test, Dr. marrow or Stephanie, Did y'all have any further comment on that? Okay. But we will look into it based upon your comment and see if there's any additional health that needs to be given to Washington County. Governor, this
is David Ramsey with the nonprofit arts on nonprofit News Network had a question about hospital capacity. We're seeing statewide ICU occupancy sort of floating around 92 to 94%. I guess. Can you speak to whether there still is wiggle room at this point? And how
close are we
to a breaking point where we're beyond capacity and don't have enough resources or could see impacts on the quality of care? Great question. And I'm going to comment and ask Troy wells to comment as well. You know, it's important to know that it's not unusual for ICU beds to be occupied at a very high level, they want them there because it's an efficient utilization of resources, because they're expensive to maintain if they're empty. And so that's not unusual in non covid times. But the challenge is that we do have to balance that the hospitals are doing an incredible job there. But just because it's at 92%, does not mean that that is unusual in terms of ICU bed management toy.
I would say that on a given day, I come in in the morning, and I check our numbers and our ICU is completely full. And there's gonna be movement during the day based on patients moving out of critical care into another bed. There will be patients moving in the ice into the ICU from patients in the IDI or for patients who are coming out of the operating room that need a night or two an ICU. But we still have the ability to manage some of those variables to make sure that the ICU beds continue to turn over. So for me, being full is not unusual or scary. It's our How well are we managing the variables that make those beds turn on a daily basis and hospitals do have a lot of levers to pull and they are used to doing that.
And I will also add and thank Troy because that's one of the things specifically the winter COVID Task Force is looking at is you know, how can we move people from a hospital setting out? How can we have more treatments that are available outside of the hospital setting, trying to manage the hospital space? Well, and that's specifically what some of the committees are looking at on the task force. Next question.
Hi, Governor. This is Susanna cytec with Ozarks at large and I've been following the Fresh Start program and doing some reporting on that and I'm hearing from tenants that they're getting their aid turned down because their landlords are not willing to waive their late fees. Particularly I've heard about Lindsey management not doing that. I'm just wondering what your message is to those landlords who are are denying waiving late fees, which means their tenants can't get the aid they need to stay in their apartments?
Well, the first of all, the tenants need to make sure that they access our community organizations that we have freed up rental assistance funds to. And so sometimes it's a it's an information flow it is, are they going to the resources that are available to them, and that's the best remedy, because under the federal waivers, it doesn't obviate the necessity of paying rent, it just postpones it. And that doesn't. That just simply means we're going to have folk foreclosures in February or January versus now. And so get the rental assistance, that's the most important thing. My message to landlords is, make sure that information is available to the tenants so they can access that as needed. And, you know, the those are, that's the message that I think is important is to access the rental assistance that has been made available through our community organizations. Oh,
Can I follow up on that on those, but that rental assistance is coming from the Fresh Start program. And there really isn't anything else in places like Washington County, that's all that's left for people? Is this Fresh Start program that they've applied for they qualify? The only reason the money isn't going to the landlord is because the landlord isn't willing to waive late fees on late rent.
I'm not sure I got all of that. Are you saying they're out of fresh dark money in Washington County?
saying that part of the Fresh Start Program requirement for landlords is to waive their late fees that people have accrued on late rent. So people are being denied rental assistance from fresh start because their landlords are not willing to waive the late fee. Well,
yeah, I would. I think there's some federal requirements that I probably need to study up on. Again, some of the federal requirements set forth those rules as to what the tenant can claim and assert as to COVID related reasons for not paying the rent. Secondly, you know, even under the federal rules, the late fees don't have to be waived. And that's one of the challenge. That's why you need to get the rental assistance to pay it, then you don't have a late fee, if you're actually paying the rental assistance and delay of the penalties is something that's allowed and does not require to under federal law. And so the reality is utilize the rental assistance. And if you do that, you won't have to worry about those late fees. And the rest of his doing landlord and the tenant if there's some legal issues there they need to go to legal aid and seek assistance. Next question.
Governor Mike McNeil at Magnolia reporter calm.
How cool year 2021 legislative package
address the cost of the pandemic to the state?
That's a very good question. Right now, in terms of the budget, the Department of Health is allocated money that is needed for vaccine distribution for the plans that we have in place continued contact tracing, but there's going to be more funds that are needed, I expect that we're going to have a significant amount of federal money coming in to assist in the vaccine distribution. That will also help us in terms of continued contact tracing support case investigation support. And so when that federal money comes in, then the legislature will have to address the appropriations that are necessary for it. So the General Assembly plays a very important role as we head into the spring, to make sure that we have the funds in place, as well as the appropriation for the federal funds, so we can properly use those to our Department of Health.
Good afternoon, this new blatner kg and G and hotsprings. Look, I think there's questions for Dr. Romero, if we could go back to the regeneron. And if I heard him right, he said there's 1200 doses in the state and that those doses are best used at the early onset of symptoms. Are there more doses coming because the 1200 that's not enough to cover the people who were who tested positive today. Could you talk about the prioritization of how that will be used.
So you are correct. That's not enough for everybody. That's 1200 doses. is both the regeneron and the Lilly product. So there's two different products we're talking about. These are being sent out to the hospitals, from the health departments, and as the hospital's call for these drugs, so they gauge their own need for this we're monitoring there used to make sure that they are leaving the hospital into the patient, or the site into the patient. So does that does that address your question?
What is it mean, doctor that it's only for hospitalized patients? Because you mentioned this use of it as an outpatient? It is, I'm really asking you about the prioritization.
Yeah. So it these drugs are targeted to outpatient therapy. These are for patients that have not been hospitalized, and they are to try to keep them from going far enough into their illness that require hospitalization. So it's, it's it's a, if you will, a pre emptive step to getting them keeping them out of the hospital.
Hi, Governor, Olli Lynch with five news. A lot of schools in our area are having to go virtual Springdale schools specifically, because there's simply not enough staffing due to so many teachers having to quarantine. How is the state handling this teacher staffing shortage? It seems there isn't enough substitute teachers to fill in?
Excellent question. Secretary key.
I spoke directly with Dr. Cleveland, the superintendent of Springdale schools yesterday. And that's exactly what he conveyed. he conveyed the difficulty that they are having and getting enough substitutes to cover the classes so they can continue on site instruction. So that's part of the the efforts when they make modifications for onside instruction, looking at the time, that they might be shifted to virtual learning and what their plan is, and Springdale is for this week, and then next week, to be Virtual Learning days, but having their facility open for students that need to be on site. So that'd be limited numbers on site that helps with with really mitigating the need for substitutes when you have a reduced number of students on site. And then looking at their data again, after next week, to determine what they do for the following week. So those are all the data points are among the data points, the staffing issues, as well as the number of students that they may have that are positive, or staff that are positive. But we know that they are handling it very well at the local level. They are seeing what their needs are they're working with their staffing companies or with their their organizations that help them with substitute teachers and then making some of those operational decisions based on those data.
Discussions into what some of the testing is going to look like are some of the processes and procedures in that or is another year wavers on a table.
So you're referring to the statewide testing for students or the assessment. Okay. Right now, we are planning on moving forward with the statewide assessment. We have modeled some data, we feel like we can meet the 95% requirement that is set forth in federal law. There are no waivers being discussed right now from the US Department of Education.
Any other questions?
Gov. This is Kendall with 40/29 News. My questions in relation to Al's question the Springdale school district or district search in Northwest Arkansas said they'll be doing remote learning until December 7, after thanksgiving to give students and staff time to get through quarantining. My question is for your doctrine Romero, do you find this effective after the holiday? And do you suggest other districts to do something similar?
Did you get that doctrine? Or can you just get a little bit closer to your microphone and tell me the the essence of the last part of your question?
Yep. So the free no school district will be doing remote learning until December 7, after thanksgiving to give students and staff time to get through quarantining, do you find this effective after the holiday? And do you suggest other school districts to do something similar?
Well, as much time as you can spend in the classroom, the better. And so they've had because of a shortage of substitutes to go virtual for a longer period of time. But I'm delighted that they're going to be going back into the classroom and not having a full break between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And that's a pattern that we expect across the state. of Arkansas is to maximize the time that we can offer the students in classroom understanding that there will be times that because of resources or because of quarantines that we have to go to a virtual option, but I think Springdale is handling it well. And I know they're working closely with the Department of Education on that as well. Final question are here at the table,
I just want to ask that the, you know, the white have halfboard, continuing to recommend
limiting restaurant capacity and also a pause on extracurricular activities. I was wondering like in the passport, if that's something you guys have been discussing, or have been considering that.
We discussed the White House report every week, I just had a conversation with Dr. Romero about that. The You know, there were some encouraging words that were in the report that we actually did not consider applicable. The fact is we have more current data that's coming daily out of Arkansas that we act upon. And so that's what we're relying upon, there's is helpful information, because they look at it from a national perspective. But they've had those recommendations in there from day one. And as I've said, we're not going to be putting economic restrictions on people and businesses without having data to say, their source of the problem. And so, and, you know, there's studies that are coming out that, you know, the activities in the school are really not the cause of the spread, is not the worry, as much as what's happening in the community. And so we'll have more on that later. But that's an answer as to why we're not looking at more specific responses because we want to rely upon the data to make the right decisions.
mandates on vaccination would be no health care workers, and teachers, or is it just going to be we strongly encourage you to
get those vaccinations, I expect that we're obviously going to lead by example, we're going to encourage we're going to market we're going to build confidence in the vaccine. That will start with FDA approval, and the fact that they are going through their review process and methodically as they always do with the highest standards. We want to be able to support that and build confidence. I do not expect at this time that there'll be broad mandates across Arkansas, but that we will simply encourage everyone to do the vaccine. Thank you all very much.