Arkansas saw fewer than 400 new coronavirus cases for the first time in more than a month Tuesday, with 383 cases reported. Sebastian County was one of three counties reporting more than 20 new cases, at 31.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson opened Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing with a letter from Woods Elementary teacher Karen Yada Mills, who shared her excitement to be back in the classroom last week as Fort Smith Public Schools (FSPS) began its Professional Development days.


Beginning next week, there will be school district level data available on a weekly basis. The information available will include cumulative cases, active cases and rate of testing in each district.


Education Secretary Johnny Key further explained that these numbers would be made up of residents in the community within each school district. Key hopes this data will help schools respond better to COVID-19.


Hutchinson also enforced the Aug. 24 start date as the target for the 2020-2021 school year and hoped that schools will be able to make better decisions with the expanse of data they will have.


Key pointed out the wide variety of strategies for school districts across the state and also hoped for informed decisions as the students begin in-class instruction.


Hutchinson emphasized the importance of the state working together to slow the spread of COVID-19 during a time when "nothing is normal." By working together, Hutchinson said he believes the state will be ready for school to start.


The sharp decrease in new cases lead to a decrease in the seven-day rolling average and the number of active cases. Arkansas Health Secretary Jose Romero stated it was too early to say if it was a trend, but if the next few days show similarly low numbers, it would be the result of the mask mandate that they have been waiting for.


Even with the decrease in new cases, the statewide positivity rate was still hovering around the 10% threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another factor of that rate was the continued decrease in tests administered by commercial labs.


The governor closed the briefing with the charge for Arkansans to "follow guidelines so we can have a good school year."