West Memphis School District reinstates mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:37 PM CST
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - Tuesday, Arkansas reported 6,562 new COVID-19 cases.

It’s the highest number of new cases reported in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic.

The state now has a positivity rate of 25.5 percent and the surge in cases has the West Memphis School District (WMSD) once again requiring masks.

The district shared the news late Monday and come Tuesday, all staff, students, and visitors were required to wear face masks.

“Right now, we have seen a spike,” said WMSD Superintendent Jon collins. “I think a lot of folks have seen a spike through the holiday season, and you start to bring back 5,500 children into group settings over the course of a district, there’s going to be some transmission.”

Collins said the increase in positive COVID cases reached the district’s three-percent impact threshold, triggering the mask requirement.

Currently, there are 60 staff and students who are under quarantine, and 65 are in isolation because they tested positive. View the COVID dashboard here.

At this moment, the district has not changed learning plans. Collins said about 90 percent of students are doing in-person learning with the exception of a few students for specific reasons.

He added the district will evaluate the best learning methods going forward.

The requirement for masks comes the same day Governor Asa Hutchinson welcomed 10 national guardsmen who will be helping the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with its COVID-19 drive-thru screening site.

“We don’t want to have people discouraged. We want people to get the test and we ask them to be patient because there is an extraordinary demand that we’ve never seen before,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson also said he’s authorized the deployment of an additional 50 National Guard troops across the state to assist in testing and the state is waiting for 1.5 million at-home tests to be delivered.

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