LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas on Tuesday reported 17 more deaths from the illness caused by the coronavirus, though the state saw a drop in new confirmed cases along with tests conducted.

The Department of Health said the new deaths from COVID-19 bring the state's total fatalities to 814.

The state said 273 more people tested positive for the virus, bringing its total confirmed cases to 61,497. Of those, 5,036 are active cases that don't include people who have recovered or died.

The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The state's drop in cases came as it also saw a lower amount of tests performed, with 3,530 tests conducted. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was optimistic about how the state was doing, but said he was cautious given the drop in testing.

“Whenever you have increased activity, you've got to make sure you do the right thing and follow the guidelines or we're going to have an acceleration of cases," Hutchinson said.

A White House task force repor t issued this week said Arkansas had the 7th highest rate of positive tests in the country. Though Hutchinson has rejected the panel's calls to close bars and scale back restaurant capacity in some parts of the state, he said Arkansas would look at the recommendations and additional options if cases reached an “uncontrollable level.”

Dr. Jose Romero, the state's health secretary, said officials expected a significant number of specimens to be collected at through tests conducted at the University of Arkansas' Fayetteville campus that will give them a better idea of the prevalence of the virus. The school has reported at least 222 active cases on campus.

Romero said six of the new deaths were late reports and had not occurred in the past 24 hours. The number of people hospitalized rose by three to 423.

An updated model released Tuesday also continued to suggest the state would see significantly fewer cases if its public schools only offered classes online. Arkansas' public schools reopened last week and the state is requiring them to offer in-person instruction five days a week, though they can also offer online courses or a hybrid option.

The simulation from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health estimated about 2,000 new daily infections on Oct. 24 if only online courses are offered. The model forecast about 8,000 new daily infections if only in-person courses are offered and 5,500 if a mix of online and in-person classes are offered.

The state on Monday said there are at least 440 active cases among students, teachers and staff at its public schools.

The latest model also forecast that the pandemic would peak in Arkansas in late December.


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