LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas on Wednesday reported its largest single-day increase in deaths from the illness caused by the coronavirus, while the number of active cases at the University of Arkansas' Fayetteville campus jumped to nearly 400.

The Department of Health reported 27 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state's total fatalities since the pandemic began to 841. But the department said 13 of the deaths were late reports, one of them dating back to May.

The state's top health official urged college students to avoid large parties and gatherings, as the cases at the University of Arkansas continued to rise. The school reported 185 new cases at its campus between Sunday and Tuesday, bringing its total number of active cases to 399.

“I realize that part of college life is the socialization that goes on, but in today's environment it is important to keep in mind the social responsibility you bear to the entire society," Dr. Jose Romero, the state's health secretary, said. “Without your help, we cannot bring this pandemic under control."

UA has been conducting testing on its campus through Thursday, which Romero has said will give the state a better sense of how prevalent the outbreak is there. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he expected more than 1,000 test results from college students to come in over the next week.

“That enables us to hopefully get ahead of the curve and to be able to stall any upstart in a virus on campus,” he said.

In other states, large outbreaks have prompted colleges to shift to online classes only.

Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said in a message to the campus Wednesday that there's no single trigger for the school to move online, but said administrators are looking at several variables including the campus' positivity rate and the status of its health system.

“Unfortunately, the growing number of university-affiliated cases suggests too many people still aren’t taking the virus seriously by taking the necessary precautions," Steinmetz wrote. “I find this deeply concerning, especially as we receive emails from students who fear for their safety."

The state reported 615 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 62,112. The state reported an additional 156 people tested positive through antigen testing. The state said 5,010 of its cases are active.

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.

Of the thirteen deaths that were reported late, one was from May, four were from June, four from July and four from earlier this month.

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 rose by 12 to 435.


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This story has been corrected to show that the University of Arkansas chancellor’s name is Joe Steinmetz, not Joel.