COVID-19 cases jump at Arkansas schools in 2nd week of classes

More than 3,300 active coronavirus cases have been reported in Arkansas public schools among students and employees, according to newly released numbers from the Arizona Department of Health.

Statewide, the department reported 3,352 new positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 32 new deaths from the virus.

"So glad to see >31,000 doses given w/the number of 1st doses almost as high as the number of 2nd doses, but it's never a good day when we have 32 new COVID deaths," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

A week ago, the state reported just under 1,800 active cases at schools.

Most students returned to the classroom last week — and the majority of public school students attend districts that are requiring masks, according to the Associated Press.

According to researchers at John Hopkins University, Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new virus cases per capita.

The White House announced Friday half of children aged 12 to 17 in the United States have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccination.

RELATED: Half of US kids between 12 and 17 have received COVID-19 vaccine

"We have now hit a major milestone in our effort to vaccinate adolescents — 50 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds now have at least their first shot," White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said at the news briefing.

The pace of vaccinations has picked up in recent weeks for a number of apparent reasons including the surge of the extremely contagious delta variant, the recent reopening of schools and classrooms, and the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Many parents rushed to get their children inoculated in May after regulators widened use of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 shot to children as young as age 12. Other parents have held off because of concerns about the shot’s speedy development and a rare side effect, an inflammatory heart condition called myocarditis.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has continued to urge parents to get their teenagers vaccinated against COVID-19.

RELATED: Two students banned from school for not wearing masks

In June, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she is "deeply concerned" with the results of a new study that found adolescent hospitalization rates from COVID-19 were on the rise in March and April.

Among the teens in the hospital, the study said nearly one-third had to go to the ICU.

"COVID can be a very serious illness for everyone, including children," says Dr. Lee Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Beers says although overall COVID-19 doesn't impact children as severely as adults, that doesn't mean kids are immune.
"This is a safe and effective vaccine and really can prevent very serious illness," she said. "When I think about the vaccine and recommending the vaccine, I’m thinking about it for all of us. I’m thinking about it for my patients, but I’m also thinking about it for my kids."

As of Aug. 27, the CDC reported 71.7% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and 60.8% have received at least one dose.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.