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LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Almost 900 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Arkansas and eight more deaths were reported Thursday while a new White House report kept the state in the red zone for new virus cases per capita, officials said.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force said the state had the eighth-highest rate for new cases last week, reporting 124 per 100,000 people. But the report noted that new cases and the rate of positive coronavirus tests has trended downward in the past week. 

The state’s rate of positive tests was down 2 percentage points to 7.6% over the previous week, the report said. The national rate of positive tests was 4.8%, according to the report, dated Sept. 13.

Pine Bluff, Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Harrison, Blytheville and Texarkana were all identified as in the “red zone” because of the number of new cases and local test positivity rates, the White House report said.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported there were 584 positive cases Thursday in Boone County, up from 555 the previous day. The ADH said there were a total of 141 active cases, with 135 confirmed and six probable cases.

Meanwhile, an updated model from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health predicts that virus cases will peak in Arkansas in late December. The model, which is updated every two weeks, predicts that cases will then begin a slow downward trend in the first months of 2021.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said both the UAMS model and the White House report serve as a reminder of the severity of COVID-19, the illness linked to the coronavirus.

“Both of those remind us that we've made progress but we have more work to do,” Hutchinson said.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Hutchinson said the increased use of antigen point-of-care testing is encouraging.

“This shows our investment in point-of-care testing is helping address the new demand for rapid tests on our K-12 and college campuses,” the statement said. “Today’s report includes almost 10,000 tests between the PCR tests and the antigen tests. Of course, this means we identified new cases, and this will allow our more than 770 contact tracers to do their work and reduce the spread of the virus. Right now, we are concentrating on identifying communities that have an increased level of spread and encouraging stricter compliance with our health guidelines.”

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

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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