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A-State postpones UCA game to Oct. 10

JONESBORO — COVID-19 has forced another adjustment in Arkansas State University’s football schedule.

ASU announced Tuesday that its home football game against Central Arkansas, which had been scheduled for Saturday, has been rescheduled for Oct. 10.

According to university officials, ASU postponed the game because the Red Wolves would not be able to assemble a full, two-deep depth chart at a specific position group due to player unavailability. Athletic director Terry Mohajir said he made the decision, adding that chancellor Kelly Damphousse and system president Chuck Welch agreed with the decision not to play this week.

“It was based on last week, this week and some symptomatic players,” Mohajir said. “We had a concentration at one position group where we couldn’t line up and play two-deep football, which is kind of our barometer.”

ASU football players were tested three times for COVID-19 in the week leading up to their Sept. 5 season opener at Memphis and three more times last week before their game at Kansas State.

The Red Wolves gained national attention last weekend with their 35-31 upset of the Wildcats, a game they won without several key players. Head coach Blake Anderson confirmed ASU played without 10 starters because of COVID-19 and contact tracing, but would not say how many players did not make the trip because of the protocol.

Anderson said his concerns about playing this week began last week.

“I told Terry late last week that I was concerned going into the game with where the roster was at and when guys were supposed to come back to the roster and just the possibility of any injuries (against Kansas State), that depending on how the weekend went and if we were to lose anybody, we could be in a critical stage at a couple of positions,” Anderson said. “That’s kind of where we’re at. It’s a combination of COVID testing and injuries and being able to safely play at a position. I was worried about it late in the week.

“We were able to manage our roster through the weekend, but we had injuries in the weekend and we’ve got some guys who don’t feel well.”

Mohajir said the Red Wolves are down to one available player in the affected position group because of COVID-19 and contact tracing. The position group was not named.

“It’s not the volume of players who are out, it’s the concentration of one position group, period. That’s really what it is,” Mohajir said. “We don’t have that many more players out this week than we did last week.”

ASU reported a total of 180 active virus cases on campus Tuesday, which included 46 students living on campus, 125 living off campus and nine employees. The university stressed those numbers are self-reported.

Mohajir declined to say how many football players are out because of COVID-19.

“That’s the only thing I don’t talk about,” he said. “We’re not going to talk about it this year. That’s just a policy we have.”

Anderson said some football players who weren’t feeling well have been tested for COVID-19 this week. The entire team is scheduled for another test this morning.

Both Mohajir and Anderson said the football staff spent time trying to figure out how to move players around to fit the affected position group and could not do it. Not playing on Saturday was the last option, Anderson said.

“We looked at the roster in every way we could and at the end of the day, we’re at a point where we can’t field a position safely,” Anderson said. “We would have been putting people in position that they’re not ready to be in to play a game and by postponing the game, it allows us to be safe with moving forward. That’s the best way to put it. We looked at every available option. It’s not safe to play Saturday.”

ASU and UCA were not initially scheduled to meet this season, but the schools agreed to play after being left with open dates in the wave of coronavirus-related cancellations and postponements across college football. The Kansas State game was another recent addition to ASU’s schedule.

UCA sports information director Steve East said the Bears bumped back a scheduled trip to Eastern Kentucky in order to play ASU on Oct. 10. The Bears will visit EKU on Oct. 24 instead.

“UCA was fantastic,” Mohajir said. “They had to move a game. It wasn’t an easy task by any means, but they were very helpful. They want to play the game and so do we. They were very accommodating.”

All tickets purchased for Saturday’s game will be honored on the Oct. 10 game date, ASU announced.

Anderson said some players will return from quarantine over the weekend. The Red Wolves will train in small, spread-out groups the next couple of days, he said, and practice again Friday if test results return and they feel comfortable doing so.

ASU is scheduled to host Tulsa on Sept. 26.

“Right now I feel like we’ll have a team that we can put on the field. It will be similar to what we did at K-State,” Anderson said. “There will be guys who have to play that maybe weren’t expecting to or we might have to slide a couple of guys around positionally, but we’re not going to have to take a guy at a position that he works at every day and play him in a position that he’s never even seen before and ask him to play 75, 80 snaps.”

Mohajir also expects the Red Wolves to resume their season on Sept. 26.

“We won’t have all our players back,” Mohajir said. “We think, with testing going well this week, we should be fine. But I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that we would be postponing this game, either.”

Barron Womack, 10 months, gets ready for harvest time. Barron is the son of Brandon and Courtney Womack, Lake City, and will be a third-generation farmer when he grows up. If you have an interesting photo of people doing activities in Northeast Arkansas, email it to and it may be published in The Sun.

Harvest time

Southwest Church of Christ volunteers Rick and Brenda Fielder prep meals Tuesday for Arkansas State University students at WolfLIFE Campus Ministries. The organization provides free student meals and hosts Bible services on a weekly basis, campus ministry apprentice Angelica Alexander said.

Feeding the wolves

Council delays controversial votes

JONESBORO — Action on two proposals that had generated controversy were postponed Tuesday by the Jonesboro City Council.

Council member Chris Moore, presiding in the absence due to the illness of Mayor Harold Perrin, said the mayor requested the council postpone until December a decision on a proposed property swap that would provide better facilities for the city’s building maintenance department.

At the Sept. 1 meeting, Perrin had hoped to get the proposal added to the agenda and voted on then.

But some residents raised questions about transparency. And Moore said a committee tasked with finding potential sites for a homeless shelter believed one location that would be part of the property swap would better serve the city’s homeless.

Under the proposal, the city would acquire a building at 907 Congress Circle, which was appraised with a value of $595,000 in 2017. Tim Thrasher and Tim Allison, owners of that building would be paid $350,000 and receive title to city-owned property at 215 E. Allen Avenue and 202 E. Gordon St., which was appraised in May with a value $214,000.

Perrin said in a letter Moore read at Tuesday’s meeting that he wants to postpone action until Dec. 1 to allow further research by the city staff, the Building Facilities Committee and the Committee on Homelessness.

“Some of the members have expressed a desire to acquire the existing facility of the Building Maintenance Department at 225 E. Allen to be converted into a homeless shelter,” Perrin said in the letter. “While that may be an option, further study regarding the redevelopment costs of that facility and the operating/maintenance costs are needed, as well as looking at other properties. In addition, the Maintenance facility may require rezoning.”

The council also postponed a final vote for 60 days on a proposed ordinance that would exempt new “planned industrial parks” from the city’s requirement to construct sidewalks.

Council member Joe Hafner said he would like to explore options, such as improved public transit service in the industrial area so that workers who don’t have their own transportation can get to their jobs without walking in dangerous conditions.

Osceola man shot, 1 other injured in Tuesday chase

JONESBORO — An Osceola man was hospitalized early Tuesday morning following a violent high-speed chase on Red Wolf Boulevard.

Dispatchers at the Jonesboro E-911 Center received a call just before midnight regarding an armed man traveling in a white car chasing two others, said Sally Smith, police department public information specialist.

Officer Tanner Huff wrote in the redacted incident report that he was on a traffic stop at the intersection of Johnson Avenue and Melrose Street when he heard several gunshots east of his location.

Multiple suspects started firing at a car with a male driver and passenger inside near Aggie Road, Smith said. In an attempt to flee from the shooters, the driver, 23, sped away, only to crash after passing Alumni Drive on Red Wolf, she said.

“The car went through the barrier fencing south of the round and landed in the pines by the ASU (Arkansas State University) Stadium. The driver fled to get help. Officers found him at Embassy Suites,” Smith said.

The incident report indicates that a bullet grazed the right side of his head, next to his ear. Officers also observed a “large contusion on (the) right temple.”

He was transported to St. Bernards Medical Center for treatment, the report states. The driver’s damaged maroon 2014 Ford Fusion was damaged and towed away from the A-State campus.

The passenger, 31, of Forrest City, refused treatment for a minor injury he incurred, Smith said.

Detectives have been assigned to the case, and JPD’s probe is ongoing, the report shows. The circumstances that led to the incident are “unknown.”

No arrests had been made in connection with the shooting, she said Tuesday.

“Police are currently seeking information about the suspects connected to this incident. If you have information regarding this case, call the Jonesboro Police Department at 870-935-5657,” Smith said.

'Probable' cases raise virus count

JONESBORO — State health officials have added 139 “probable’ deaths to their statistics on the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s on top of the 1,010 confirmed deaths resulting from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. No probable deaths are listed in Northeast Arkansas.

State officials said the “probable” listings are part of new reporting standards imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health and the CDC, a probable case is a person who:

Had COVID-19 symptoms and contact with a known COVID-19 patient, but no laboratory testing performed for COVID-19.

Had a positive antigen test for COVID-19.

Had a death certificate that lists COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2, but no laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2.

At Arkansas State University, the school reported a total of 180 active virus cases Tuesday, down from 187 on Monday. The university stresses these are self-reported numbers. They include 46 students living on campus, 125 living off campus and nine employees.

Updated county-level information Tuesday showed Craighead County had 25 new cases Tuesday, based on the results of 347 tests. Greene County had 15 new cases, based on 199 tests; Lawrence County with eight new cases, based on 116 tests; and Poinsett County nine new cases, based on 110 tests.

While local numbers continue to rise, the positivity rates for COVID testing, based on updated 14-day rolling averages through Monday have dropped. For Craighead County, the rate dropped to 9.8 percent and Greene County’s dropped to 5.4 percent.

Meeting with reporters, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday the state Department of Health has received supplies for 12,000 antigen tests – a two-month supply – and will distribute more machines to use the testing kits. Antigen testing allows medical professionals to search for signs that someone has previously contracted the virus but didn’t necessarily show symptoms.

The Craighead County Health Unit, which already has one machine, will receive a second. He said the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at ASU will receive a machine to be used on its mobile unit, known as the Care-a-Van, which conducts clinics throughout the region.

“And the beauty of it is it is simple, it does not take a great deal of time and it is quick point of care,” Hutchinson said. “And so the simplicity of the antigen machine with the adequate testing is what is going to help us make sure we can prioritize our K through 12 schools as well as our colleges.”

Dr. Shane Speights, dean of NYIT, said the medical school’s partnership with the state will have a major impact.

“It’s significant in that this partnership with NYIT and ADH and the Arkansas Minority Health Commission will fill the COVID testing gaps in our area of the state,” Speights said. “NYIT has the Delta Care-A-Van and the Arkansas Minority Health Commission has a mobile health unit that will be deployed to serve the needs of those communities that don’t currently have access to COVID testing.”

The Craighead County Health Unit, 611 E. Washington Ave., has scheduled a drive-through flu shot and COVID-19 clinic for 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 22. There will be no out of pocket expense for the shots or tests, but patients are asked to bring their insurance card if they have coverage.

Northeast Arkansas COVID-19 cases by county through Monday:

Craighead – 2,375, confirmed (up 23), 39 probable (up 2), 349 active cases, 30,169 total tests, 16 deaths.

Greene – 728 confirmed (up 14), 5 probable (up 1), 74 active, 11,981 772 total tests, 7 deaths.

Lawrence – 300 confirmed (up 6), 21 probable (up 2), 48 active, 3,682 total tests, 11 deaths.

Poinsett – 571 confirmed (up 9), 7 probable. 45 active, 7,126 total tests, 7 deaths.

Mississippi – 1,498 confirmed, 8 probable, 91 active cases, 11,890 total tests, 37 deaths.

Jackson – 233 confirmed, 10 probable, 43 active cases, 5,791 total tests, 1 death.