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Little Rock Catholic has had three athletes test positive for the coronavirus, the school's principal confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday.

The Little Rock boys-only private school had an athlete test positive Thursday, then had an additional two athletes test positive Monday.

Catholic Principal Steve Straessle did not want to name the sport of the athletes, citing privacy laws.

Athletic facilities at Catholic have been shut down indefinitely.

Also on Tuesday, Atkins announced that a seventh-grade football player tested positive for covid-19, Superintendent Jody Jenkins confirmed to the Democrat-Gazette.

Atkins will shut down all athletic workouts at the varsity and junior high levels until July 29.

With Tuesday's news, there are seven known school districts in the state to shut down athletic facilities and workouts because of a positive covid-19 test or exposure to the virus. Clarksville had two football players test positive for the virus, while Jonesboro had one football player do so. Lake Hamilton and Mountain Pine each had an athlete test positive but did not release the athlete's sport. Carlisle halted workouts after a football player was exposed to covid-19, but that player later tested negative.

Straessle said the two Catholic athletes who tested positive Monday came into contact off campus with the first athlete who was infected. The Arkansas Department of Health and Catholic High have done contact tracing to see where the athletes were exposed to the virus.

The safety and health of students are the most important things for Catholic, Straessle said.

"Our plan is to be very upfront with the public and be very clear with our staff sand students," Straessle said. "We know it's inevitable that the virus will show up. We were prepared for it. We knew it."

Straessle credited Catholic's coaches for their work this summer in attempting to follow the health department's guidelines, which allowed the state's athletic programs to return to school facilities June 1.

"Our coaches have followed the protocols to a T," Straessle said. "That kept the number of infections down tremendously. They've done it by the book."

Catholic plays football in the 7A-Central and other sports in the 6A-Central.

Atkins interim football coach Matt Porter said the Red Devils practiced Tuesday morning, then heard news from the school's administration that a player had tested positive.

The seventh-grader who was infected with the virus has not practiced since Thursday, Jenkins said.

Jenkins added that the junior high player has asthma and started showing symptoms over the weekend.

"We just decided to stop everything," Jenkins said. "We were better off to go in that direction."

Porter said that he didn't know where the player had been exposed to the virus. Testing of the additional players in the Atkins' varsity and junior high programs will be left to the parents of the players, Porter said.

While the player is in junior high, Porter said that with Atkins being a smaller community, the district decided it was best to shut down the entire athletic program.

"Being this small of a community, we get a lot of crossover between our kids. It's a small town," Porter said. "We hope to get everybody tested. If we get to open it up sooner, we will."

Atkins is a football member of the 3A-4 Conference and the 3A-5 in other sports.

During his news conference Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced 794 new cases of covid-19 in the state, bringing the total to 29,733. There were eight additional deaths to increase the total to 331 and 445 people are hospitalized with six new hospitalizations.

"We're hoping the numbers start dropping," Jenkins said. "We hope we can make that turn."

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