Arkansas health advocacy board pushes for ‘renewed vigilance’ toward COVID-19 with delta variant surge

Coronavirus

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A group of health care leaders from around Arkansas are warning state residents to stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 as cases continue to spike throughout the state.

The Health Policy Board for the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) released a statement on Friday expressing alarm concerning the low vaccination rate in the state and the rise of the delta variant causing a COVID-19 resurgence in Arkansas.

In the statement, the board says Arkansas residents should “redouble efforts” to get vaccinated while continuing other steps like mask-wearing and social distancing.

They also warned against the increased threat level posed by the delta variant of the virus, citing its higher levels of transmission and its ability to affect those infected with earlier variants of COVID-19.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement Health Policy Board calls upon all Arkansans to redouble efforts to get protected from COVID-19 through vaccination and to continue defensive strategies including face masks in public, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing. Elected officials, private businesses, faith leaders, school and college officials, and community leaders must amplify the warning signal of the COVID-19 threat.

Arkansas is currently experiencing an escalation of COVID-19 driven by the more infectious Delta variant. At the same time, Arkansas is one of the least protected states in the nation because of low vaccine uptake. Together, these two facts are cause for alarm, and the result is reflected in the current rise in cases seen across our communities.

People who are unprotected because they have not been vaccinated should recognize that because of Arkansas’s low vaccination rate, whenever they enter a public place such as a grocery store, entertainment venue, church, or dormitory, they likely are around other unprotected people, and the virus is likely present. The unprotected should get vaccinated today to protect themselves, their families, and others around them ― especially because young children are not currently eligible for the vaccine.

For those who have had COVID-19, the antibodies developed as a result of the infection do not provide total protection. Some people have been reinfected after they have had COVID-19, and the Delta variant appears to be more likely to cause reinfections than the original virus. Even people who have had COVID-19 infections should get vaccinated.

People who have received only the first dose of a two-dose shot regimen ― the protocol for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines ― should be aware that new research suggests a single shot provides far less protection than two shots against the Delta variant, and significantly less protection than a single dose provides against the Alpha variant. These people should get their second shot as soon as the protocol allows.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated should know that while scientific evidence is still limited, reports suggest that the Delta variant may reduce vaccine effectiveness. With this variant surging, the fully vaccinated should consider re-instituting defensive measures they may have relaxed, including face masks in public, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing.

ACH President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson said he felt it was important to issue the statement in order to speak out for those who cannot yet get vaccinations, especially young children.

“This is an important call to action,” Thompson said. “As a pediatrician, I want to remind everyone that while adults can choose whether to become protected, children under age 12 are not currently eligible for vaccination and must rely on adults to act responsibly and curb the spread of COVID-19. And with schools and colleges opening in just a few weeks, we have a short window to make sure our children are protected.”

Again citing the change that the delta variant has brought, Thompson explained this new virus strain may present differently than earlier coronavirus cases.

“Instead of the cough and fever that COVID patients typically have reported, the most common symptoms reported from the Delta variant are headaches, runny noses, and sore throats,” he explained. “This means that infected people may not realize they are infected, so they may not seek testing or health care and may not realize they should self-quarantine. If you have cold-like symptoms and suspect you may have COVID-19, I urge you to get tested.”

The opinions and observations within the statement were drafted under the collective banner of the 23-member board. For more on this statement, go to ACHI.net.

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