LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson became one of the latest Arkansans to receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday before discussing declining the falling cases in the state and how schools in the state have new options for students facing quarantine.
The governor, first lady Susan Hutchinson and state Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero all received booster doses Tuesday. The Pfizer boost is being recommended for Arkansans 65 and older, residents 18 years and older in long-term care facilities and people who are 50 and older with certain underlying medical conditions.
The booster is also available to people 18-49 with some medical conditions and people 18-64 who are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their job or institutional setting.
In both cases, Arkansans need to wait six months from the time of getting their second dose before trying to get a booster shot.
Hutchinson and Romero also announced new guidelines for Arkansas schools looking at quarantining students due to COVID-19 exposure. Under the new plan, schools with 70 percent of students and staff fully vaccinated would not need to implement quarantines for exposure. Currently, no schools in the state would meet that threshold, however.
A second option discussed Tuesday was using rapid COVID-19 tests and masking up when an unvaccinated student has a “close contact” exposure and wants to stay out of quarantine.
Hutchinson said he was not sure how many districts would want to try this plan but noted some are already piloting these new guidelines.
“The fact that we are providing these alternatives to avoid quarantine does not compromise the public health requirement in the school and the outcome,” he explained. “The testing is a means to make sure that there’s not anybody that can infect others in a school environment. The wearing of masks can accomplish the same things as vaccination can.”
“We are opening it up. We’re trying to keep children in school for in-school learning, but at the same time putting up safeguards so they can do so,” Romero added.
Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key announced no schools in the state were on modified instruction plans and that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in schools fell by 500 from the previous week to 2,100.
The governor shared the latest case data from the Arkansas Department of Health, which showed 800 new cases, bringing the total to 493,920. Active cases continued to fall, dropping to 10,858, while 21 more deaths were attributed to the virus, bringing the pandemic total to 7,651.
Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 also continued to fall, going down 26 to 809 currently in Arkansas. The number of patients on ventilators fell by nine to 225.
There are 9,431 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the last 24 hours, and 1,330,933 Arkansans have been fully immunized from the virus. Another 294,313 people have been partially immunized.