New COVID cases set a daily record. Governor announces purchase of 1.5 million home tests for free distribution

Arkansas set a single-day record for an increase in COVID-19 cases today and that does not include results from home tests. He announced a series of measures aimed at addressing the growing crisis, but nothing by way of requirements or a change in public school reopening.

the governor said he was puzzled by the low number of vaccinations, “with the risk that is out there now.” I’m not, not with the state’s resistance to mandate and the governor’s implicit support of that point of view.

Hospitalizations aren’t up, one small piece of good news. They remain less than half of the past peak, but the governor said hospitals are stressed and expect the number needing beds to rise.

The testing positivity rate is sky-high.

Because of a shortage in pharmacies and the need for early warning of COVID, The governor said he’d directed the Health Department to acquire 1.5 million rapid home tests to be made available free through libraries, public health units and other locations. He’s deployed 10 members of the National Guard to help distribution as quickly as possible. He said he didn’t have a date for beginning the program, but hoped it would be soon. He’s using $10 million in federal COVID aid to pay for the tests. He said home testing might reduce the pressure on hospitals and others that have been overwhelmed with testing demand.

The governor said he’d gather with friends in a controlled environment New Year’s Eve. “I’m not canceling everything in life,” he said. But he’s mindful of the dangers. He urged people to wear masks if they are not among vaccinated people and to keep distance. “Simply keep mindful of the Omicron variance.”

He reiterated there’d be no change in course on public schools and emphasis on in-school instruction. “We have to be able to pursue education.” He said schools should consider masks as an option, depending on circumstances. He noted a ruling by Circuit Judge Tim Fox Wednesday made it clear that school districts had the power to require masks if they chose.

He said the state would adopt the CDC guidelines for quarantine, now shorter.

Hutchinson addressed the shortage of monoclonal antibodies, a therapeutic treatment for those infected with COVID that is being controlled by the federal government. He said the state had asked for a greater supply. Health Director Jose Romero noted, however, that several varieties of these drugs are not effective against the Omicron variant, now believed to be the dominant strain in the state.

Hutchinson emphasized that the unvaccinated account for about 85 percent of deaths and the seriously ill.

Romero urged vaccinations for eligible children, supported by statistics showing a growth in hospital visits for young children.

In a Q&A session, Hutchinson said he wouldn’t encourage a delay in returning to school next week. He said the value of conventional schooling was too important.






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