Governor Asa Hutchinson recently addressed the increased demand for at-home COVID tests, new CDC guidelines and rising case numbers during his weekly briefing on Thursday.
Hutchinson announced the addition of 4,978 new COVID cases, setting the record in Arkansas for the largest single-day increase in cases. He noted that the positivity rate was at 19.7 percent, which is also the highest number reported since the pandemic began.
The Governor has directed the Department of Health to provide 1.5 million rapid at-home tests. The tests will be available for free to Arkansans at public libraries, public health units, and other locations. The National Guard will assist in the delivery of the at-home tests, as well. Overall cost for the tests will be around $10 million which will be covered by existing COVID response budget funding.
“If we can utilize our rapid tests in a more efficient manner across the state that will be a benefit in early detection, early action, and also relieving some of the burdens on our health care workers,” Hutchinson said.
He also addressed New Year’s Eve, noting that he will be celebrating with friends who are vaccinated and recommends that others celebrating should do the same.
“I’m not canceling everything in life, but I’m also mindful of Omicron,” the Governor said. “I encourage everyone to be around vaccinated people, if they aren’t vaccinated everyone should wear a mask and they should socially distance.”
In regards to the rising cases in and around school districts, Hutchinson said that Arkansas “is committed to in-class instruction,” but that schools should “do what each district thinks is important for the safety of the school environment.” He clarified that masks are still an option, depending on what the district decides.
Hutchinson noted that Arkansas has adopted recently updated CDC guidelines, which state that regardless of vaccination status, if an individual tests positive for COVID they must:
– Stay at home (quarantine) for 5 days.
– If the individual has no symptoms, or symptoms are resolving after 5 days, they can leave their house.
– Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days after quarantine.
If you were exposed to someone with COVID and you have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted OR completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted OR are unvaccinated:
– Stay home for 5 days. After that, continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days after quarantine.
– If you can’t quarantine, you must wear a mask for 10 days.
– Test on day 5 if possible.
– If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.
If you were exposed to someone with COVID and you have been boosted OR completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months OR completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months:
– Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
– Test on day 5, if possible.
– If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home
“This is a significant change that will allow our workers to get back to work quicker, with the right precautions, and allow us to do what is necessary in society,” Governor Hutchinson said.