Health group urges immediate action after data shows Omicron spreading through Arkansas schools

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:29 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement urgers families at risk and all seniors to shelter-in place. And they ask students at all schools to wear masks.

A record 226 Arkansas public school districts, or 97% of the state’s 234 contiguous school districts, have COVID-19 infection rates of 50 or more new known infections per 10,000 district residents in the last two weeks.

“If you have a loved one that has a chronic condition that is on chemotherapy for cancer or drugs that might suppress their immune system, you need to take extra precautions and don’t let them get exposed to this highly infectious virus,” Dr. Joe Thompson, President, and CEO for ACHI said.

COVID-19 case numbers in Arkansas climbed to more than 7,700 Tuesday, adding on top of 9,300 cases. A prime example is the state of schools in the Natural State.

”Omicron is spread very, very quickly and it has a very high peak and then it comes down quicker than we saw the Delta variant or the parent COVID,” Dr. Thompson explained. “So I think we’re in for about two-to-three weeks of a pretty tough time.”

ACHI recommends schools take immediate action, reimplement masking policies, and utilize other mitigation strategies, saying it’s imperative students and staff receive as much protection as possible.

Harrison Schools started back this week with a temporary masking mandate.

”We know masks are uncomfortable, we don’t want to wear them, I don’t want to wear them,” said Superintendent Dr. Stewart Pratt. “But what we do want to do is make sure kids are in class.”

ACHI says if such precautions are not taken, more drastic measures may be needed, such as requiring schools to take a period of virtual learning.

”It may be that some schools get to a point that the risk is there, or the staff is so infected, that they need to go virtual,” said Dr. Thompson.

The center also calls for the suspension of public interaction at businesses and churches.

”We’re in for a rough two or three weeks here and I encourage everybody to take precautions, safeguard your family, get protected through vaccinations,” said Dr. Thompson. “Do the things we actually know work, wear a mask, wash your hands, be careful.”

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