COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise in Arkansas

Governor Hutchinson is urging caution ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Black family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner

As Arkansans prepare for their Thanksgiving gatherings, officials are encouraging people to be mindful of COVID-19 precautions as cases continue an upward trend statewide. 

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 690 new cases and 108 more active cases today. ADH also confirmed seven more deaths. Active cases and hospitalizations are up by roughly 960 and 70, respectively, compared to this time last week. 

“That alone should tell you that we’ve got to be very cautious and wise in order not to have a surge like we did last winter, and I think we can avoid that with our increased vaccination rate,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during today’s weekly press briefing.   

The Thanksgiving holiday marked the start of a significant increase in cases and hospitalizations in 2020. To avoid a repeat of last year, Hutchinson is encouraging Arkansans to take precautions. 

“Be mindful that COVID is still in our communities, protect yourself by getting vaccinated,” he said. “If you haven’t got your booster shot, get a booster shot.”

In the last 24 hours, 11,640 doses of the vaccine have been administered statewide. More than 1.4 million Arkansans age 5 and older are fully immunized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old on Nov. 2 and as of today, 19,600 doses have been administered to Arkansans in that age group. 

“That’s 7.2 percent of the population, which we have a long ways to go, but it’s a good start and that is continuing to grow,” Hutchinson said. 

As kids enter Thanksgiving break, ADH announced 1,425 cumulative cases in public schools in Monday’s report. That’s about 90 fewer cases than Thursday’s report. 

The Department of Health has conducted a study that analyzes the impact of masking in schools. For districts where masking is used, there was a 25 percent lower incidence of infection overall for staff and students. The findings are statistically significant and the yet-to-be published study takes into account a number of variables, making it “the strongest study to date nationally showing the benefits of masking in schools,” Health Secretary Dr. José Romero said.

“I think this is further evidence that mandating masks or having that ability of the school district to mandate the mask prevents infection in children,” he said. 

Unvaccinated children are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 which has resulted in the deaths of roughly 700 kids nationwide. COVID-19 is now one of the top 10 causes of death in childhood and it exceeds all other vaccine preventable deaths in the United States, Romero said.

“COVID is not a benign disease in children,” he said. “It is not flu, it is not the cold. We know that it causes death.”

More information about COVID-19 vaccines is available on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website. You can also receive assistance scheduling an appointment by calling a statewide call center at 1-800-803-7847.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.