COVID-19 in Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson calls ‘extraordinary’ session on COVID-19, Unemployment; Vaccinations skyrocket as cases surge

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday that the Arkansas 93rd General Assembly will meet in an Extraordinary Session Wednesday to take two specific legislative actions concerning mask-wearing in schools and the termination of COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

The first action is to make an exception to Act 1002 that will give schools flexibility to protect children 11 and younger who are not eligible for the vaccine.

Currently, Act 1002 prohibits the state and local governments, including school boards, from requiring the wearing of masks. The exception will help toward granting each school board the proper authority to make the decision on requirements in having students 11 and younger to wear masks.

“I am asking lawmakers to simply allow public school boards and open-enrollment charter schools to make their own decision to implement masking protocols to protect children younger than 12 in a school building, school bus, or other educational settings where several students are in close proximity,” Hutchinson said.

The governor is also is asking the General Assembly to affirm the decision of the director of Workforce Services to terminate participation for Arkansas in federal unemployment benefit and relief programs related to COVID-19.

“It is more important that we reduce the number of unemployed and put more people to work than it is for the state to accept any federal relief programs related to unemployment,” Hutchinson said.

The Arkansas Department of Health also released updated COVID-19 numbers, which show more than 2,343 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the past day. That moves the state’s total case amount to 391,623 while the number of active cases climbed to 19,499.

Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero added some sobering facts concerning the affects of pediatric cases in Arkansas:

• As of August 1, nearly 19 percent of all active cases in the state are children under 18, with children under 12, who are not eligible for the vaccine, accounting for more than half of that percentage.

• Between April and July of 2021 there has been a 517 percent increase in the number of cases under age 18.

• 690 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in children 12 and under.

• Increase of over 270 percent in hospitalizations of children 18 and under.

• ICU admissions have increased significantly between April and July of 2021 by 275 percent, with 20 percent of that number under age 12.

• Among children 18 and under who were hospitalized in July, 58 percent were under 12.

• 32.2 percent of Arkansans between the ages of 12 and 18 have received one dose, while 18.4 percent have received full vaccination.

COVID-19 related hospitalizations are currently at 1,250 cases, with 30 added in the past day. There are 10 new patients on ventilators in the last 24 hours, putting the total at 260.

The ADH report shows 16 new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total during the pandemic to 6,215.

Vaccinations for COVID-19 saw a sharp increase in the past day, with 30,756 doses given in the last 24 hours. The number of Arkansans fully immunized currently stands at 1,076,733, an increase of 14,046 from the prior day, with the number of partially immunized Arkansans at 317,261.

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