As COVID-19 Cases Surge, Arkansas Declares Public Health Emergency – But Resists Mask-Mandates and Remains “Wide Open”

Toby Hazlewood

Too late to stop the surge?
Woman wearing a maskPhoto by Cade on Unsplash

On July 29 the Republican Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency in the state as COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to surge. In spite of the dire situation, Gov. Hutchinson stated that mask mandates and mandatory closures and social distancing (measures intended to reduce the spread of the deadly delta variant) won't be implemented - yet.

In his words, "We're going to be wide open".

Source: Twitter

A combination of measures is needed

What seems clear is that COVID won't be beaten by any one measure alone. Social distancing, masks and hand-hygiene are important of course, but the crucial difference that seems to be hurting Arkansas and other southern states such as Alabama and Missouri that find themselves in a similar situation currently, is vaccines and the reluctance of people to get their shot.

According to CDC data reported by the New York Times, the US has 49% of its citizens who are fully vaccinated (which is still some way beneath the 70% required to reach herd immunity that the World Health Organization believes would see the vaccine eventually disappear).

This percentage has not increased in over a week as vaccine uptake across the USA slows down drastically. The situation in Arkansas is even more dire.

  • Just 36% of citizens are vaccinated
  • It has the 3rd highest rate of cases of all states in the US - 58 per 100,000 people compared to a US average of 22 per 100,000 (which has also doubled compared to week ago)
  • On average, 959 people in Arkansas have had to be hospitalized each day in the last 7 days.

These statistics seem to help explain why the situation in Arkansas appears critical.

Reporting the emergency measures, KATV pointed out that unvaccinated people have accounted for more than 95 percent of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state since January 1st.

The other anti-vaxx and anti-mask states seeing a surge

There's a very clear pattern emerging in that the states being worst-affected by the surge in cases of COVID-19 are Republican-led states where leaders are generally discouraging or casting doubt on the vaccine, or resisting the need for mask-mandates and business closures once again.

Time for action in Arkansas

For those in Arkansas who've recently contracted COVID-19 after avoiding their vaccination we can only hope that they recover fully and quickly. For others, it's not too late to get the vaccine which offers at least some protection.

Gov. Hutchinson also seems to understand the seriousness of the situation and now seems willing to look again at controlling measures. He announced a need for a special legislative session to be held next week to look again at Act 1002 which will give schools more powers to allow or enforce masks again within the classroom.

Citizens of Arkansas will hope that the measures take effect quickly and slow the spread - hopefully allowing more time for them to get vaccinated and to achieve greater protection against the virus.

Will you get your vaccine shot? What do you think about the handling of Covid in the state of Arkansas? Let me know in the comments section below.

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A writer, dad and husband sharing his thoughts, wins and losses to help and inspire others.


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