Arkansas on Thursday saw its largest single day increase in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The 4,978 new cases are attributed to the the fast-spreading omicron variant.
Hutchinson said he has directed the Department of Health to acquire 1.5 million rapid at-home tests to be available for free to Arkansans. The test will be available at public local libraries, public health units, and other locations. The National Guard will be helping in the delivery of these at-home tests.
The tests will cost around $10 million and will be covered by existing funds available in the covid response budget.
“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.
Hutchinson cautioned Arkansans to be mindful of the omicron variant when making plans for New Year’s Eve.
“I’m not canceling everything in life, but I’m also mindful of omicron,” Hutchinson said. “I encourage everyone to be around vaccinated people, if they aren’t vaccinated everyone should wear a mask and they should socially distance.”
Health Secretary Jose Romero recommended Arkansans to avoid large gatherings on New Year’s Eve. “If you have family and friends that you know are vaccinated and have no symptoms, then I think it’s OK to get together, but overall, I would not recommend going anywhere and watching the ball drop,” he said.
Hutchinson said schools should do what each district thinks is important for the safety of the school environment. He said masks are an option depending on what the district decides.
Arkansas has adopted the new CDC guidelines that determine the best course of action for those with covid or exposed to covid.
Regardless of vaccination status, if you test positive for covid:
• Stay at home for five days.
• If you have no symptoms, or your symptoms are resolving after five days you can leave your house.
• Continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
If you were exposed to someone with covid and you have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over six months ago and are not boosted or completed the primary series of Johnson & Johnson over two months ago and are not boosted or are unvaccinated:
• Stay home for five days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
• 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 six months or completed the primary series of Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last two 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,” Hutchinson said.