Gov. Asa Hutchinson is encouraging Arkansans to be cautious during the holidays with the reminder that the 2020 holiday season produced a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise. Compared with last week, we have over 900 more active cases than the previous week. We have 69 more current hospitalizations than the previous week. That should tell you that we’ve got to be very cautious in order not to have a surge like we did last winter,” Hutchinson said Tuesday in his weekly news briefing. “I think we can avoid that with our increased vaccination rate. This week, as everyone knows, is Thanksgiving. This starts the holiday season. This is the timeframe last year that we started going up significantly in our cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas. As you get ready for Thanksgiving, be mindful that Covid is still in our communities and protect yourself by getting vaccinated. If you haven’t got your booster shot, get a booster shot. If people in your gathering are not vaccinated, then be mindful of that and socially distance or protect yourself as need be so we don’t have an increase in the spread of COVID during this wonderful time of the year.”

Natural Immunity

Gov. Hutchinson cited a CDC study that showed vaccinations are more effective than natural immunity.

“Studies have shown that natural immunity from COVID-19 is not as protective as the immunity you receive from COVID-19 vaccinations. Even if you’ve had COVID, you should get vaccinated and get a booster shot when eligible,” he said. “There is such a thing as natural immunity if you’ve had COVID. It is not something that lasts forever. It has an end date, and just like a vaccine, over time the natural immunity loses its effectiveness and loses it more quickly. Generally speaking, the immunity lasts about 90 days. I would encourage everybody to go ahead and get your vaccination, even if you’ve had COVID.

“The CDC reports that a study of hospitalized patients with symptoms similar to COVID-19 found that unvaccinated people with a previous infection of COVID were five times more likely to have a positive COVID-19 test compared to vaccinated people. That illustrates the difference between the natural immunity and the effectiveness of the vaccination,” Hutchinson said.

The number of Arkansans receiving a booster dose is increasing, which is “good news,” Governor Hutchinson said. “But we need to continue to emphasize to get your first dose and get fully vaccinated, including your booster shot. Children ages 5 to 11 should also get vaccinated. As of today, we’ve given out 19,600 doses to kids 5 through 11. That’s 7.2 percent of the population. We have a long way to go, but it’s a good start.”

Reapportionment

Governor Hutchinson noted that the staffs of the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the Governor are closely reading comments from Arkansans regarding reapportionment. Public comments do make a difference, he said.

“Any changes to the map that was presented by the board of apportionment should be based upon public comment,” Hutchinson said. “I know that the staffs of the three members are working very diligently reviewing the public comments. Everyone should know that the comments do make a difference. Sometimes we can make a change, sometimes we can’t. But we’re looking at those, and so I would encourage people to continue to comment.”

Special Session

Hutchinson said that he is considering calling a special session the week of December 6 to consider a tax cut, but that he won’t call it until he is certain both chambers have enough votes to pass it.

“Members of the General Assembly are signing on to the tax-cut plan as it’s being circulated, and as soon as we get a majority of both houses in support of that, I will formally call the session,” Hutchinson said. “I will be looking at the week of December 6, but I want to make sure we have the support for the main purpose of the session, which would be the tax cut. That’s the focus. As soon as we get that, we’ll be able to release the proclamation to call the General Assembly into session. … Let me make it clear. The focus of this session is one principal point, and that is to lower the state income tax rate in Arkansas.”

Watch the full briefing: