None of us thought that at this time we would still be in the thick of a world pandemic. As we enter the fall months and kids head back to school, it is a great time for all family members to get updated on immunizations. August happens to be National Immunization Month, and now more than ever, seems like the best time to get caught up on flu vaccines. The purpose of National Immunization Month observance is to highlight the importance of vaccinations for community citizens of all ages.

Summer 2020 may be more critical than others because we are still battling COVID-19. Health professionals are extremely concerned because immunizations have declined in recent months due to coronavirus. Your chances of getting ill from many diseases becomes significantly lower when you get immunized. If you do get sick, you will most likely experience milder symptoms as a result. Infectious diseases such as shingles and the flu are more likely to cause fewer complications when you vaccinate. You also run a lower risk of a hospital stay. With hundreds of COVID-19 patients currently in the hospital, prevention is especially important to our communities.

The Arkansas Secretary of Health suggests that late summer is a good time to get a flu vaccination in preparation for the fall flu season. In typical years, only fifty (50) percent of Arkansans have gotten flu vaccines. Health care professionals hope that number will increase since we do not know the impact of COVID-19 in flu season. Starting September 21st, the Arkansas Health Department will begin holding drive-thru vaccination clinics. Pharmacies and clinics should have access even sooner. The vaccine will also be available to schools throughout the state. Parents should also be reminded that all students attending licensed childcare facilities and Arkansas schools are required by law to have certain vaccinations. Please visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov to learn more.

In other community news, COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country as well as in Arkansas. As of Friday August 7, 2020, there were 1,011 new cases, six (6) deaths, and nine (9) new coronavirus patient hospitalizations in one day. In response to growing numbers, the Governor announced a $20 million proposal from the CARES Act to be used for paid leave for staff and teachers for COVID-19 related reasons. According to the Health Secretary John Key, educators would be able to use this leave before using their sick leave. The Governor also announced via executive order that COVID-19 exposure is a valid reason for requesting an absentee voting ballot. As we work toward decreasing the pandemic spread, please continue all safety practices. Wear masks and try to maintain six (6) feet of social distance when possible. Sanitize common surfaces; wash your hands with soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds; and stay home if you are sick.

Finally, I like to share informative items that constituents might find useful. If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682-6211.