Arkansas – Omicron spreads across the state of Arkansas and with the latest numbers, we seem to be still far from the end of the pandemic.
What comes as an alarming factor currently, is the fact that not even children are safe from the virus and they are now getting infected at much higher rates compared to any other previous variant of the virus.
On Monday, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) released their new map showing the rate of COVID infection in school districts. The group’s CEO, Dr. Joe Thompson said they introduced a new color to display how many new COVID cases have impacted school districts.
From what can be seen on the map, almost every single school district in central Arkansas has more than 200 active cases in Children per 10,000 which is more than double compared to just less than two weeks ago when this number was 100 cases in children to every 10,000 people.
“Many of our school districts now have more than two percent of their residents, two percent of the people that live in those school districts have been newly affected in the past two weeks,” Thompson said.
Just like all the other Covid-19 related numbers, the number of Covid-19 cases are seeing record high numbers since the start of the pandemic. Currently, 226 out of 234 school districts have record high numbers of cases and 97% of them are considered as highly contagious.
Thompson added that the situation should be taken very seriously and asked the school and health officials to consider switching to virtual learning because children in classrooms will even further continue the spread of the virus.
Thompson added schools should be closed for at least a week or two in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus and finally see some decreasing trends. He also urged parents with a high-risk health child to stay home at any cost.
“So school boards, school leadership need to put in place immediately requirements for masks of all students and staff,” Thompson said. “Redoubling for efforts of distancing and hygiene, and actually consider for the short term, maybe a week or two try to go virtual. at least decreasing the number of students that are in the building itself.”
While some school districts still remain open and keep the in-person teaching process, Dr. Joel Tumlinson with the Arkansas Department of Health said that parents should consider sending their children in schools with two masks. According to Tumlinson, that should create safer environment for students.
“You got N-95 or KN-95’s really work well if they’re sealing right, but they’re hard to use,” Tumlinson said. “These are a little easier, they tend to seal well if you mold them right to your face and they work well. Then a little bit down, maybe less effective is a mask, like a cloth mask.”
Tumlison added that the two-mask rule especially applies to cloth masks and in-between surgical masks option should also be taken into consideration. “The difficulty with the mask with masking isn’t which masks they have on, it’s can you keep it on your face for the rest of the day in order to protect you,” Tumlinson said.
The spike in cases is expected to be just a short term effect of the omicron variant, and school districts are expected to respond with short term measures to prevent further spread of the virus.
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