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Omicron is not officially in Arkansas, but health officials believe it might be already here



Arkansas – Although no officials Omicron cases have been reported in Arkansas so far, the state health officials believe that the new variant might be already in Arkansas.

Only little is known about the new strain so far. Multiple studies that are still in the early stages suggest that the new variant is spreading much faster compared to everything we know about the virus so far, but they also show that the Omicron cases have mild symptoms with smaller risk of hospitalizations.

According to the latest data provided by the CDC, at least four Arkansas border states including Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas already confirmed new Omicron cases meaning that Arkansas probably also has Omicron cases despite not officially confirmed so far.

“It’s a good chance that omicron is already here in Arkansas with it being in all of the surrounding states,” said Dr. Robert Hopkins, UAMS Director of Divisions of General Internal Medicine.

He said to know for sure, there needs to be genetic testing of the virus.

“Generally, that takes a little time. It’s not as quick as the nasal PCR test or the rapid COVID test,” Hopkins said.

Arkansas Department of Health also confirmed that there are no Omicron cases confirmed across the state while they are waiting the report for the week. Since the new variant is very new and studies about it are in the very early stages, experts suggest that treating the new variant just like the previous variants is the best we can now.

“We really need to have the same set of precautions for omicron as we had for delta and all of the other COVID viruses,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins also referred to the spread of the virus with the new Omicron variant saying what many other already reported, in the areas where the Omicron variant was found, the number of new cases spiked in a matter of days.

“If we look at the data from South Africa, it looks like we are seeing an increase in cases in parallel with omicron,” Hopkins said. “So it looks like omicron is at least competitive with delta, meaning it’s in the same range of infectious or could be even more infectious.”

According to Hopkins, the best to protect from the virus remain the well-known pandemic measures. Of course, the best weapon against the virus remains the vaccinations and he urges everyone to get vaccinated. Additionally, he suggests wearing mask, maintaining social distance and avoid indoor gatherings as much as possible.