REPLAY: Gov. Hutchinson stresses importance of vaccines in face of new COVID-19 variant

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 9:56 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2021 at 4:26 PM CST
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - With global health experts warning that the latest COVID-19 variant poses a “very high” risk, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday there are still too many unanswered questions.

“There is not enough information to make definitive decisions about Omicron,” Hutchinson said during his weekly media briefing.

He noted that the key questions are how contagious this variant is, how severe the disease is, and whether the vaccines and other therapeutics are effective against Omicron.

“We don’t have the data for that,” he said. “Hopefully, by next Tuesday, we will have more data and more answers.”

In the meantime, the governor said it was important that the state stick with its strategy of getting as many residents vaccinated as possible.

“That is the best protection,” he said of the COVID-19 vaccine. “There are indications the current vaccine will be effective against [Omicron].”

Those who are not vaccinated should maintain social distance and continue to wear masks, Hutchinson added.

Meanwhile, the Delta variant continues to plague the state.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 1,044 new cases on Tuesday. Craighead County reported 67 of those new cases, ranking third in the state.

Arkansas currently has 5,699 active cases, up 335 from Monday. The number of hospitalizations and those on ventilators also increased.

Twelve more people have died within the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic began to 8,667.

The governor noted that the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths was primarily among unvaccinated.

“The data says if you want to weigh the risks, if you want to minimize the risks of hospitalization, just simply get vaccinated,” he said.

Currently, 62% of Arkansans five and older are either fully or partially vaccinated, while 85% of those 65 and older have received their vaccines.

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