At a news briefing last week, Governor Asa Hutchinson discussed the current demand for at-home COVID tests, new COVID guidelines from the CDC, and increasing case numbers. 

COVID-19

Governor Hutchinson announced Dec. 30 with the addition of 4,978 new cases that Arkansas had the largest single-day increase in cases since the pandemic began. 

He noted that the positivity rate was at 19.7 percent which is also the highest number reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

To proactively address testing needs Governor Hutchinson has directed the Department of Health to acquire 1.5 million rapid at-home tests to be available for free to Arkansans. 

The test will be available at public local libraries, public health units, and other locations. The National Guard will be helping in the delivery of these at-home tests. 

Governor Hutchinson said that the cost of these tests will be around $10 million and will be covered by existing funds available in the COVID response budget.

“If we can utilize our rapid tests in a more efficient manner across the state that will be a benefit in early detection, early action, and also relieving some of the burdens on our health care workers,” Governor Hutchinson said.

“I’m not canceling everything in life, but I’m also mindful of omicron,” Governor Hutchinson said. 

“I encourage everyone to be around vaccinated people, if they aren’t vaccinated everyone should wear a mask and they should socially distance.”

Schools

Governor Hutchinson said that Arkansas is committed to in-class instruction. He noted that it is important for students to pursue education for their future and their mental health. 

He said that schools should do what each district thinks is important for the safety of the school environment. He said masks are an option depending on what the district decides.

CDC Guidelines

Governor Hutchinson noted that Arkansas has adopted the new CDC guidelines that determine the best course of action for those with COVID or exposed to COVID.

Regardless of vaccination status, if you test positive for COVID:

- Stay at home for 5 days.

- If you have no symptoms, or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days you can leave your house.

- Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID and you have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted OR completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted OR are unvaccinated:

- Stay home for 5 days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

- If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.

- Test on day 5 if possible.

- If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID and you have been boosted OR completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months OR completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months:

- Wear a mask around others for 10 days.

- Test on day 5, if possible.

- If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home

“This is a significant change that will allow our workers to get back to work quicker, with the right precautions, and allow us to do what is necessary in society,” Governor Hutchinson said.