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Mask mandate is getting closer, Arkansas health experts warn officials to reconsider their decision



Conway, Arkansas – The decision to ban the mask mandate earlier this year might be changed very soon as the new Covid-19 cases in the last couple of weeks are drastically increasing. Some health experts warn that the situation with the pandemic worsening lately, lawmakers should reconsider their previous decision until it’s not too late.

As our partner website MDMH – Pine Bluff reported yesterday, the latest Covid-19 model issued by the UAMS predicts 370,000 cumulative cases by July 26.

According to the report, UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said that the positivity rate in the state is five times more compared to the national average averaging 20% of all tests. Such a high number of positive tests was recorded in the worst times of the pandemic.

The reason for the latest surge in cases are both the delta variant considered to be the most contagious so far and the very low vaccination rates in the state.

“The model predicts an increase of nearly 6,000 cases in 35 to 59 years old group over the next 15 days. Unfortunately, the model is also forecasting an increase of almost 2,500 cases in children under 17,” Patterson said.

“Most are unvaccinated individuals who are healthy prior to their admission to the hospital. Instead of enjoying time with their family and loved ones this summer, they are in the hospital struggling to breathe and stay alive,” Patterson said.

Dr. Joe Thompson, a president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said the situation is much worse that it seems right now as this period is probably just the beginning of the wave. The only way to cut the numbers is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. He added that the healthcare system is already under pressure and the state might come up to a point when the hospitals will be completely full.

“I worry about the school year getting off to a very rough start with a threat to education, a threat to the social activities and a threat to our athletic events that we all want to attend,” Thompson said.

Dr. Thompson added that mask mandate should be put in force again as that might help in a short term to battle the daily numbers. He is one among the few health experts asking lawmakers to reconsider their previous decision to ban the mask mandate earlier this year.

“I’ve talked with superintendents across the state and they are very concerned that one of the defensive measures that they had to be able to use last year is not available this year. I would encourage all of our members of the general assembly to reconsider those handcuffs and to let local leaders do what they must do as this epidemic continues,” Thompson said.

This is what Gov. Asa Hutchinson said about the model:

“The case projections are consistent with the current trend. Hopefully, the report will alert every Arkansan that we must increase our vaccine doses in the arms of Arkansans.”

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