LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that there had been no cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 found in Arkansas but did note the state had seen its biggest one-day increase in cases since September.
During his weekly news briefing, the governor said he had been in close contact with the White House about the latest developments surrounding the new variant, adding that he was looking for research to answer questions about its severity and the efficacy of vaccines against the new strain.
Hutchinson said testing for the omicron variant is happening in Arkansas but there had been no cases identified in the state.
He also reinforced his earlier statements saying the best way to fight this latest strain is to get vaccinated and follow other mitigation efforts, like social distancing and masking where appropriate.
The governor also shared new data from the Arkansas Department of Health showing a jump of 1,044 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours, moving the state’s pandemic total to 528,838.
Hutchinson said the surge in new cases could be a holiday lag but may also reflect a growing trend that state officials have been seeing in test positivity rates.
Active cases increased by 335 to 5,669, and state officials added 12 more deaths to the state total, which is now 8,667 for the pandemic.
There was also a jump in hospitalizations due to the virus reported Tuesday, with 19 new cases pushing the current total to 409. There were eight more patients requiring ventilators, moving that number to 73.
Hutchinson did note that more Arkansans are getting their first vaccinations, saying that more than 35% of the 12,969 doses administered in the past day were for a first dose. There are currently 1,443,498 people in the state fully immunized from the virus, and another 327,478 have partial immunity.
The latest ADH data continued to show the effectiveness of vaccinations against the worst cases of the virus. Since February of this year, 85.9% of total cases, 87.9% of hospitalizations and 85.9% of deaths from COVID-19 have been people who were not vaccinated.
The governor noted that vaccinations in younger groups are continuing to tick up, with 50.7% of Arkansans over the age of 5 now fully vaccinated, with another 11.5% partially vaccinated.
Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key noted that there were 705 active cases of COVID-19 in schools around the state.