FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — The Arkansas Department of Health says new variants of the coronavirus that spread more easily could lead to a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero says the variant he is most concerned about is a strain out of Great Britain, and it's only a matter of time until it makes its way here to Arkansas.
“It is already here in this country. There are 10 states that are reporting it,” Dr. Romero said.
On Tuesday (Jan. 19) Dr. Romero expressed concern about the new virus strain, saying currently there are no reports of the variant in Arkansas. The ADH is actively looking for the virus though.
“We can detect it using our diagnostic tests and then have those specimens sent to the CDC for further analysis,” Dr. Romero said.
As of now, the ADH is waiting to receive results from the CDC on eight samples that are being tested.
“What the CDC predicts is by March this virus will be the predominant virus in the United States,” Dr. Romero said.
Dr. Romero says this virus is 50-70% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain, which creates a big concern for the future.
“This could lead to another spike in the number of cases because of the transmissible," he said. "It also impacts our vaccine program because in order to really bring the virus under control we are going to have to have larger number of individuals vaccinated."
The state reassures Arkansans that the new strain's transmissibility is dependent upon not using the mask and not social distancing.
“It can be handled if we do it with our masks and our social distancing and following our guidelines. The key is following our guidelines,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
As of now, the health department says the current vaccine is active against this particular virus.