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Arkansas National Guard works towards normalcy as COVID-19 surges through state

After the pandemic forced guardsmen to pause their training, the group is now resuming instruction. Soldiers that tested positive were placed into quarantine.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — There are some concerns about Arkansas National guardsmen contracting COVID-19 at one of their bases.

The Arkansas National Guard said while there are some positive cases, they have it under control. They are not calling it an outbreak.

"We've had roughly 37 soldiers who have tested positive out of the 2,200 we've sent to Fort Polk," Lieutenant Colonel William Phillips, with the Arkansas National Guard, said.

After the pandemic forced guardsmen to pause their training, the group is now resuming their instruction.

Soldiers have been transported from Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith to Fort Polk in Louisiana. Phillips said the soldiers that tested positive have been removed from the group and are quarantining.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to make sure our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, and our neighbors come home safely," Phillips said.

It is not required to get the vaccine in the military, but Phillips said it is highly encouraged.

Just like the rest of Arkansas, the National Guard is seeing some hesitation about getting vaccinated.

"I would assume we are probably at about 35 percent just like the rest of the state," Phillips said.

But it may not be long before soldiers are mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The Department of Defense could make it mandatory, much like how the flu shot is required every year. Phillips said they are prepared to distribute vaccines if that does happen.

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