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Gov. Hutchinson discusses COVID in schools, booster shots during weekly press update

While a mask policy protects most students in Arkansas, there is still a concern for outbreaks.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson held his weekly news briefing Thursday, Aug. 19, to discuss the effect the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state has had on the first week of the new school year. 

Hutchinson started by commending the school districts on their decision-making and for having the best interest of the students in mind. 

He also broke down what school districts acted in the mask debate. Of the 262 school districts, 118 enacted mask policies, 87 voted against them, and 57 took no formal action. 

While a mask policy protects most students in Arkansas, there is still a concern for outbreaks. 

Hutchinson said, "We’re still in our first week of school. So we haven’t got into a school spike yet because it usually takes a little bit longer than that." 

The briefing also addressed the availability of the booster shot. Doctor Romero talked about roll-out for the third jab for the immunocompromised. 

Doctor Romero says it’s critical to adhere to the eight-month period between the first and second doses. He says just like the first doses, booster shots will roll out by priority. Starting with those in long-term facilities. Next in line will be based on when the second dose was taken. 

Hutchinson added that he’s not worried about third shot hesitancy like he is about the first and second dose. 

"Those who made the decision to get the vaccination are not going to decide 'well we don’t want the booster shot then,'” Governor Hutchinson said. “I think it’ll just simply be those who have not begun to get the vaccination process that will still have that same opinion.”

The briefing shortly touched on the presence of the newest COVID-19 variant in the Natural State. 

While the state is still working on handling the delta variant, it’s now acting to track the lambda variant. Dr. Romero says it’s not a top worry right now.

 “So, as mentioned previously, the lambda variant has been identified here in the state. We are tracking to see if we see more cases or more isolations of that particular variant,” Dr. Romero said. “I don’t think we need to be concerned about it at this time. We are vigilant, and we’ll continue to be so with regards to this and other variants.”

Dr. Romero said it’s another reason to get vaccinated, to protect against and future variants. 

Hutchinson also mentioned that 51.2% of Arkansans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC. 

You can watch Thursday's full press update below. 

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