ACHI urges Arkansans to recognize omicron threat, take action

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The South African doctor who alerted officials of the possibility of a new variant, later named omicron, said the “unusual but mild” symptoms were what caught her attention. The variant on Monday was detected in South Texas in Cameron County on the Mexican border.(Photo: Getty Images)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement issued a call to action on January 7 to Arkansans, especially school, municipal, business and faith leaders, to recognize the short-term threat posed by the omicron COVID-19 variant.

“Omicron is spreading uncontrolled across our state, posing a serious health threat to those who are not vaccinated and boosted,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “The sheer number of people becoming infected is a threat to our healthcare system. We expect and hope that the current surge will be short-lived, but for the next three weeks we call on Arkansans to take action to fight this highly infectious variant.”

According to a news release from ACHI, its recommendations for the next three weeks are:

  • Recognize the short-term threat from the omicron variant.
  • Cease public-facing activities short-term.
  • Limit in-person meetings and gatherings and consider going virtual.
  • Redouble efforts on hygiene, distancing and ventilation.
  • Enable work-from-home options for employees, with expectation of isolation strategies.
  • Require masking indoors or in crowded settings.
  • Emphasize the importance of vaccines, including booster shots.
  • Support local school, municipal, business and faith leaders in these decisions.

“I fear that some may be underestimating the threat from omicron because they have heard that its effects are milder than those caused by the delta variant,” Thompson said. “It does appear from early data that omicron is not as likely as delta to cause severe pneumonia; nevertheless, omicron is a serious health threat for the unprotected.”

ACHI issued the call to action following four consecutive days of record-high new daily COVID19 case counts in Arkansas. The Arkansas Department of Health reported 6,562 new cases on January 4, 7,488 on January 5, 7,787 on January 6, and 8,434 on January 7.

ACHI says in just the first six days of 2022, 467 Arkansans were hospitalized with COVID-19 — with current hospitalizations increasing by 73 on January 6, the largest on e-day increase since September. There were also 130 reported deaths.

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