SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – With COVID-19 cases back on the rise in Arkansas and the start of the new school year just weeks away, healthcare providers are concerned about the future of the virus.

This school year will certainly look different than the last. Where masks were once a state mandate, they are now optional for students.

In addition, only kids 12 or older are eligible for vaccines- leaving behind a large group of kids under the age of 12.

Chief Medical Officer for Arkansas Children’s Northwest said this could directly impact your kids, adding that while the mask mandate has been lifted for Arkansas schools, to stay safe it might be best to continue following guidelines from last year.

“If we can go back to school social distanced or masked, I think that’s a very reasonable approach,” Dr. Williams said. “I would still say there is still time to get vaccinated before school starts again.” 

Dr. Williams adds he fears many Arkansans have developed mask fatigue and even if they are unvaccinated and know they should be masking up, they are choosing not to.