COVID-19 in Arkansas

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people around the world, including Arkansans. ACHI will provide updates and insights on this evolving public health crisis.

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Last Updated: May 16, 2021

Due to substantially reduced statewide testing rates over the past several weeks, we are unable to accurately determine current COVID-19 infection rates within communities, school districts, and ZIP codes. To avoid misrepresenting infection risk, ACHI will discontinue reporting local level data.

Video Updates

What Cities and Towns Should Know During the COVID-19 Pandemic

ACHI and the Arkansas Municipal League hosted a video call on April 29, 2021, to discuss what cities, towns, and other state municipalities should know about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immunology 101 – COVID-19

ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson gives a brief summary of what we know and don’t know about COVID-19 immunity.

As the pandemic continues to unfold, it is important to understand its impact on mortality, or death, rates in the U.S. One way of evaluating this is to estimate the number of excess deaths that have taken place since the beginning of the pandemic.

In a recent installment of our blog series explaining key terms and phrases used by public health officials in discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a closer look at the term “excess deaths.”

Simply defined, excess deaths are the difference between the observed number of deaths during a specific time frame and expected number of deaths during the same period. ACHI has included excess death data resources below, including an interactive dashboard of excess deaths associated with COVID-19 developed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We also have included a dashboard of daily deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic by state, developed by the Health Care Cost Institute.

COVID-19 Vaccination & Employment

1. Can employers require vaccination for COVID-19?

The general rule is yes. Employers can take a wide range of actions to protect the workplace, including requirements for employees to be vaccinated.

2. What happens if I refuse to be vaccinated?

It depends. Arkansas is an “at will” state when it comes to employment, which means that employers can set working conditions, including mandatory vaccinations. Consequently, the general rule is that employers can terminate an employee or reject an applicant for refusing to be vaccinated. However, there are a couple of exceptions for employers subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If an employee has a medical reason or sincerely held religious belief that prevents him or her from being vaccinated, the employer must offer a reasonable accommodation to continue to work.

3. What does a reasonable accommodation look like?

This will vary depending on the work environment. In an office-based work environment, remote work could be an alternative. Some employers may continue to offer on-site work, but in an isolated location where the threat is reduced or eliminated. Employers do not have to offer accommodation that would present an “undue hardship” to the employer.

4. What if there is no reasonable accommodation?

Under the ADA, an employer may exclude an employee from the workplace if the employee’s presence is a “direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.” To determine whether a “direct threat” exists, the employer assesses the following four factors: the duration of the risk, the nature and severity of the potential harm, the likelihood that the potential harm will occur, and the imminence of the potential harm. An airborne, highly contagious virus like COVID-19 is likely to meet this test. An employer may exclude an employee from the workplace for refusing to be vaccinated due to a sincerely held religious belief. The employer will assess whether the employee has rights under any other laws prior to taking any additional adverse action.

5. Are employers likely to require vaccination for COVID-19?

Until COVID-19 vaccinations receive full licensure by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (as opposed to the current emergency use authorization status), employers are unlikely to require vaccination. Instead, many are now educating employees about vaccination and strongly encouraging it, and some are offering incentives for vaccination. Some employers such as Trader Joe’s and Dollar General are offering incentive payments or gift cards of varying amounts for vaccination, while others are offering additional leave time or incorporating vaccination into their wellness programs, such as Arkansas’s own Washington Regional Medical Center. Regardless of the type of incentive, employers will need to assess the potential for discriminatory effects associated with the incentive, just as they would a vaccine requirement.

From Our Blog

Little Rock Mayor Talks Pandemic, Mask Mandate on ‘Wonks at Work’

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. discusses the challenges of leading a city amid a public health crisis in the latest episode of our podcast, “Wonks at Work.” Read More

ACHI Board Urges Action at Community Level to Fight COVID-19 Spread

On the heels of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s announcement Tuesday that he was terminating the statewide mask mandate, the ACHI Health Policy Board issued a call to action Thursday to leaders across the state. Read More

Survey: Arkansas’s Vaccination Rate Slightly Below National Average

By the end of March, 46.7% of Arkansas adults reported having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, putting Arkansas slightly below the national average of 47.0%. Read More

CDC Case Studies

Defining COVID-19 Terms

As the pandemic continues to unfold, it can be difficult to keep up with emerging information about COVID-19, especially if you are unfamiliar with some of the terminology. In the early stages of this evolving health crisis, we launched a series of blog posts explaining key terms and phrases used by public health officials in discussions about this new disease. Check out some recent posts below, and see 30 Terms and Phrases Used by Public Health Officials When Talking About COVID-19 for a roundup of terms we’ve defined.

Efficacy vs. Effectiveness

Vaccine efficacy is defined as how well a vaccine performs under the most ideal conditions in medical testing. It is different from vaccine efficacy, which refers to how well a vaccine performs under “real-world” conditions. Read More

Mutation vs. Variant

Once they are in our bodies, viruses reproduce by relying on our cells to make copies of themselves. As a virus infects more people, there are small copying errors that occur over time; these are called mutations. As these mutations take place, new versions of a virus develop and begin infecting more people. These new versions of the virus are called variants. Read More

Reinfection vs. Reactivation

Reinfection occurs when a person who has been infected with and recovered from a virus later becomes infected again by the virus. Reactivation occurs when a person who appears to have recovered from a virus still has small amounts of the virus within his or her body, and after having few or no symptoms for a period of time, the person develops new symptoms. Read More

Helpful Links and Numbers

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is tracking statewide cases, and more information can be found here, and en espanol.

Arkansas hotline for information about COVID-19 vaccination, including help scheduling appointments: 1-800-985-6030. The hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The CDC posts regular online updates with latest guidelines and information on COVID-19.

ADH: During normal business hours (8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.), urgent and non-urgent calls, please dial 1-800-803-7847 or email After normal business hours and weekend calls, needing immediate response, please call 1-800-554-5738.

UAMS: Click here for screening information, including drive-thru screenings and phone screenings. Their COVID-19 Hotline is 1-800-632-4502.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH): For children younger than 18 years old, call 1-800-743-3616. Nursing staff will be available for questions and phone screenings 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Click here for more information from ACH.