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.
Last Updated: January 20, 2022
The data in these tables and maps are provided to help inform local decision-makers — including policymakers, school personnel, and parents — about the impact of COVID-19 in their communities. Due to increases in at-home testing, and because recent reported test rates remain relatively low, the numbers displayed on this dashboard likely underrepresent actual infections and, therefore, the risk in each community. Some vaccination rates may be underreported because data are not currently available for Arkansas residents who received vaccinations in neighboring states.
For those with color vision deficiency, see accessible version.
COVID-19 Testing Locations
COVID-19 Mythbusting: Common Falsehoods About Masks and Vaccines
ACHI has developed a COVID-19 Mythbusting explainer to address some of the most common falsehoods circulating about COVID-19. The explainer includes common myths related to masks and COVID-19 vaccines and discusses why these claims are false.
Arkansas Nursing Home COVID-19 Impact Dashboard
This interactive dashboard tracks COVID-19 cases, deaths, and vaccination rates among residents and healthcare staff of Arkansas nursing homes.
How to Self-Test at Home
Omicron, the currently dominant variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, is different from previous strains in many ways. Whereas delta, the previously dominant variant, caused pneumonia, omicron is more likely to cause upper respiratory symptoms: sore throat, congestion, sinusitis, and fever.
Because of the increased infectiousness of omicron, if you have these COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone with a known infection, you should assume you are infected and either self-test or obtain a PCR test at a healthcare facility.
When to use at-home COVID-19 self-tests:
- If you have symptoms or have been exposed (or potentially exposed) to an individual with COVID-19 you should self-test or get tested at a healthcare facility.
- Because you can be infected without symptoms or a known exposure to someone with COVID-19, using a self-test before gathering with others, either within your household or outside of your household, can inform you about your risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.
- A negative result means that the test did not detect the virus and that you may not have an infection, but it does not rule out infection. Repeating an at-home test within a few days, with at least 24 hours between tests, will increase the confidence that you are not infected.
Where to get at-home COVID-19 self-tests:
- Order four free tests with free delivery.
- Free at-home tests may also be available at Local Health Units, public libraries, or local pharmacies. Supplies are limited, so you may want to call first.
- As of January 15, commercial insurance carriers are required to pay or reimburse for individually purchased self-tests (check with your insurance provider for conditions).
How to perform a COVID-19 self-test:
- Always carefully review the instructions that come with your home test before getting started. There are many different manufacturers of home tests and the instructions may vary.
- Watch a demonstration on how to use one common at-home test.
- Here’s a video that can help you interpret your test results.
- The CDC has put together a detailed page about at-home COVID-19 self-tests on their website.
What to do if your test result is positive:
- You should stay home or isolate for 10 days, if possible. If you are asymptomatic after five days with a negative test, you may return to work, but you must continue to wear high quality masks through day 10 (N95s and KN95s offer better protection than cloth masks).
- Tell a healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them.
- If your illness becomes severe, seek medical attention.
- If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately.
- Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. A person with COVID-19 can begin spreading it two days before they have any symptoms or test positive. By informing your close contacts that they may have been exposed, they can test at home and help protect their family and others.
- If you think your positive test result may be incorrect, contact a healthcare provider to determine whether or not additional testing is necessary.
School District Mask Policy List
Public school leaders across the state are meeting to determine if masks will be required in their schools. The following have adopted mask requirements or voted against mask requirements. If a school district is not listed, ACHI is not aware of action taken by a school board. Email us for updates.
*Data in the text file are current as of the date and time of the download.
Please refer to the school district’s listed website for more information concerning partial mask requirements.
Call to Action from the ACHI Health Policy Board
On Aug. 10, 2021, the ACHI Health Policy Board issued a call for action to school leaders. Key points include:
- K-12 school boards and higher education institutions should adopt indoor mask requirements for at least the next 30 days for all students, teachers, and staff, regardless of vaccination status.
- Schools should invest in ventilation, testing, cleaning, and disinfection.
- Schools should encourage vaccination among those who are eligible.
- School boards may consider requesting a waiver to delay the start of the school year.
Multiple Arkansas Organizations Support Call for Mask Requirements in Schools, Colleges
The following have communicated to the health policy center their support for the ACHI Health Policy Board’s call to action for all Arkansas K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to adopt indoor mask requirements for the next 30 days for all students, teachers, and staff members, regardless of vaccination status:
- Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield
- Arkansas Children’s Hospital
- Arkansas Children’s Northwest
- Arkansas Hospital Association
- Arkansas Medical, Dental & Pharmaceutical Association
- Baptist Health
- CHI St. Vincent
- Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas
- Mercy Hospital Fort Smith
- Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
- Washington Regional Medical Center
- Bishop Gary Mueller, Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church
- Rabbi Barry Block, Congregation B’nai Israel
COVID-19 Related Blog Posts From Our Team
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.
Crisis Standards of Care
As the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the U.S., hospital bed and staffing shortages have been reported in many Southern states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. As these resources become strained, hospital systems may be forced to make difficult decisions regarding which patients receive care. Read More
A breakthrough infection (also known as a breakthrough case) is a term used to describe a COVID-19 infection that occurs in a fully vaccinated person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a person with a breakthrough infection as someone who has a positive COVID-19 test 14 or more days after receiving a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine. Read More
An endemic disease is one that is commonly found in a specific population or region. Endemic diseases are different from epidemics and pandemics, which are outbreaks of a disease that continue to spread to other regions (or globally in the case of a pandemic). An example of an endemic virus is influenza, better known as the flu. Read More
Personal Impact of the Pandemic in Arkansas
The human toll of the COVID-19 pandemic can at times seem hard to grasp through sheer numbers and data. Here is a roundup of news stories that put a human face on this public health crisis.
- ‘They couldn’t take it anymore’: UAMS exec says employees are walking off the job
- West Memphis family mourning 11-year-old who died from COVID complications
- ‘It’s like a living nightmare’: Woman gets vaccinated following family’s battle against COVID
- More virus path to burnout; another surge pushing health workers to breaking point
- Lonoke mother dies of COVID-19; daughters hope to inspire others to get vaccinated
- Arkansas nurse urges others to get vaccinated following her mom’s death from COVID
- Mom regrets not getting her 13-year-old vaccinated as Delta variant surges
- Arkansas doctor describes the ‘regret and remorse’ of dying COVID-19 patients who didn’t get vaccinated
- After contracting COVID-19, these two Arkansans regret not getting vaccinated
- Neighbors’ Deaths From Covid-19 Have an Arkansas Town Reassessing Vaccines
- Arkansas Teen Off Ventilator 37 Days After Getting COVID-19
- Arkansas Woman Regrets Delaying Vaccine After Husband Dies From COVID-19
- ‘Nothing We Can Do’: Arkansas Nurse Takes Break From Working Amid COVID Crisis
- Ash Grove’s Only Family Doctor Dies From COVID-Related Complications
Helpful Links and Numbers
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 ADH.CoronaVirus@arkansas.gov. 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.
CDC Mask Guidelines: Click here to view the mask guidelines from the CDC
Order free at-home tests: https://www.covidtests.gov/
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.