COVID-19 in Arkansas

The COVID-19 continues to affect people in our state. ACHI will provide updates and insights on emerging COVID-19-related issues.

Last Updated: November 30, 2022

What to know about the current vaccine schedule recommended by the CDC

In October 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updates to its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, including booster doses. The CDC expanded use of the updated bivalent booster to include children aged 5–11 and allowed use of the Novavax monovalent booster for adults in limited situations.

  • All individuals 5 and older are eligible for a bivalent booster dose two months after their last primary series dose (i.e., two months after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may require an additional dose to complete their primary series, depending on which vaccine they have received.
    • Currently, the Pfizer bivalent booster is authorized for people 5 and older, and the Moderna bivalent booster is authorized for people 6 and older. For 5-year-olds who completed the Moderna primary series, the Pfizer bivalent booster should be administered.
    • Those who previously received monovalent booster doses are eligible two months after the last monovalent booster dose.
  • People who recently had COVID-19 may consider delaying their next vaccine dose by three months from the date their symptoms started — or, if they had no symptoms, from the date of their first positive test.

Bivalent vs. Monovalent

  • Bivalent: These boosters are the most recent version of the COVID-19 vaccine. They are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
  • Monovalent: The previous boosters are called “monovalent” because they were designed to protect against the original virus that caused COVID-19. They also provide some protection against the omicron variant, but not as much as the updated (bivalent) boosters.

Consult your primary care provider or pharmacist for questions about the timing of your booster dose, as well as how to complete your primary vaccine series. For a more in-depth look at the recommended vaccine schedule, visit the CDC’s website.

Because low testing rates and the prevalence of unreported at-home testing undermine the accuracy of new COVID-19 case counts, we have suspended publication of our COVID-19 dashboard, which previously displayed rates of new known infections by community, ZIP code and school district boundaries. To see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s assessment of COVID-19 risk levels by county, visit its U.S. COVID-19 Community Levels by County Map.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible for treatments or medication that can reduce the possibility of hospitalization or death. Contact your healthcare provider right away as treatment should be started within days of symptom onset to be effective. Visit the CDC’s website for a general overview of authorized COVID-19 treatments and medications.

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:

  • Free or low-cost at-home tests may be available at Local Health Units or local pharmacies.
  • 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 5 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.

Videos

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

Breakthrough Infection

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

Endemic

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

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 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

COVID-19 Testing in Arkansas: ADH has outlined guidance for getting tested in Arkansas. The United States Health & Human Services (HHS) also provides information on how and where to get tested.

Order free at-home tests: https://www.covidtests.gov/