ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson provided updates on the surging omicron variant in two panel discussions over the weekend, one for Arkansas PBS’ “Arkansas Week” and one for Talk Business & Politics.
Speaking in the second segment of this weekend’s episode of “Arkansas Week,” which was recorded Friday morning, Thompson said Thursday’s record-high one-day count of 12,990 new COVID-19 cases in the state was “a dramatic undercount.”
“It does not count most of the [positive results from] home tests,” he said. “So this really is an exponential increase. This omicron variant is three to four times more infectious than the delta variant, and [delta] was twice as infectious as the parent virus. So it really is raging uncontrolled throughout our communities.”
Dr. Naveen Patil, infectious disease medical director for the Arkansas Department of Health, joined Thompson and host Steve Barnes during the segment, which also featured a demonstration on how to take an at-home COVID-19 test.
Thompson also joined a panel discussion organized by Talk Business & Politics for its “State of the State” series.
“The COVID-19 virus has the ability to mutate … and one of three bad things can happen: It can become more infectious, it can become more deadly, or it can come out from under the protection that our vaccinations offer,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the virus appears to have done at least two of those things in mutating into omicron: It has become much more infectious, and it has made it necessary to get a booster shot to receive the maximum benefit from vaccination.
“It does appear to be a little less deadly, but if you have more people with it, you’re going to have potentially more hospitalizations and more deaths,” he said.
Only about a third of Arkansans are fully vaccinated and boosted, Thompson noted, urging those who are not boosted to get the shot.
Joining Thompson and host Roby Brock to discuss the state of the state from their perspectives were Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton and National Federation of Independent Businesses State Director Sylvester Smith.
See more information about COVID-19 on our COVID-19 in Arkansas page.