From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
There is some good news to report in the fight against Covid-19.
Arkansas schools are relaxing their quarantine requirements. Now, a student or staff person will not have to quarantine for 14 days unless they were within three feet of an infected person.
Previously, the person had to quarantine if they were within six feet of an infected person.
People who have been vaccinated are not required to quarantine.
The new standard of three feet will affect elementary and secondary schools. For pre-schools and higher education, the six foot distance will continue to be the standard.
Public health officials acknowledged that relaxing the quarantine standard was a trade-off.
Although they would prefer to maintain a six-foot threshold, they also realized that it was having a negative effect on numerous students under quarantine.
The Arkansas Secretary of Health said that children are suffering for not being in class, both academically and psychologically.
Another change in protocol will allow students to continue with extra-curricular activities if they agree to be tested regularly.
It will be up to schools to decide if they want to participate.
Up to now, the students could take advantage of the test-to-stay option only in order to stay in the classroom. That was not enough of an incentive for many students.
The new protocol recognizes that activities like band, drama and sports are essential for a young person’s development.
The number of cases among students and staff has been steadily declining since the school year began. The most recent count, taken at the beginning of this week, indicated that there were 1,080 active cases among people in the public school system.
That’s the lowest number so far this year, although it is still about 200 more active cases than this time last year.
Public health officials said that if the number of children exposed to the Covid virus increases dramatically, they will consider going back to stricter protocols.
But for now, the announcement is proof that our efforts are working. Of course we’d all like to see faster progress, but we’re headed in the right direction.
Several school districts have been able to repeal their mask mandates.
Most importantly, people are getting vaccinated, although we still have a ways to go. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 47 percent of Arkansans are fully vaccinated. Almost 57 percent have received at least one dose.
We’re below the national average by about 10 percentage points. We need to do better, because vaccinations are the best way to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and the best way to avoid mask mandates and quarantine requirements.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.