Governor Hutchinson discusses upcoming special session and new Omicron COVID-19 variant

LITTLE ROCK – At his weekly news briefing today, Governor Asa Hutchinson discussed an upcoming legislative special session and the new Omicron variant that was discovered in South Africa. 

Special Session

Governor Hutchinson announced that the special session will begin Tuesday, December 7. Items he noted that will be discussed during this session will include the proposed tax reduction bill.”I spoke today with both the Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tem and they confirmed that we have more than a majority vote on the tax bills to have that passed.” Governor Hutchinson said.
Other items he mentioned include moving some restricted reserve funds, an insulin bill, LLC bill, appropriation bill, a tax appeals commission, and more.

COVID-19 and Omicron variant

The Governor mentioned that there are a lot of unknowns around the variant, but scientists and public health officials are working to learn more. Early questions right now include could Omicron be more transmissible than other variants, and how severe could it potentially be?He said that hopefully data that is being evaluated will tell us if vaccines will work well to protect against the new variant.The Governor made an update on COVID-19 cases in Arkansas for November 30 announcing active cases rose by 335 and 12 more deaths were added. He said our new cases for Tuesday were up by 1,044. He noted that this is the first time new cases have been that high since September. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up by 19 and patients on ventilators have also risen by 8. The Governor noted that 12,969 new doses of the vaccine were given out.

“I’m very pleased that 35.9 percent are first doses which means that over 4,000 going in for the first time starting the vaccination process,” Governor Hutchinson said, “20.7 percent are second  doses, and 43 percent are third doses which are all good signs on the vaccination front.”Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero made a note during the briefing that 30% of the new cases are occurring in the 5-18-year-old group and encouraged getting vaccines to those of that age group.”It’s important that parents realize that this virus does affect children, it can have long-term consequences, and vaccines are available, and we are encouraging them to get their children vaccinated,” Dr. Romero said.

Secretary of Arkansas Department of Education Johnny Key also gave a report on school cases of COVID-19. He said that Monday’s report showed 705 active cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas school districts. He noted that it was about 500 fewer than last week, but due to Thanksgiving break that may not be an accurate representation of active cases in schools.You can watch the full briefing HERE.You can view the slide presentation from today’s briefing HERE.

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