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Mid-South governors briefed by White House on omicron variant

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 9:35 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More countries are reporting cases of the latest COVID-19 variant of concern -- omicron.

Still, no cases have been reported in the United States, but governors and health leaders in the Mid-South are in frequent contact with the White House about the status of the variant here.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said the White House has a good line of communication open with all governors. He said the key questions are how contagious and dangerous is the

variant, and how effective will the vaccines be.

Researchers still need time to figure out the answers to those questions.

“Now, the question is, are we going to have that additional surge,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson laid out the current state of the pandemic in the Natural State Tuesday as more countries record their first cases of the

variant.

Tuesday, Arkansas recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. It’s the first time it was that high since September. Hutchinson doesn’t know if the number is higher because of a slow down in reporting during the holidays.

“The fact that our positivity rate has crept up to 9.1 percent raises concerns we are trending upward,” Hutchinson said.

Tuesday, Tennessee recorded nearly 2,200 new cases. The state health department said it’s started sequence testing to try to spot the omicron variant quickly.

The same thing is being done in Mississippi, which recorded 549 new cases Tuesday.

Still, with more to learn, Mid South health officials said vaccinations are still the best line of defense against any existing variant.

“We stick with our strategy in Arkansas, which is let’s get as many vaccinated as we can,” Hutchinson said.

Heading up the vaccination campaign in Shelby County will switch hands come Wednesday. The Shelby County Health Department will take over vaccine administration from the City of Memphis December 1.

With it comes some changes to familiar vaccination locations. The two mass public vaccinations sites that remain open, Germantown Baptist Church and Pipkin Building, will close for good December 17 and 15 respectively.

Dozens of vaccinations sites with both private and public partners remain open. Click here to find a location nearest you.

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