The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement on Tuesday said it is recommending that all K-12 schools, colleges and universities in the state start the school year with indoor mask requirements for students, teachers and staff members, regardless of vaccination status.
The recommendation came from the group’s health policy board in response to the COVID delta variant spike. The board also recommended that schools consider requesting waivers from the Arkansas Department of Education to delay the start of the school year.
Dr. Joe Thompson, president and CEO of ACHI and a pediatrician, said the board’s recommendations represent an urgent call to action for school leaders.
“This fight has changed because the enemy has changed,” he said. “The Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous strains of this virus, and it is attacking children at a rate we have not seen before. Over the next few weeks, the crisis facing our state could be catastrophic. School districts have the legal authority to act now. Communities have a moral imperative to act in the best interests of children’s safety; failure to act will mean more children will get sick, more will be hospitalized, and more will die.”
Health policy board members are:
- Jerry Adams, President & CEO, Arkansas Research Alliance
- Chris Barber, FACHE, President & CEO, St. Bernards Healthcare
- Lawrence “Larry” Braden, MD, Family Medicine, Ouachita County Medical Center
- Sandra J. Brown, MPH, MSN, RN, CEO, Jefferson Comprehensive Care System, Inc.
- Rick Elumbaugh, Mayor, City of Batesville
- Joe Fox, MBA, President, CBI Investments
- Stephanie Gardner, PharmD, EdD Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, UAMS Academic Affairs
- Ray Hanley, President & CEO, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care
- Don Hollingsworth, JD, Retired Executive Director, Arkansas Bar Association
- Andrew Kumpuris, MD (Vice Chair), Retired Cardiologist, CHI St. Vincent Heart Clinic Arkansas
- Marquita Little Numan, Senior Policy Director, Alliance for Early Success
- Jayme Mayo, PA-C, Wellness Director, Nabholz
- Eddie Ochoa, MD, Associate Professor, Arkansas Children’s Hospital
- Marcus Osborne, Senior Vice President, Walmart
- James “Skip” Rutherford III, Dean Emeritus, UA, Clinton School of Public Service
- Herb Sanderson, State Director, AARP Arkansas
- G. Richard Smith, MD, Retired Marie Wilson Howells Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Director, UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute
- F.S. “Sandy” Stroope, Executive Director, Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission
- Joe Thompson, MD, MPH (Ex-Officio), President & CEO, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
- Annabelle Imber Tuck, JD (Chair), Public Service Fellow & Jurist-in-Residence, William H. Bowen School of Law, Retired Justice, Arkansas Supreme Court
- Susan Ward-Jones, MD, CEO, East Arkansas Family Health Center, Inc.
- Mark Williams, PhD (Ex-Officio), Dean, UAMS, College of Public Health
- Namvar Zohoori, MD, MPH, PhD, Deputy State Health Officer, and Chief Science Officer, Arkansas Department of Health.