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Arkansas health officials feel concern as COVID cases rise ahead of summer

With summer almost here, more Arkansans are expected to travel. But, with cases rising in the state, health officials are urging people to remain cautious.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — School is out and summer is almost here, which means a lot of people are getting ready to go on vacation. 

While this is fun news for many, there's something that people might not think about when packing--- this year is one of a heightened awareness for COVID. 

With relatively low numbers in the state, alongside vaccine boosters, cases can sometimes be an afterthought for many. With that in mind, state health experts are reminding everyone to stay vigilant with cases on the rise. 

Dr. Joel Tumlison with the Arkansas Department of Health said last summer's spike was thanks to the delta variant.

RELATED: Arkansans feeling sense of normalcy as COVID cases remain low

"Now, we don't have the start of a new variant going on right now. We're dealing with omicron subvariants. They don't seem to be causing that very steep rise, but that doesn't mean that things can't change by the end of the summer," said Tumlison.

For the last five weeks, Tumlison said cases have been slowly and steadily rising, although the state's overall numbers are relatively low.

It's becoming a little more common to hear about friends, family, and others that have come down with COVID. 

Arkansas hospitalizations are also low and have had a slight uptick.

Tumlison wants people traveling to be aware of the number of COVID cases when traveling other places. Masks may seem like a thing of the past, but bringing them along as you travel can help. 

"Outdoor activities are good. Those are a lot safer than doing a lot of things in crowded or indoor places," said Tumlison.

Dr. Robert Hopkins with UAMS said that the virus isn't generally at its worst during the summer months, but that doesn't mean people should lay off on their precautions.

He said maximizing your immunity with boosters is how you can also stay safer during travel. He's hoping that people won't take the low numbers for granted. 

"Yes, we've made some great advances. Yes, we've got some treatments available, but we are not at the point where I think it's time for us to say, 'I think this is just the flu,'" said Hopkins.

He still uses a mask and hopes others will mask up too as an extra step of precaution.

"COVID is not gone. To give up on our precautions is to give the virus a chance to win," said Hopkins. 

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