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Arkansas seeing rising COVID cases as Fourth of July approaches

The Fourth of July is nearly upon us and heading into the holiday weekend, Arkansas is seeing a spike in COVID cases which has health officials urging caution.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you look at COVID cases in Arkansas, you'll notice some trends. Cases have been significantly lower than they were when the omicron peak happened earlier this year.

Cases dropped around April and things looked quiet for a while – but those same cases are steadily ticking back up, which is why health officials are urging more than just firework safety as we head into the holiday weekend.

"We're up to over 1,000 active cases," Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), said. "Those are people who are likely currently infectious."

Before you pack the lawn chair and cooler for the firework shows this weekend, Dr. Dillaha has some advice. COVID is still very much here in central Arkansas, and the ADH has the data to prove it.

"We have a new variant spreading and I think that will keep going until it becomes dominant," Dr. Dillaha said.

That new subvariant, BA.5 is a mutation from omicron. It's also the dominant strain in the U.S. currently.

"We'll continue to see an increase in cases as long as that variant is circulating," Dr. Dillaha said.

It's not just ADH that's keeping an eye on things either. Health officials at UAMS are observing the situation too.

"As far as UAMS goes, today we have about 15 inpatients who have COVID infection," Dr. Robert Hopkins with UAMS said.

In regards to COVID, Dr. Hopkins said where Arkansas is in a better spot right now than before. Despite that, he said we're still not in a great as we head into the holiday weekend.

There is one benefit though-- nicer weather means more people will be out and about, and able to spread out away from others.

"If you're not feeling well, don't go to that family gathering. If you're not feeling well, don't go out and shoot off fireworks with other folks," Dr. Hopkins said. "Stay inside, get to feeling better and when you're well, that's when you get together with your friends and your family, your neighbors."

While that may be the case, Dr. Dillaha said it's up to you to make the safe choice this Fourth of July weekend.

"This virus is here to stay for a while, it's going to be here for a long time," she said. "So I hope people will learn how to stay informed so they can make appropriate decisions on a day-to-day basis."

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