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Arkansas state leaders believe omicron cases could drop soon

As COVID cases continue to hit record highs, state leaders are hopeful the omicron surge will finally hit a peak and start to drop off later this month.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As COVID cases continue to break record highs, state leaders are hopeful the omicron surge will finally hit a peak and start to drop off later this month.

This comes as more people gain temporary natural immunity after catching the virus, along with the many that getting vaccinated. 

With that in mind, Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero is hoping to see cases drop soon. 

"Our overall projection was that we should start to see a decrease next week," he said.

Despite that projection, Romero made it clear that the fight against COVID isn't over yet. 

"This does not mean that we're going to be out of the woods, we're still going to be having significant numbers of individuals being infected in the state," he said.

Right now over 75% of all reported cases in the state are in people who are not fully vaccinated. 

That same population makes up over 80% of all COVID related hospitalizations and deaths.

Now, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is preparing for a continued rise in hospitalizations. 

"We do have additional capacity that will be coming online for ICU beds, as well as the COVID beds as well," he said.

State leaders are also working to meet testing needs as the state distributes the remaining supply of the 1.5 million free at home tests ordered for the state.

"We still have 370,000 that's available at our local health units and the libraries," Governor Hutchinson said.  

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is  already out of tests, but surrounding area libraries and health clinics have said that they still have plenty in supply.

This also comes as the federal government opened their website this week, allowing every household in the country to order four free rapid tests that can be mailed to them out over the next few weeks.

On top of testing resources, hospitals like Baptist Health are still pushing for people to get vaccinated to protect themselves.

"The majority of those in critical care are not vaccinated. Clearly the vaccines provide protection," Baptist Health Senior Vice President, Greg Crain said.  

Crain hopes Arkansans understand the gravity of the pandemic. 

"I wish I could take you inside the walls of the clinics and hospitals to show you how hard the healthcare teams are working," he said.

Crain also hopes Arkansans go to get protected to ensure that they stay healthy. 

"If you were able to interview patients in critical care right now and their families, they would say if I could go back and do things differently, I would have taken advantage of protecting myself and protecting my family," he said.