While Arkansas continues to suffer from the Covid-19 pandemic and the only health-sciences university hospital in the state, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), approaches its capacity for severe infections, Arkansans remain unvaccinated and infection rate continue to remain high.
Despite these statistics, Little Rock restaurants continue to fill up with unmasked guests, the state passes legislation banning public institutes from requiring masks, and businesses remain relaxed with their adherence to CDC guidelines. There is a striking contrast between the appearance of the epidemic on Arkansas streets and the situation within Arkansas hospitals.
According to the CDC, the seven-day moving average of daily new cases on July 23rd (40,246) was 47% higher than the average a week earlier—and 251% higher than the lowest average in the past 12 months, recorded on June 19th.
It is easy to point blame at politics, however there may be a deeper issue causing vaccine hesitancy.
The Latest variant of the Covid-19 pandemic is not the only epidemic Americans are struggling with. The state having the worst time with Covid-19 are also the least healthy states overall. America has the highest obesity rate among the richest countries, heart disease accounts for one in four deaths, almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, and 12% have high cholesterol, and about one in ten has type 2 diabetes. For all these diseases, states with the highest prevalence also tend to have the lowest vaccination rates.
According to Jennifer Dillaha of the Arkansas Department of Health, it is a problem of poor health literacy. “People struggle with how to get good health information and apply it to their lives. And this existed as a problem in our state, long before the previous administration.”
In the short term, in lieu of addressing literacy issues, policymakers are implementing and re-implementing pandemic-mitigation measures including reinstatement of mask mandates and vaccine or test requirements for certain jobs.
In the longer term, education—along with access to better health care—will be vital in overcoming disinformation, raising vaccination rates and improving America’s overall health.
See the full article from The Economist here.