The Arkansas Department of Health has stopped daily updates on covid-19 cases and deaths, two months after Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order directing the department to prioritize other health issues over the disease.
“The ADH has integrated COVID-19 information and trends into the data hub that displays information for other diseases and conditions,” Danyelle McNeill, Health Department spokeswoman, said in an email. “This is part of ADH’s effort to report Covid-19 data similar to how data for other infectious diseases are reported.”
Sanders’ executive order, signed on Jan. 13, repealed several covid-19 executive orders put in place by former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had created task forces focused on the pandemic.
The Jan. 13 order mentions President Joe Biden’s appearance on “60 Minutes" in September 2022 in which he said, “We still have a problem with covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it ... but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”
[DOCUMENT: Read Sanders' executive order » arkansasonline.com/323eocovid/]
McNeill said Wednesday that the covid pandemic has transitioned to an endemic disease, “meaning the disease is still present but has more predictable behavior with less spikes.”
“As the disease has entered the endemic phase, ADH has appropriately returned to normal operations,” she added.
A new data hub lists covid-19 among other diseases such as monkeypox, hepatitis, influenza, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, rabies and tickborne illnesss.
A dashboard updated weekly will show new covid-19 cases, related hospitalizations and deaths. The state’s previous dashboard updated daily data such as total cases, active cases, as well as total hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients and patients on ventilators. Vaccination totals were also added.
The weekly dashboard had yet to update as of Thursday. Health Department officials say it will be updated every Tuesday.
The first case of covid-19 was reported in the state March 2020. There have been about 22,126 cases of covid-19 reported so far this year, along with 250 covid deaths in 2023, according to Health Department data.