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ACHI: Give thanks, not COVID

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching, but in light of large increases in the number of state COVID-19 cases, officials with the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) are urging caution in celebrating the holiday.

“People are concerned about transmission of COVID,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, president and CEO of ACHI in a Thursday afternoon ZOOM conference. “So there are prevention strategies that can be employed.”

The coronavirus threat, he said, is magnified by the fact that more than half of all Arkansans have chronic health conditions that increase the risk posed by the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these include heart conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, weakened immune systems, cancer and chronic kidney disease among other conditions. The threat can become even greater during holiday gatherings, like Thanksgiving.

The prevention strategies developed by ACHI, added board chairman Ray Montgomery, are a combination of science-based information and common sense. What can happen, he said, is that loved ones come to one’s home to celebrate, followed a week later by people developing the illness. “We want people to be safe,” he said. “Give thanks, not COVID.”

“We’re not asking you to forego Thanksgiving,” added Thompson, “just to safeguard your families.”

He suggested limiting gatherings to family members of a single household only.

“Don’t bring a number of households together,” Thompson said. “Everyone can connect electronically.”

According to information available at the achi.org website, those planning to gather for Thanksgiving should communicate with everyone else planning to attend to discuss risk reduction and management strategies, commit to safeguard each other, and establish a plan. If there is no agreement, people should consider not participating.

In addition, those planning to attend a Thanksgiving gathering should eliminate unnecessary shopping, minimize participation in gatherings and other social activities, and cease visits to bars, restaurants, and other places of exposure to the public.

“The Monday before Thanksgiving,” said Thompson, “you should get tested.” Those testing positive, of course, should not attend.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement also offers a 10-step plan to reduce risk:

1. Limit gatherings to 10 or fewer, if possible.

2. Anyone with cold-like symptoms (fever, cough, headache, loss of taste) should not attend.

3. Safeguard individuals with:

Immunocompromised (e.g. on chemotherapy, high dose steroids)

Kidney failure

Congestive heart failure




Mental illness


Coronary heart disease


4. Gather and eat outdoors if weather permits. If gathering indoors, open windows (use a heater if necessary) and turn on vent hoods to increase ventilation.

5. Do not share serving utensils. Designate one person to serve the group while wearing a mask and gloves.

6. Limit the length of the event.

7. Maintain distance as much as possible and avoid close personal contact.

8. Wear masks when not eating/drinking.

9. Sanitize/wash hands frequently.

10. For those staying overnight, maximize outdoor time, maintain social distance, and wear masks throughout the visit.

Underscoring the threat, Thompson noted a dramatic increase in COVID cases over the past three weeks in the state.

“Three weeks ago, there were one to two cases per 1,000,” he said, “but now it’s four to six per 1,000.”

Ace the Aviator to serve as parade Grand Marshal

The Newport Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to feature ASU-Newport’s mascot, Ace the Aviator, as the Grand Marshal for the 2020 Newport Christmas Parade.

His selection as grand marshal was made through the efforts of the ASU-Newport administration during the annual Newport Area Chamber of Commerce banquet and fundraising auction.

The Newport Christmas parade begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 10. Social distancing and masks will be required.

An Arkansas native, Ace touched down in Newport in 2018 where he has helped ASU-Newport to reach high altitudes of engagement with students. Ace recently sat down for a one-on-one interview where he shared some details about life as a mascot.

Q: What do you like most about working at ASUN?

Ace: Meeting our students and getting to be a part of their stories. They are from all over the state, from every walk of like, and most of them are just getting started on their careers. Getting to know them is kind of like watching a plane take off – they start out here, on the ground, preparing for the big adventure. We’re here to show them the runway and provide the fuel, but ultimately, they have to get behind the controls, spread their wings, and soar to their dreams. Watching them succeed is absolutely my favorite part of the job.

Q: What are your hobbies?

Ace: I’ve taught myself to sew – it’s a really useful hobby because finding giant blue gloves with only four fingers is impossible!

Q: What are your strengths?

Ace: I am an excellent communicator ... with body language, of course.

Q: What are your weaknesses?

Ace: Forgetting to take my phone off of airplane mode. I have also been accused of being rather flighty.

Q: What advice would you give to students?

Ace: Time flies, so jump right into that pilot’s seat. While you may experience some turbulence along the way, don’t let that prevent you from reaching your final destination. The sky is not the limit – it’s just the starting point!

Q: If you weren’t ASUN’s mascot, what would you be doing?

Ace: I was literally born to do this job. I can’t imagine landing anywhere but here.

Statuary Hall project enters public funding stage

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday that the state is halfway to its $1 million fundraising goal to replace its statues in the U.S. Capitol.

The state is working to replace its current statues in National Statuary Hall of attorney Uriah Rose and former Arkansas Gov. and Sen. James P. Clarke with statues of civil rights leader Daisy Bates and music icon Johnny Cash.

Hutchinson said the state has $510,000 in pledges and cash for the project.

“Today I am announcing that we are entering the public phase of our fundraising campaign,” Hutchinson said during a news conference held at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock.

Anyone wishing to donate to the project can visit this website: https://arkansasheritagefoundation.org/donate/.

Hutchinson said the $1 million goal for the project will cover the selection of sculptors, completing the work of having approval from the architect of the Capitol, and having the works shipped and placed in the Capitol.

“In the last 100 years Arkansas has changed as a state,” Hutchinson said. “ But the changes we have seen as a state are not reflected in our nation’s Capitol, and our visitors do not get to see that change in our representation in Arkansas.”

Hutchinson said his goal is to have both of the statues in place before he finishes his term as governor.

Shane Broadway is the chairman of the state’s National Statuary Hall Steering Committee.

“Millions of visitors from all around the world will now see and hear the Arkansas story of Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash, and how their lives, their actions, and words impacted people around the world, as well as their home state,” he said.

Bates was a civil rights activist and journalist, as well as a mentor to the nine children who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. She was born in Huttig, Arkansas, and died in 1999. Wednesday would have been her 106th birthday.

Cash, who died in 2003, grew up in Dyess, Arkansas. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriter Hall of Fame.