Romero leaving state for CDC job

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson gets his second COVID-19 booster shot during his media briefing on Tuesday as Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson looks on. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made a second booster shot available and recommend it be taken by those over 50 and those who are immunocompromised.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson, took their second COVID-19 booster shots in public Tuesday from nurses with the Arkansas Department of Health.

During his weekly media briefing Hutchinson also announced that Arkansas Secretary of Health, Dr. Jose Romero, is leaving the Arkansas Department of Health to take a job with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Romero’s resignation will be in effect May 6. He thanked the governor, other public health officials, and his wife for their support during his time as the state’s top health official.

Romero was named interim health secretary for Arkansas in May 2020 after his predecessor, Dr. Nathaniel Smith, also left to work for the CDC. Romero became Arkansas Secretary of Health in September of 2020.

Romero also continued to encourage everyone Tuesday to be vaccinated, and to receive available booster shots to combat COVID-19. He said that even though those who have contracted the virus do develop a natural immunity, that does not persist, and those individuals also should follow through with vaccinations.

That is why the governor and his wife took their second booster shots publicly, to emphasize the importance of the vaccinations. Romero also received his second booster shot at the media briefing.

The Food and Drug Administration and CDC have made the second booster shot available to certain populations and recommend that those older than 50 and those who are immunocompromised get the shot.

Also on Tuesday, Hutchinson called for an expansion of the state’s Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) to monitor high-risk offenders while citing an increase in violent crime in Arkansas, including the Little Rock metropolitan area.

According to the governor’s office, the new expansion will add 10 ISP officers to the program, which will cover five counties including Lonoke, Jefferson, Faulkner, Saline, and Pulaski.

The goal of the program is to provide a higher level of support, and supervision to those who pose a higher risk of violent crimes.

“These are those that have spent time in prison released on parole, that are trying to get a second start in life, and we want to be able to help them to do that,” Hutchinson said. ”But you have an element of those who pose a greater risk than others and that is the design of the ISP program that focuses on high-risk offenders.”

The program expansion will cost $1,091,585 to start with, and then have an ongoing cost of $820,395 a year, but both costs will have to be approved by the General Assembly to go forward.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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