JONESBORO — Entering the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Gov. Asa Hutchinson warned that the number of people becoming sick because of the coronavirus pandemic is growing.

“Compared with last week, we have over 900 more active cases than the previous week and we have 69 more current hospitalizations than the previous week,” Hutchinson said during his weekly news conference. “That alone should tell you that we’ve got to be very cautious and wise in order not to have the surge that we had last winter.”

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 690 new cases Tuesday, including 23 in Craighead and 11 in Greene County.

The governor also sought to dispel the belief that unvaccinated persons who have previously been infected by the virus provides natural immunity. He said vaccination provides far more protection.

“There is such a thing as natural immunity that you gain if you’ve had COVID,” Hutchinson said. “It is not something that lasts forever. It has an end date, and just like a vaccine, over time loses some of its effectiveness. The natural immunity loses it’s effectiveness more quickly.”

CDC studies of hospitalized show an unvaccinated person with a previous COVID infection is five times more likely to test positive for COVID compared to a vaccinated person, Hutchinson said.

The governor reminded listeners that this time last year was when the deadly surge began.