Gov. Hutchinson gets booster shot; announces departure of Arkansas’ health chief

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,125 views 

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero receives on Tuesday (April 5) his second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

In addition to a public showing of support for getting the second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero will soon resign to take a job with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He’s the second state health chief to leave for the CDC in two years.

Gov. Hutchinson, Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson and Dr. Romero on Tuesday (April 5) received a second booster shot as part of the governor’s weekly press briefing. On March 29, the CDC issued guidance recommending that those over age 50 and immunocompromised individuals receive a second booster.

“During the recent Omicron surge, those who were boosted were 21-times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated, and 7-times less likely to be hospitalized. CDC continues to recommend that all eligible adults, adolescents, and children 5 and older be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, which includes getting an initial booster when eligible,” the CDC noted in the report.

Prior to receiving his booster shot, Gov. Hutchinson said pushing for more vaccinations rather than returning to COVID restrictions is the best way for policymakers to address public health during the ongoing pandemic.

“The reason we’re doing this (receiving second booster) is that this is the best protection we can have from serious illness and hospitalizations. And while right now we are in great shape in Arkansas and across the nation in terms of low cases. Everybody thinks that COVID is gone, but those that follow this closely understand that it could very well come back this summer or fall, as it did last year. And, so COVID is not totally in the rear view mirror,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Dr. Romero is resigning effective May 6 and will begin a “high level” job with the CDC in June. Dr. Romero, a faculty member at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a former chair of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, became ADH director on Aug. 5, 2020 when he took over for Dr. Nate Smith, who also left for a CDC job in Atlanta.

“We’ve enjoyed the leadership of Dr. Romero for the last couple of years, during the most difficult days during this pandemic. And as has happened before, whenever we have someone of such talent and experience and wisdom, that he’s looked at from a national perspective,” the governor noted Tuesday.

The ADH reports 102 new known COVID cases on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 833,265. The known active cases were 963, down from 1,039 reported Monday. The state is also reporting 11,290 known COVID deaths, up from 11,211 in the March 29 report. There were 103 COVID hospitalizations reported as of Tuesday, down from 122 in the March 29 report.