Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state’s strategies for this winter during his weekly COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.

The governor said the flu season and cold weather coming on “could make it more difficult” to manage the pandemic.

“I want everybody in Arkansas to be prepared for what’s ahead and to keep our focus,” Hutchinson said.

The state’s winter strategy is to increase flu shot participation, hit the 1 million mark for COVID-19 tests in the state, increase consistency of contact tracing, emphasize continued wearing of masks and social distancing, lead by example and not grow weary.

“We can see hope on the horizon with a possibility of a vaccine coming hopefully soon,” the governor said.

As for leading by example, the governor said he will get his flu shot on Wednesday.

“We want everyone to get their flu shot,” he said.

He said the state is on track to reach its goal of 180,000 PCR tests in September and had already exceeded its testing goal for antigen tests.

“It’s been a good month for testing,” the governor said.

Hutchinson said the state hopes to have performed 1 million COVID-19 tests by Oct. 20.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist, stressed the importance of everyone getting a flu vaccine this year to help keep flu-related hospitalizations down.

“The flu shot is safe,” Dillaha said, adding that most people who receive the vaccine will not get the flu and those who do will likely have less severe symptoms and the symptoms won’t last as long. “It goes a long way toward keeping people out of the hospital and that goes a long way during a pandemic.”

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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