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Trauma System Expansion, Waiving Teacher Licensing Fees Top COVID-19 Briefing Agenda

As the state anticipates an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks, Governor Asa Hutchinson began Tuesday's weekly coronavirus response briefing by thanking those Arkansans who chose to have small gatherings that abided CDC guidelines this Thanksgiving. Hospital ICU capacity was once again a main topic of discussion as Arkansas breaks coronavirus hospitalization records almost daily. Hutchinson announced the Winter COVID-19 Task Force is currently working to expand the state's existing Trauma Communications system to include patients with coronavirus. The changes should be implemented over the course of the next two weeks. Another major topic of discussion at yesterday's briefing was education. As has been the case with nurses, Hutchinson said the state has also been experiencing a shortage of teachers, which is why the Arkansas Education Department is asking the state Board of Education to waive new teacher licensing fees through April 1. According to the Department of Education's Ivy Pfeffer, there are currently 29 active modifications in school districts across the state and many of those pivots to virtual learning are due to staffing issues when teachers have to quarantine because of possible COVID-19 exposure. Pfeffer also provided an update on the state's Engage Arkansas initiative, which seeks to reengage thousands of students who have not responded to virtual learning or who are falling behind in school. The governor also announced the roughly 800 nursing students who already paid their licensing fees prior to his announcement waiving those costs, will have their money refunded. For the full briefing, click here.

Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
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