Dr. Susan Smyth, dean of the UAMS College of Medicine, distributed a memo to staff today that all should read, particularly those refusing to be vaccinated or take other public health measures in the face of a pandemic on the rise in Arkansas worse than most other states.

Of particular note is the mention that vaccinated UAMS staff have tested positive, one reason experts have said wearing a mask to prevent spread (you might be positive and not know it) isn’t a bad idea.

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Dear College of Medicine Team,

 

As Dr. Steppe Mette and I emphasized in our message on COVID-19 last Friday, it is critical for all of us at UAMS to do everything we can to address the growing threats in the ongoing pandemic.

 

The swift spread of the highly contagious Delta variant in Arkansas, rising hospitalization rates of severely sick patients at UAMS and across our state, and growing numbers of fully vaccinated UAMS colleagues who have tested positive for the virus are all very serious matters.

 

Take a look at the graphic shown here, from a presentation that Dr. David Ussery, Professor of Biomedical Informatics, delivered last week. The chart indicates the proportions of virus “variants of concern” among samples from Arkansas with their genome sequenced and reported in the first three weeks in June. The red “Alpha” portion is the first variant of concern (VoC) found in Arkansas during the pandemic. Alpha was first reported here in March 2021. Represented in yellow, the “Delta” strain was first detected in Arkansas in late May, and in just three weeks has grown from four samples to nearly 60. Delta is becoming the dominant strain – and it is much more contagious and making more unvaccinated people severely ill.

 

Please, if you and your family are not already vaccinated, do so now. This is a vital – and simple – way to help protect yourself and those you love from severe illness.

 

Continue to wear your mask in public and whenever you are around others at UAMS. Wear both eye protection and a UAMS-issued health care mask (not cloth) for all patient encounters in inpatient and outpatient settings.

 

Continue to practice social distancing and avoid group activities when possible. And keep up the frequent hand-washing and using hand sanitizer.

 

It will take all of us working together to turn this situation around and protect our patients, students, colleagues and loved ones. I will have more information for you soon about our efforts to achieve at least a 95% vaccination rate in the College of Medicine, and to ensure that we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe.

 

We are in this together.

 

Susan

Get a shot, dammit. Keep a mask handy.