Governor Hutchinson, his wife and Health Director Jose Romero took booster shots for the cameras at the governor’s weekly press briefing today on COVID-19 and legislative topics.

He encouraged others who are eligible to get a booster shot. Some mass clinics have been scheduled.

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On other matters:

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THE DAILY COVID REPORT: New cases are down from the level a week ago and other numbers continue to trend downward. Vaccinations remain mediocre.

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SCHOOL PROTOCOL: The governor announced some changes in school guidelines. A new rule says quarantine won’t be required in school districts with 70 percent vaccinations.  Also students may opt to take a COVID test and a negative result allows a student to avoid quarantine.

Romero defended isolation and quarantine as a means to limit the spread of the virus to smaller numbers of people.

SCHOOLS: Education Secretary Johnny Key said school cases are declining and no schools have had to stop on-site instruction this week.

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EMERGENCY DECLARATION: The state declaration of an emergency expired yesterday and the governor said he didn’t extend it because there were no powers it would allow the governor that he was seeking to exercise. But, he said, “this does not mean we are not still in a very serious situation.”

Q&A

The governor was asked about Sen. Trent Garner’s proposal to allow people fired for refusing to be vaccinated as a condition of employment to draw unemployment checks. He said the extended general session can only consider redistricting matters. Bills that are filed separately are “not a proper purview,” he said. He also said the existing law provides an employee an opportunity to make a case for a good reason not to take the shot, but he wasn’t ready to say if the specific allowance should be allowed. Presumably the opinion on considering the bill now would apply as well to his ill-informed proposal to allow people who’ve had COVID-19 to be considered vaccinated when vaccinations are required.

The governor was asked if a consensus had developed on an income tax, given the introduction of a tax-cut bill today. He said he wouldn’t call a special session during deer season. He said discussions were continuing. “There’s more work to be done.”