Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday at his weekly briefing that he has written and will be sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra in regard to a problem in the state with unaccompanied alien minors.
Hutchinson said that Arkansas has had 672 unaccompanied minors come into the state from other countries to be housed with a sponsor family; however, there has been a clear problem with how the Department of Human Services has been vetting these sponsors.
“Some of the children have been abandoned, and others are living with sponsors that are deplorable,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said that there has been a significant increase in calls to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline and that in the past month, seven unaccompanied minors that were previously placed with a sponsor family have been brought into DHS custody due to the conditions they were living in and lack of care from their sponsors.
“They’re placing them with people that have no sense of responsibility,” Hutchinson said. “Now, that’s not 100 percent across the board, but that’s a startling number that we’re seeing.”
Hutchinson also announced that there has been a need to make the COVID-19 booster shots more available to the public, so he released Arkansas’ own COVID-19 booster recommendations that contradict those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the CDC says that booster shots should only be given to those over the age of 65 or over the age of 18 with certain health conditions and high-risk factors, Arkansas’ new guidelines state that anyone over the age of 18 should get their booster shot six months after the second dose if they got Pfizer or Moderna or two months after the first dose if they got Johnson and Johnson.
Vaccines for children ages 5-11 were approved by the CDC last month and since then 4.2 percent of Arkansans in that age group have been vaccinated.
Arkansas saw 151 new COVID-19 cases Monday, but the total number of active cases has dropped by 351. Hospitalizations are holding steady, but there have been 12 new deaths from the virus in the state.