Fifty-seven Arkansas National Guardsmen tested positive for covid-19 last week during a training exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Soldiers from the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based at Camp Robinson, traveled to the US Army base near Leesville, Louisiana for a combat training exercise.
In addition to the 57 who tested positive, 64 other soldiers were quarantined. None of the soldiers were hospitalized, Arkansas National Guard officials said on Tuesday.
Like most states, most Arkansas National Guard soldiers are unvaccinated. It is estimated that 30% to 35% of guards have been vaccinated, officials said.
While the military cannot require personnel to be vaccinated against covid-19, it does encourage people to be vaccinated against the disease.
The recent positive tests come as the number of covid-19 cases increases dramatically in Arkansas, Louisiana and much of the country. Relatively few soldiers tested positive at Fort Polk – 57 out of about 3,000 in the Arkansas National Guard. Most remain unvaccinated.
Unvaccinated guards have been tested three times since arriving at the base for training. Soldiers who have been vaccinated are only tested if they show symptoms, officials said.
Like Arkansas, Louisiana has been a hotspot for Covid-19 lately, with the delta variant primarily infecting the unvaccinated. In the parish of Vernon, where Fort Polk is located, 11 people tested positive between July 8 and July 14, according to Dr. David Holcombe, regional health administrator for the Louisiana Department of Health.
While Vernon Parish has reported a relatively low number of covid-19 cases, it is difficult to get solid numbers from the region because the US military does not send its covid-19 data to the state.
With about a third of the residents of Vernon Parish having close ties to the military, whether as active duty military personnel, civilian staff, or as spouses, the numbers reported by the parish may not be. accurately reflect the number of active cases, Holcombe mentioned.