Aug 19, 2021

Axios Northwest Arkansas

It's Thursday. Thanks for being here.

⛈ Another day of scattered thunderstorms.

Today's newsletter is 907 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: How colleges are handling COVID

Old Main on campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Photo: Lance King/Replay Photos via Getty Images

The K–12 kiddos are already back at school. Next week it's college students' turn. Here's what to expect:

University of Arkansas

What's happening: Students, faculty, and staff must wear masks on campus, but the university is pulling back on two pandemic policies.

  • Students will no longer be guaranteed the option of online learning. Faculty teaching in-person classes may allow students an online option on a case-by-case basis, but the classes must be taught in person, U of A spokesperson John Thomas tells Axios.
  • After amending the policy last year due to the pandemic, U of A is also returning to its usual requirement that freshmen live on campus, with few exceptions, Thomas says.

What it means: College dorms are basically the exact opposite of social distancing — and one of the few places on campus where masks will not be required.

  • Freshmen can apply to live off campus with U of A's standard exemption form, which clearly states they are unlikely to be approved unless they are living nearby with a parent or guardian.
  • And no, students cannot ask to live with a vaccinated roommate or refuse to live with a fellow student who isn't vaxxed. Thomas says the university does not ask students their vaccination status.

Keep reading: Details on NWACC

2. Where Arkansas grew and shrank
Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The good: One-third of Arkansas' 75 counties grew in population in the last decade, according to the latest census figures released last week.

  • To no one's surprise, Benton and Washington counties led the growth, jumping by 28.5% and 21%, respectively.
  • Saline County (which includes Benton), adjacent to Little Rock, and Craighead County (which includes Jonesboro) in the northeast grew more than 15% each.

The bad: It means two-thirds of Arkansas counties decreased in population over the decade.

  • Phillips County (Helena-West Helena) dropped by nearly 24%.
  • Regionally, all of Phillips County's neighbors had double-digit decreases.

Why it matters: The census numbers determine how federal funding gets allocated to states, counties and cities to support essential services, including public education and public health.

  • The population counts are used to redraw congressional and state legislative district boundaries.

The ugly: Fewer people usually means less funding and representation, exacerbating challenges for rural Arkansans.

Go deeper: Arkansas census facts

3. Get paid to get vaxxed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Fayetteville City Council on Tuesday gave the city the green light to set up a program to offer cash incentives to people who get the COVID-19 vaccine, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Why it matters: Arkansas' case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths have been relentless for the past several weeks, in part because of the state's low vaccination rate. Health experts say vaccines are the most effective way of getting the virus under control.

Details: The city will give $100 to Fayetteville residents or people who work in Fayetteville if they get fully vaccinated between Aug. 17 and Oct. 15.

  • The city will use up to $400,000 in federal relief money for the program.
  • An application, proof of residency or employment, an ID, and a photo of a vaccination card are all required to pick up the money at City Hall.
4. Audio File: NWA in your ears

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

You still have to mow that lawn a few more times before summer runs out, so you might as well throw in those earbuds and learn something cool.

Our latest recs:

🐗 Learn what to expect from this season's Razorback defensive line as well as some insights from scouting in Georgia on this episode of "Razorback Daily."

🐓 "I Am Northwest Arkansas" host Randy Wilburn talks turkey with Tom Gordon, co-founder of Slim Chickens, based in Fayetteville and now serving tenders in 25 states.

🎙 Co-founder of Kitcaster, Ryan Estes, talks with Fayetteville's "Startup Junkies" hosts Jeff Amerine and Caleb Talley about the business of podcasting and the Kitcaster agency, which connects entrepreneurs with top national podcasters.

💵 The Arkansas Economic Development Commission's podcast, "Arkansas Inc. Podcast," interviewed Esperanza Massana-Crane, director with AEDC, and Jon Harrison, founder of VIP2, a Little Rock consulting firm, about minority- and women-owned businesses in Arkansas, as well as leadership training.

5. Readers on their unvaxxed family and friends

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We shared a national survey earlier this week that showed younger people are more likely to ghost the unvaccinated. We wanted to know where our readers stand and asked: Have you cut ties with a friend, family member or acquaintance because they wouldn't get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Responses were generally the opposite of the national poll.

  • All the baby boomers who responded have either cut ties with the unvaccinated people in their lives or go out of their way to avoid situations that put them near unvaccinated people.
  • Most of our readers who identified as Gen Z or millennials say they have not cut ties, but there were exceptions.

What they're saying:

  • Jackson: "I'm a Gen Z, and I would never cut ties with anyone because of their vaccination status. What happened to 'my body, my choice?'"
  • Caroline, a millennial, hasn't cut ties but said, "I don't initiate communication with my conspiracy-theory-loving, anti-vax dad."
  • Baby boomer Lori said, "I will not go to lunch with a group of 14 ladies because only three will take the vaccine."
  • Alex told us: "I am a strong millennial, and I have not only ghosted friends but cut ties with family members over not getting the vaccine."

One reader decided to drop his longtime, unvaccinated barber, and another "agrees to disagree" with friends about the vaccine.

The bottom line: It's unfortunate, but this is an emotional issue that's going to strain relationships, maybe for years to come.

🍠 Alex is on a kick and needs some recipes involving sweet potatoes.

😴 Worth is listening to a "Freakonomics Radio" episode about the benefits of napping.

📬 Got some friends who might like a getting smarter, faster? Forward this newsletter, and let them in on Club Axios.