LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. José Romero had a direct message for Arkansans Tuesday – the best way to end the coronavirus pandemic is vaccinations.
During the weekly update on the Arkansas COVID-19 response Tuesday, the governor noted that the state was closing in on a million residents reaching at least partial vaccination, but that daily new vaccination number could still be higher.
As of Tuesday, 637,821 Arkansans had been fully vaccinated, with another 335,631 having been partially vaccinated. Those figures represent more than 27.5 percent and 14.2 percent of state residents over the age of 18, levels that Hutchinson noted were below national averages.
The governor also shared breakdowns of vaccinations by age and race, which highlighted the lower vaccination levels in younger populations while also showed how efforts to encourage for Black residents of the state to get the vaccine are helping to increase the percent of that population getting a dose.
The latest data from the Arkansas Department of Health showed 198 new cases in the state in the last day, moving the total case count to 333,709. The active case count climbed slightly to 1,804.
Hospitalizations also went up by 13 cases in the last 24 hours, and an additional seven deaths brought the pandemic tally to 5,706.
Hutchinson shared a map showing COVID-19 “hot spots” around the country, which showed none of these areas in Arkansas. While the governor was pleased with this current situation, he also pressed how continued vaccination drives were the key to keeping that going, rather than bringing back mandates or restrictions.
Romero noted that Arkansas was seeing increases in the variant cases of COVID-19, with a 70 percent jump in the UK variant, which has a higher degree of transmissibility and mortality.
He also noted that in many of the locations where the “hot spots” were happening around the country, the variant strains of the disease were now showing greater effects on younger populations, including children, than previously seen, leading him to stress the need to vaccinate now to “get ahead of this.”
Health officials announced all state health offices around the state would begin taking appointments for vaccinations starting next week, with a massive vaccination drive also set for May at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock as part of the “Arkansas Made, Arkansas Proud,” event being held there.
When asked by reporters about current legislation banning further face mask mandates or vaccine passports working its way through the General Assembly, Hutchinson said he would hold off judgment until he saw the final bill language but noted that he wanted to make sure not to limit further gubernatorial action in the future.