Hutchinson ends statewide mask mandate; expands vaccine eligibility
The eligibility list for COVID-19 vaccinations in Arkansas has expanded once more.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, speaking during his weekly news conference in Little Rock on Tuesday, announced that all Arkansans aged 16 and older would now be eligible to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, in addition to ending the state’s mask mandate, effective immediately.
“This is an important day to start a new portion of our journey through this pandemic,” Hutchinson said. “By the criteria that we set, it’s an appropriate time to lift the statewide mask mandate. This does not mean that the use of the mask will cease. This mask I wore in here today will continue to be a part of my wardrobe as I leave the house and go to work every day.”
Hutchinson said, even for those who have been fully vaccinated, it’s important to “be courteous and to be mindful that we need to protect ourselves and others.”
“Common sense should govern,” he said. “Please respect the decisions of others in regards to masks whether it is a private business or individuals.”
Hutchinson said that, in addition to many businesses that are expected to require masks in certain situations, state employees will also still be required to wear face coverings in instances where social distancing is not possible.
“While we are lifting the statewide mask mandate, that does not mean it ends at every venue,” Hutchinson said.
On the vaccine front, Hutchinson said the decision to expand the list of those eligible a week after the last expansion resulted from a desire to get as many Arkansans vaccinated as possible in a more timely manner.
“[President Joe Biden] urged that by April 19, he wanted to see 90 percent of Americans that are eligible adults to be eligible for the vaccine,” Hutchinson said. “Obviously, we are meeting that goal today.”
Hutchinson said those seeking more information about scheduling an appointment to receive a vaccine should call the state hotline at 1-800-985-6030.
Tuesday’s report form the Arkansas Department of Health indicated that Arkansas has received a total of 1,992,880 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with 1,096,134 doses administered. As of Tuesday, 390,079 Arkansans have been fully immunized against the virus, while another 341,453 have received the initial dose.
Tuesday’s ADH report also indicated that the total number of cases of COVID-19 increased by 1,240 in the past week, rising to 330,186 statewide, including 259,223 confirmed cases, 1,717 active cases and 5,616 deaths — up from 5,547 last week — and 322,809 reported “recoveries.”
In Carroll County, the number of cases increased by nine in the past week, rising to 2,749, a number that includes 2,330 confirmed cases, 10 active cases, 2,695 “recoveries” and 44 deaths.