Hutchinson ending health emergency
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday announced he would be ending the public health emergency declaration that has been in effect for more than a year in reaction to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency declaration, which will end on May 30, was first issued on March 11, 2020, and had been regularly renewed for the past 14 months.
“The reason that we’re ending the public health emergency declaration is that everybody in Arkansas knows what to do,” Hutchinson said. “Our hospitalizations are down. Every adult in Arkansas, in fact, 12 plus years of age, have access to vaccines that we did not have access before. Everyone knows what to do. It is not an emergency. It is a maintenance of effort in terms of our vaccines and managing the pandemic.”
Hutchinson announced May 11 that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had been cleared by the Federal Drug Administration for use in children as young as 12, greatly expanding the number of Arkansans eligible to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus which has contributed to the deaths of more than 5,800 Arkansans, 589,000 Americans and 3.4 million people worldwide.
Speaking during a news conference in Little Rock on Thursday, Hutchinson said this doesn’t mean the danger has passed.
“It is important to understand that we are still in a pandemic,” Hutchinson said. “The fact that I am ending the declaration of a public health emergency does not change the fact that we still have the COVID-19 virus in our community. It does not change the fact that our public health system has to continue to deal with it. It doesn’t change the fact that we need to continue to get vaccinations out. We can do this in terms of a long-term maintenance of effort and it is not necessary to have the emergency declaration to carry out this public health responsibility.”
According to Tuesday’s report from the Arkansas Department of Health, the state has received 2,612,360 combined doses of the various vaccines, with 1,932,022 — or 74 percent — already administered.
According to ADH data, 877,185 Arkansans have been fully immunized against the novel coronavirus, while an additional 240,521 individuals are partially vaccinated. When combined, those numbers represent approximately 47 percent of Arkansans aged 12 and older.
“The fact that I’m ending the public health emergency should not diminish anyone’s intensity on the need to get a vaccination or the need to protect from the virus that is still remaining in parts of our communities,” Hutchinson said. “We are in a vaccination campaign, and that is our focus and it will remain our focus.”
Tuesday’s ADH report indicated that the number of new cases of COVID-19 rose by 1,024 in the past week — down from last week’s increase of 1,343 — bringing the statewide total to 340,186. That total includes 265,921 lab-confirmed cases, 332,416 “recovered” cases and 5,820 deaths, up from 5,805 the week before.
There were 1,894 active cases reported in the state Tuesday, with 195 hospital admissions, 92 of which were in intensive care with 39 requiring the aid of a ventilator.
In Carroll County, the number of cases increased by two in the past week, bringing the total to 2,813, which includes 2,381 confirmed cases, 2,764 recoveries and three active cases. The number of local deaths remained at 46.
“Arkansas needs to continue to take the virus seriously and to act accordingly,” Hutchinson said.