The Arkansas Department of Health reported 163 new COVID-19 cases in the state Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 331,261 in Arkansas since the pandemic began.

Active cases of the virus dropped by five from Monday to 1,602 statewide, and there were five additional deaths reported, bringing the total to 5,653 over the past year.

During Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s weekly COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday, he said more than 800,000 Arkansans have been partially or totally immunized against the virus, but he emphasized the importance of getting vaccinations out in minority communities. He said the state has to continue to work to overcome reservations about being vaccinated among its minority populations.

Michelle Smith, director of HealthEquity with the Arkansas Department of Health, and Pharmacist Marlene Battle spoke during the governor’s press conference about reaching minorities and trying to get them vaccinated.

Smith said an equity plan was developed in January that dispatched teams to counties with low minority vaccination rates. She said they foster community relationships to help convince people to be vaccinated. Additional teams are going out, she said, and more volunteers are needed.

“We must continue to encourage people to overcome their doubts and fears,” said Battle, who has volunteered with the health equity team.

On the question of vaccine passports, Hutchinson said latitude has to be given to businesses and the private sector, just as drug testing is required in some places for employees, but he said he didn’t think being vaccinated should be a condition of being allowed to travel. He said the state would not require proof of vaccinations.

Hutchinson also said it is important for everyone age 16 and older to be vaccinated, which means some of those eligible are still in high school. He said he hopes to have federal clearance to have children as young as age 12 to be eligible for vaccinations by this fall.

Here is a rundown of Northeast Arkansas COVID-19 cases by county through Tuesday:

Jackson – 2,432 confirmed, 778 probable (both unchanged); 9 active cases (unchanged); 23 confirmed deaths, 15 probable.

Craighead – 11,379 confirmed (up 3), 1,730 probable (up 2 from Monday), 58 active cases (up 3); 156 confirmed deaths, 19 probable.

Greene – 4,798 confirmed (up 3), 1,229 probable (unchanged); 32 active (up 2); 63 confirmed deaths, 12 probable.

Lawrence – 1,669 confirmed (unchanged), 402 probable (up 2); 5 active (unchanged); 39 confirmed deaths, 4 probable.

Poinsett – 2,718 confirmed (up 1), 401 probable (unchanged); 9 active (up 1); 61 confirmed deaths, 15 probable.

Mississippi – 5,125 confirmed, 639 probable (both unchanged); 28 active cases (down 2); 90 confirmed deaths, 16 probable.

Randolph – 1,576 confirmed, 490 probable (both unchanged); 15 active cases (down 1); 35 confirmed deaths, 12 probable.

Cross – 1,504 confirmed (unchanged), 425 probable (up 2); 12 active cases (up 2); 46 confirmed deaths, 3 probable.

Clay – 1,329 confirmed, 394 probable (both unchanged); 2 active cases (down 1) 36 firmed deaths, 14 probable.

Paxton News Bureau contributed to this article.

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