JONESBORO — With only 3 percent of the state’s population vaccinated so far, Arkansas is expanding its distribution of the coronavirus vaccine to teachers and people aged 70 and older, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday.
Starting Monday, Hutchinson said the state will move into part of its next phase of the vaccine distribution, which will also include workers in child care and higher education. Hutchinson said this will cover more than 443,000 additional Arkansans.
“These vaccines are going to be available through your community pharmacies, and the hospitals are participating in this when they have the doses available”
Hutchinson said residents should be able to call ahead for an appointment.
“We want to continue to increase, as fast as we can, getting these doses into the arms of Arkansans while at the same time being able to manage the limited supply that we’re given,” Hutchinson said during his weekly coronavirus update.
The additional groups were initially part of a second phase of vaccinations that the state hoped to begin in February. That phase will include essential workers such as food and manufacturing workers and essential government employees.
Arkansas last week adjusted its vaccine rollout, moving police, firefighters and other first responders to the first phase of the vaccine’s distribution.
The latest forecast released Tuesday by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health warned that the vaccine’s impact on the state won’t be seen in the short or mid-term.
“We should expect to see large numbers of new cases, new hospitalizations, and deaths for at least the next two months, particularly among the age groups that are less likely to be currently eligible for the vaccine,” the report said.
Carol Fleming, president of the Arkansas Education Association, said the updated timeline for school employees is welcome news for the educators serving on the frontlines of the public health crisis.
“Providing quality learning opportunities for Arkansas’s students while also creating as safe an environment as possible, has placed our educators in an extremely demanding situation,” Fleming said in a news release “The return to in-person education has resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen educators and, unfortunately, continues to put children and families at risk. Vaccinations will begin to help educators feel more comfortable as they continue working to provide the face-to-face connection for which there is no replacement.”
The state’s virus cases on Tuesday rose by 3,209 confirmed and probable cases, which Hutchinson said is actually about 1,000 fewer cases than a week earlier. Forty more people died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, including one person each in Poinsett, Jackson, Randolph and Cross counties. That brings the state’s total fatalities since the pandemic began to 4,121.
The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by 17 to 1,354, the day after the state hit a new high for patients in the hospital due to the virus. However, the number of patients who were in intensive care rose by 11 to 452. Statewide, 251 patients were on ventilators, a reduction of 17.
In Northeast Arkansas, 183 were hospitalized, down two; 43 were in ICUs, down one; and 21 were on ventilators, down five.
Craighead – 9,873 confirmed (up 74 since Monday) , 1,296 probable (up 35), 880 active cases (down 24); 132 confirmed deaths, 14 probable.
Greene – 3,967 confirmed (up 27), 956 probable (up 13); 375 active (down 23); 49 confirmed deaths, 10 probable.
Lawrence – 1,452 confirmed (up 24), 301 probable (unchanged); 134 active (up 2); 36 confirmed deaths, 3 probable.
Poinsett – 2,360 confirmed (up 20), 292 probable (up 9); 214 active (up 3); 54 confirmed deaths, 13 probable.
Mississippi – 4,310 confirmed (up 28), 461 probable (up 2); 261 active cases (down 28); 85 confirmed deaths, 15 probable.
Jackson – 2,334 confirmed (up 4), 628 probable (up 15); 80 active cases (down 10); 20 confirmed deaths, 7 probable.
Randolph – 1,294 confirmed (up 9), 352 probable (up 7); 139 active cases (down 4); 32 confirmed deaths, 12 probable.
Cross – 1,292 confirmed (up 7), 326 probable (up 6); 173 active cases (down 3); 36 confirmed deaths (unchanged), 2 probable, unchanged).
Clay – 1,107 confirmed (up 5), 330 probable (up 7); 112 active cases (down 2); 26 confirmed deaths, 10 probable.