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Arkansas reports highest number of COVID deaths in more than a year

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters last Thursday. During a press conference Tuesday, Hutchinson said he is working to ensure the state is not indirectly supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Michael Hibblen
Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters last Thursday. During a press conference on Tuesday, Hutchinson said he is working to ensure the state is not providing financial support to Russia.

Arkansas reported 55 deaths on Tuesday, which is the biggest one-day increase in more than a year. The toll since the start of the pandemic two years ago this month has now reached 10,579, according to the Department of Health.

Hospitalizations and the number of known active cases continue to fall. The department reports the number of people being treated statewide declined by six since Monday to 449, which is the lowest number in nearly four months. Active cases fell by 452 to 4,887, the lowest since Nov. 15.

During his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he did not have the latest data to share, encouraging people to go to the Department of Health’s website.

“The numbers continue to look good. They continue to be on the decline,” Hutchinson said.

The governor added that he had a call with the White House earlier in the day and was told the Federal Emergency Management Agency would continue reimbursing the state’s pandemic-related expenses through July, then reimbursements will be phased down.

Hutchinson also said he learned the state will see an increase in the Pfizer therapeutic to treat those who are sick with COVID-19.

“We should have that increased availability in the coming weeks and months. That should be a relief to those that may be infected, that we’ll have better therapeutics coming,” Hutchinson said.

He also expressed support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's loosening of mask guidelines throughout the country.


As Russia continues an attack on Ukraine, Hutchinson is asking state agencies to review whether Arkansas has any contracts with Russia. The Republican has been condemning the invasion and said he wants to make sure the state is not indirectly supporting Russia. Hutchinson told reporters that could have some repercussions on Arkansas’ agriculture and aerospace industries.

“What we import to Russia is very small. I've looked at that data. We export much more than we import so the impact will be largely on the exports that we make,” Hutchinson said. “There is a price to be made whenever you cut off economic relations with a country or diminish it greatly, and so there will be an impact in Arkansas.”

Hutchinson said he has gotten assurances that investment funds for state employees are not going through Russian entities. He is also making sure alcohol distributors in the state are no longer acquiring Russian products like vodka.

Tuesday was the first of three “Special Days of Prayer for Ukraine,” which Hutchinson declared on Monday. He has praised the courage of Ukrainians and called for continued economic and political pressure from the economic community.


During Tuesday’s press conference, Hutchinson also announced a new reading initiative. The “10 Minutes Matter” campaign will be coordinated by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education. It encourages parents to read to their preschool children for at least ten minutes a day.

Hutchinson said research shows 90% of brain development happens before children reach 5-years-old and that daily reading can increase a child’s vocabulary.

Education Secretary Johnny Key said he is excited to work with the Department of Human Services on the new reading initiative.

“Many of our students come to school with certain deficits,” Key said. “This 10-minute initiative can help fill that gap and close that gap so we can see better prepared students when they come into our ABC programs and our kindergarten."

The governor said the state will be providing materials to schools, pediatricians and childcare centers to facilitate literacy at younger ages.

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.
Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.