As Arkansas began the next phase Monday of vaccinating people for the coronavirus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson pulled up his sleeve to get a shot. It happened the same day the state reported 32 additional deaths, but with a sharp decline in active cases and fewer new cases compared to previous Mondays.
The 70-year-old governor told reporters at the Arkansas Department of Health that he wanted to show he and First Lady Susan Hutchinson have confidence in the safety of the vaccine.
“Today it is our turn, so we wanted to show Arkansas that we’re here to take the vaccine understanding that it’s important for our health, but just as importantly,” Gov. Hutchinson said, is that the state and the nation “can get through this COVID pandemic by everyone taking the vaccination when it is your turn.”
After getting a needle pushed into his arm, the person administering the vaccine asked, “How was that?” Hutchinson replied, “You know, it was better than the flu shot. Great.”
Also getting vaccinated was state Health Secretary Dr. José Romero and four teachers. Educators and those 70 and older are among the latest group now eligible to get a vaccine.
But Hutchinson acknowledged many are frustrated that a shortage at the federal level means vaccinations aren’t happening as quick as had been anticipated. He said the state is doing everything it can to get more, with 55,000 doses to arrive Tuesday.
“Whenever you’re looking at a population of three million you can understand that there’s going to be some challenges and there’s going to be a lot of patience required,” Hutchinson said. “I’m impressed by how quickly our pharmacies, our hospitals are getting it out at they receive it, but we want to accelerate that even more.”
He defended the system set up to vaccinate people, saying hospitals are capable of hosting large vaccination events, while pharmacies are in all parts of the state, so there won’t be a challenge for rural residents to get a vaccine.
But one problem the state is seeing, according to Col. Robert Ator, who last week was named to oversee vaccine distribution in the state, is people getting on multiple waiting lists in different areas of the state.
“That confuses the system for us to be able to truly analyze where that need is. So, I would just encourage everyone [to] use your community pharmacy or provider. We’re going to get the vaccine to you,” Ator said.
Among the 32 deaths reported Monday by the Department of Health, 23 were confirmed to be from COVID-19, while nine were categorized as probable. There were 1,109 new cases of people testing positive for the virus, which is down from the same day a week earlier when there were 1,268 new cases.
The number of active cases dropped by 2,093 to 22,794, while hospitalizations declined by 8 to 1,263.
COVID REPORT – Jan 18
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
- 219,956 known cumulative PCR cases, with 983 new community cases and 5 reported cases in correctional facilities
- 52,307 probable cases, up from 52,186 on Sunday
- There are 16,747 active cases, down from 17,782 on Sunday
- There were 8,432 test results provided in the previous 24 hours
- There were 323 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours
- 3,585, up 23
- 758 probable COVID-related deaths, up 9
Hospitalizations: 1,263, down 8
Ventilators: 216, down 5
Recovered cases: 199,898
The top five counties with new known cases reported Monday were: Pulaski (155), Washington (125), Benton (117), Garland (61), and Jefferson (54). The counties accounted for 46.1% of the 1,109 new confirmed and probable cases.
As of Monday at 3:30 p.m., there were 24,034,378 U.S. cases and 398,484 deaths. Globally, there were 95,415,802 cases and 2,036,534 deaths.