Arkansas COVID-19

Reports and programming on coronavirus disease 2019 and its impact on Arkansas.

The tower on Lee Mountain near Russellville which is the first of five new signals that Arkansas PBS says will go on the air this year to provide coverage to nearly the entire state.
Arkansas PBS

Arkansas PBS is now broadcasting on an additional signal near Russellville. It’s the first of five new transmitters being added this year to provide broadcast coverage to nearly the entire state.

The public television network said Thursday the new transmitter at Lee Mountain is operating at full power, with the signal capable of being picked up in Pope, Johnson, Logan and Yell counties.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday Arkansans that get a COVID-19 vaccine can receive a $20 lottery ticket or $20 gift certificate.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansans will have the opportunity to receive incentives if they get vaccinated for COVID-19. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday those who receive a vaccine going forward can take their vaccination card to a local health unit starting June 1 to choose between two incentives.

The first incentive people can choose from is the chance to receive a $20 Arkansas Lottery Scholarship scratch-off ticket. Eric Hagler, director of Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, says this could make someone a millionaire.

Governor's Office

During the first meeting of the committee slated to distribute around $1.57 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, Arkansas’ governor outlined broadband and vaccines as areas to which he would like to see funds allocated sooner rather than later.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas’ current public health emergency will end in just over one week.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday the state of emergency brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago is set to end on May 30. Arkansas has been under the emergency declaration since March 11, 2020, the day the state saw its first resident test positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, seen speaking to reporters last week, announced Tuesday the creation of a panel to oversee how Arkansas spends $1.5 billion in federal pandemic assistance.
Chris Banks / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas will receive $5 billion in federal funding as a result of the American Rescue Plan. At a press conference Tuesday, Hutchinson said some of the money will go to educational institutions, city and county governments, the Department of Human Service, and other areas that need financial assistance.

The Arkansas Medical Society hosted the first of four COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Arkansas Travelers baseball games on Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas health officials and pharmacies continue working to try and make it as easy as possible for people in the state to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

At Tuesday night’s season opener for the Arkansas Travelers, the first of at least four vaccination clinics was held at Dickey Stephens Park in North Little Rock. But while there were lines of people waiting a half-hour or more for beer, there was no wait to get a shot, with the doctors and nurses mostly hanging out, eagerly engaging anyone who approached.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson provides new COVID-19 numbers in Arkansas during his weekly press briefing Tuesday.
Chris Banks / KUAR News

Arkansas' governor announced a challenge Tuesday to raise the state's COVID-19 vaccinated population in the next 90 days.

The goal, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlined during his weekly press briefing on the pandemic, is to have at least 50% of Arkansans vaccinated with at least one dose. Meeting that threshold would mean vaccinating 467,206 additional Arkansans, he said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked employers on Tuesday to help make the vaccine accessible to everyone.
Governor's Office / YouTube

With the more easily transmissible and more deadly UK variant of COVID-19 becoming more prevalent in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is again asking state residents to get vaccinated and encouraged employers to make vaccines available in the workplace.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said Tuesday during the weekly COVID briefing there has been a “three-fold” increase in the UK variant among the limited amount of variant testing conducted on those who test positive.

Cheryl Moore, a student at Shorter College in North Little Rock, on Thursday became the one millionth person in the state to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Governor's Office

Arkansas has marked 1 million coronavirus vaccine shots administered in the state so far.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson was on hand Thursday as health officials administered the shot to a student from Shorter College, which the governor said represents an age group the state is encouraging to get vaccinated.

Arkansas has had more than 334,000 virus cases and 5,708 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began last year.

The state on Wednesday recorded its biggest daily increase in virus cases in more than a month.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged Arkansans on Tuesday to still get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines despite Johnson and Johnson distribution pause.
Governor's Office / YouTube

With a “worrisome point” worth watching being a recent rise in hospitalizations, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (April 20) said state officials’ focus is to increase COVID-19 vaccine demand to avoid the “jeopardy” of cases rising again later this year.

COVID-related hospitalizations totaled 177 in Tuesday’s report, up 13 from the previous 24 hours, and up from the 148 on the previous Tuesday. The governor called the number of hospitalizations a “worrisome point” that he and other state officials are monitoring.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged Arkansans on Tuesday to still get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines despite Johnson and Johnson distribution pause.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas is among states pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of people developing unusual blood clots. This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced they were investigating six cases of women who developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. One death was reported among the women.

Arkansas Health Secretary José Romero at a press conference on Jan. 18 shortly before he was vaccinated for COVID-19.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Senate narrowly voted Thursday to keep state Health Secretary Dr. José Romero in his position, despite criticism from some senators over his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The half-hour of debate also included an ongoing theme of some senators accusing the executive branch of wielding too much power during the health emergency. Romero was appointed to the position by Gov. Asa Hutchinson last May, and continues to have the governor’s support.

U.S. Rep. French Hill announced plans Thursday to introduce the PPP Revenue Adjustment Calculation to Increase Capital Accessibility Long-Term, or the PRACTICAL Act, next week in Congress.
Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, announced plans on Thursday to introduce a change to the Paycheck Protection Program that he touted would help small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hill, R-Little Rock, said he was introducing the PPP Revenue Adjustment Calculation to Increase Capital Accessibility Long-Term, or the PRACTICAL Act, next week in Congress. In Arkansas, more than 14,000 businesses have received $4.6 billion through PPP funding over the course of the pandemic. Hill said it has helped save more than 375,000 Arkansas jobs.

Arkansas House

A bill that would have banned businesses in the state from mandating its employees get COVID-19 vaccinations has failed in a House committee.

House Bill 1547, which would make employers wait years after a COVID-19 vaccine has been officially approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before requiring its employees to get it, failed to receive the needed support on Tuesday from the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee to move on to the House.

Michelle Smith, director of the Arkansas Department of Health Office of Health Equity and HIV Elimination, discussed vaccine distribution in minority communities Tuesday.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas health officials are focused on boosting vaccine numbers ahead of any rise in COVID-19 variants, getting more vaccines to minority groups, and overcoming vaccine “resistance,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday (April 6) during his weekly COVID briefing.

“We have to overcome resistance. We have to overcome the challenges of a rural state,” the governor said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday the statewide mask mandate will be lifted, and people aged 16 or older are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (March 30) lifted the statewide mask mandate even as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged governors to not lift such restrictions. Gov. Hutchinson also on Tuesday opened vaccine eligibility to all Arkansans age 16 and older.

“It is an appropriate time to lift the statewide mask mandate,” Gov. Hutchinson said, noting that the criteria of having fewer than 750 COVID-19 hospitalizations has been met.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to the Arkansas Legislative Council Monday, asking for an extension of his state pandemic emergency.
KATV-Channel 7

Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked lawmakers Monday (March 29) to approve his 60-day extension of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, and they agreed but not without lengthy debate.

On a voice vote from the Arkansas Legislative Council, state legislators extended the emergency order although several members raised objections. In essence, the legislature voted “no” on a proposal by Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, to deny the governor the extension. After members voted down the rejection of his request, they voted to approve five executive orders related to the emergency declaration.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, questions Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Tuesday during a meeting of the House Committee on Financial Services about what counties will get COVID-19 assistance funds.
U.S. House of Representatives

The world’s seven largest economies, including the U.S., have agreed to support developing countries battling COVID-19. But U.S. Rep. French Hill, a Republican of Arkansas’ 2nd district, is objecting to Russia, China and Iran being including among the countries sharing about $650 billion.

As a senior Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Hill questioned Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Tuesday about the plan, with a funding amount that is below the threshold that would require congressional approval.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday over 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered in Arkansas.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The state of Arkansas has administered 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday (March 23) during his weekly briefing.

Counting vaccinations delivered through federal programs, 1,008,575 shots have been administered out of 1,466,950 distributed – a 68.75% rate, Hutchinson said. Those numbers came from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said his goal was 1.1 million shots administered by the end of the month.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday vetoed legislation requiring the state to refund fines imposed on businesses violating coronavirus safety rules, as the state’s virus cases and hospitalizations continued to drop.

The sponsor of the refund legislation said he’ll seek an override Tuesday, which only requires a simple majority of both chambers of the Legislature. The bill would have required the state’s Alcohol and Beverage Control Division to refund about $38,000 to bars and restaurants for violating the state’s rules, which included capacity limits.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday he is expanding vaccine eligibility to all Arkansans in category 1-C.
Governor's Office / YouTube

With around 10% of Arkansans being fully vaccinated and a push by the Biden administration to open vaccine access, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday expanded eligibility an estimated 1.2 million Arkansans in the 1c category.

There are an estimated 2.131 million Arkansans now eligible – total in categories 1a-c – to receive the vaccine, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). The state’s population is about 3.018 million according to the latest estimate from the U.S. Census.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill Monday (March 15) that would give the Legislature the power to end a governor’s declared disaster emergency. Another bill, opposed by the governor, would require state agencies to refund COVID-19-related fines levied on businesses.

The House also passed a bill allowing medical professionals to opt out of certain procedures, and it advanced a bill codifying COVID-19-related civil immunity.

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson (at the podium) alongside Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a sign language interpreter at a press conference on the coronavirus on May 8, 2020.
Governor's Office

UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said there have been lessons learned one year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Arkansas, there have been more than 5,400 deaths and over 325,000 identified coronavirus cases. Patterson said it’s put a huge strain on the state’s healthcare system and made the year “seem like a decade.”

That said, UAMS and other healthcare providers adapted to the huge influx of patients. He’s proud of the response, and he anticipates it won’t be the last time a plan for a pandemic is needed.

Arkansas House

An amended version of a bill that would allow healthcare providers to refuse to perform certain services on an objection of "moral grounds" advanced a House committee on Thursday.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee passed by a voice vote, Senate Bill 289, which allows those in the medical profession to refuse performing some medical services if they have “religious, moral or ethical” objections. This would not apply to any emergency medical services.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

As the nation and the world marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic officially began, Arkansans are remembering the nearly 5,400 residents who have died from the disease since the state saw its first coronavirus case one year ago Thursday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined staff at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, where the state’s first coronavirus patient was hospitalized.

Whitney Campbell, pharmacist in charge at an Express Rx on Stagecoach Road in Little Rock, injects a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday into the arm of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

“Be gentle,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. implored before a pharmacist injected him in the arm Wednesday with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. His visit to an Express Rx came two days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson expanded eligibility to all people in phase 1B of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Scott said about 900 city workers, including himself, are considered essential and are now eligible for a vaccine. “I hate shots,” he said, but wanted to set an example for others, including minorities who might be hesitant to be vaccinated.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson getting a COVID-19 vaccine Monday at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Homes and workplaces are expected to see a positive impact as a result of new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the guidelines released Monday, fully vaccinated people can now safely gather indoors in small groups without masks or physical distancing.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Another 180,000 Arkansans are newly eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines as the state fully opens up Phase 1B of its vaccination schedule.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the change Monday, which adds manufacturing workers, transit workers, including ride share and meal delivery drivers, essential government employees, and workers at grocery and other big box stores to the list of those eligible for the vaccine in the state.

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, a lot has changed. So what's different, and how are we dealing with it? 

In the latest Issues That Matter forum, we ask our panelists how Arkansas has weathered COVID-19, and what living in this new normal looks like. 

Panelists include: 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday he is expanding who is eligible to receive be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Governor's Office / YouTube

With more than 1 million vaccines received in Arkansas and more than 650,000 Arkansans receiving at least one dose, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday (March 2) he is expanding vaccine eligibility to an estimated 49,000 food manufacturing workers.