LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KSLA) - Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson held his weekly COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, May 4 at 1:30 p.m.
He says this will be his last weekly briefing that will specifically focus on COVID-19. He will continue to hold weekly media briefings, but they will not center on COVID-19 and will address other issues as well.
Gov. Hutchinson said the state’s testing rates remain low, but vaccination efforts are continuing. He says about 54% of inmates in the state have been vaccinated.
The governor is challenging the state to reach 50% vaccinated by July 31. As of May 3, he says about 34% of Arkansans have receive at least one dose of the vaccine, meaning about 467,000 more people in the state need to be vaccinated to reach this 50% goal.
The state’s department of health is holding a number of vaccination clinics at community events throughout the state in May. Health officials will be on hand to administer the vaccine at a wide variety of events including sporting events, craft shows, festivals, etc.
Gov. Hutchinson also mentioned India’s dire struggle with the virus, saying he’s grateful to the federal government for providing aid to the country and that Arkansas is recommending a 14-day quarantine for anyone who travels to and from India.
Health department officials at the news conference said the state is seeing more variants of the virus, with 29 counties now seeing different strains of the virus as of May 3. In southwest Arkansas, that includes Miller, Little River, and Hempstead counties. The UK variant in particular has seen a significant jump during the first week of May and makes up nearly 75% of the variants being seen. The variant is highly transmissible and seems to affect children and adolescents more than others, health officials say. Since children cannot yet get vaccinated, it’s recommended that adults around them get vaccinated in order to best protect them.
The governor said while herd immunity is the goal for the state, it’s likely going to be hard to attain. The state does have an excess supply of the vaccine, health officials say, and they are working to use them as effectively as possible to avoid as much waste as possible.
The current state of emergency for Arkansas is set to expire May 31. The governor will decide by May 20 whether or not to continue the order.