Asa Hutchinson

KATV

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas has made great strides in the fight against COVID-19 this month. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday that over 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in Arkansas. Also, the state is now offering vaccines to veterans of all ages. And the governor expects to lift Arkansas’ mask mandate on March 31.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 1.4 million vaccine doses distributed in Arkansas, just over 1 millon had been given Tuesday — about 69%.

But Hutchinson said during a briefing Tuesday that he is now happy with the speed of vaccine distribution in Arkansas. The governor said demand for the vaccine has been an issue. Arkansans see COVID-19 numbers dropping so they are less worried about getting vaccinated, Hutchinson said. But the state is doing an “extensive” ad campaign to build trust in the vaccine.

“When it’s your turn, get a shot,” Hutchinson said. “It helps our entire state to completely move out of this pandemic.”

Arkansas veterans of any age are now eligible to receive the vaccine, officials announced Tuesday.

“Take that vaccine, it is safe,” Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said.

Officials are worried that students who traveled over spring break will bring coronavirus back to Arkansas with them. He encouraged Arkansans to get tested if they are at all concerned about contracting the virus from travel or being around those who have traveled.

“Now is the time to get immunized,” Romero said. “Now is the time to get the vaccine Now is the time to push forward.”

There were 2,263 active probable and confirmed virus cases reported Tuesday, down 69 from Monday. Virus hospitalizations dropped by 11 to 173 and three more deaths were linked to the virus.

Earlier this month, Hutchinson said that if Arkansas met certain criteria for slowing the spread of COVID-19 by the end of the month, he’d lift the state’s mask mandate.

“We are far below that criteria so everybody can expect on March 31 for that mask mandate to be lifted,” Hutchinson said Tuesday.

At the briefing, Hutchinson gave an update on the legislative session and signed two bills into law. One lowers the retirement requirement for the Arkansas State Police from 30 years to 28 years of service. Another requires Arkansas students to take a computer science credit to graduate.

Hutchinson said he agrees with the purpose and intent of a bill that would ban trans students from playing on sports teams of their gender identity. He said it is a “worthwhile objective”

But Hutchinson said it is too early for him to sign it into law, as it arrived on his desk yesterday. And he encouraged lawmakers to draft hate crime legislation to “balance out” the session.

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