LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged Arkansans not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots during a news briefing Tuesday, saying the move could help turn the tide on growing case numbers.
Hutchinson was joined by other health officials including Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who said that while older residents of the state have embraced vaccination efforts, the same can’t be said for more youthful Arkansans.
“Our younger folks may consider themselves bulletproof, but no one is bulletproof from COVID-19,” Patterson explained.
Both active and new cases continue to rise in Arkansas, and both Hutchinson and Patterson did not hold back their push for vaccines, with Hutchinson noting, “statistics and science tell the story of what needs to be done in getting vaccinated.”
Hutchinson pointed to county vaccination rankings that showed Miller County in Southwest Arkansas with the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with just over 18.5 percent. Bradley County in Southeast Arkansas has the highest percentage of eligible population vaccinated, with just under 49 percent.
The governor also asked Arkansans to be mindful of their activities during the July 4 holiday, requesting that people take care of themselves in not helping to spread the virus and with concern toward the Delta variant that continues to grow across the south.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, there are 479 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday, for a total of 348,699. There are 3,365 active cases, which is up 196 from Monday. Eight new deaths were reported over the last 24 hours.
Noting the rising case numbers, Patterson warmed that, “we may be in the beginning of the third surge of COVID-19 in Arkansas.”
Even with a critical eye toward getting vaccination numbers up, Hutchinson said Arkansas currently has 39 percent of the entire state population is fully vaccinated, and that number jumps to 52.4 percent in those 18 and older.
ADH officials noted Tuesday that 4,244 more vaccines were distributed out to Arkansans over the last 24 hours. There are 306 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19, which is down 8 from Monday, and 69 on ventilators, which is up 6 from Monday.
Hutchinson also turned his attention to Pea Ridge Officer Kevin Apple, who died while in the line of duty Saturday, sharing his sympathies with the officer’s family and the officers who served with him.
When asked about the state of California adding Arkansas to a list of 17 states where state employee travel is forbidden except under limited circumstances, Hutchinson said, “You sort of just shrug your shoulders at California,” adding that he does not consider the action a “significant factor.”