Governor: Order to close bars at 11 p.m. will expire Feb. 3, vaccine supply will increase by 5% this week

An executive order to close bars and restaurants serving alcohol to close early at 11 p.m. will be allowed to expire on Feb. 3, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at his weekly COVID-19 press conference Tuesday.

The directive went into effect on Friday, Nov. 20, and covered restaurants, bars, and private clubs with “on-premise” permits. It was originally slated to expire on Jan. 3, but was extended for another month through Feb. 3 last month.

The governor said today he will let the order expire this week.

“I am not extending the 11 p.m. curfew on bars,” he said. “That was important to have through Christmas and New Years. Our cases and hospitalizations are down, and I’ve made that judgement and wanted to give that notice today.”

Hutchinson said back in November that the directive was a recommendation from his recently formed Winter COVID Task Force, a group is tasked with investigating, advising and making recommendations to the governor on matters related to the virus.

Several bars in the state joined a lawsuit challenging the order in court, but a Little Rock judge dismissed the suit last month.

Vaccine supply

Hutchinson said the supply of vaccine the state of Arkansas will receive from the federal government will increase by 5% beginning this week.

Hutchinson learned of the increase in a call with earlier today with members of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 task force.

The increased supply is in addition to the 16% increase in supply announced last week. Those supply levels will be maintained for at least the next three weeks, he said.

“They continue to try and give us three weeks out information, that’s very helpful as we plan for how we can best distribute these vaccines in a fair way,” he said.

Asked by a reporter about when the state might be able to move into the next group of essential workers identified in the 1-B priority group for the vaccination, the governor said the state isn’t there yet.

“We are not ready to move out of our earliest part of 1-B, which is our teachers, our (education) staff, and our 70+,” he said. “We don’t have those vaccinated yet, and we haven’t had the supply to get that done. As that demand decreases, or we have a sense that we’ve got more supply than what the demand is right there, we will move into another category. We’re not there yet, and I can’t tell you exactly how long it will be before we more into additional categories, but we will continue to monitor that and move in there as quickly as we can.”

Walmart to begin vaccinating Arkansans as part of new federal program

Hutchinson announced that in addition to the vaccine supply the state will receive, Walmart will also begin distributing vaccine as part of a new federal program.

The new program will begin with 10,000 doses of vaccine that will begin to be available at 60 stores across Arkansas beginning on Feb. 11.

“This is over and above our state allocation, and we are delighted to have that partnership that will be another source of vaccine administration for our 70 plus and others that want to utilize that service and opportunity,” he said.

Arkansas PUA site reopens

State Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston gave an update on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system in the state.

The PUA system reopened on Jan. 29 to reflect new programs under the Continued Assistance Act with a new system.

Preston said the state send over 4,900 payments over the weekend, with 9,800 additional payments going out on Monday since it was reopened.

More information about the program is available here. You may also call 844-908-2178 with questions.

Case update

The governor announced that COVID-19 cases in Arkansas increased by 1,510 on Tuesday, according to date provided by the Arkansas Dept. of Health.

The state also announced 44 new deaths as a result of the virus, bringing the toll in the state to 4,939 since the pandemic began.

Of the new cases added Tuesday, 85 are from Washington County and 127 come from Benton County.

Hospitalizations were down 20, bringing the total number of Arkansans hospitalized with the virus to 869. There are 141 Arkansans on ventilators, down five from yesterday.

There are currently 16,331 cases of COVID-19 considered active in the state, which includes those that have tested positive by both PCR and antigen testing methods.

Overall, active cases and hospitalizations have been generally on the decline recently.

The state reported 4,638 new PCR tests on Tuesday, along with 2,585 new antigen tests.

The new cases bring the total cumulative count in Arkansas to 298,004 since the pandemic began.

The state announced it has vaccinated 7,721 Arkansans since last count yesterday, bringing the total number of doses given in the state to 301,291. In addition, a federal program to vaccinate long-term care residents resulted in an additional 174 people vaccinated in the state.

The state began vaccinating the 1-B priority group on Jan. 18, which includes individuals over 70 years of age, and workers in education including higher ed, K-12, and daycare. Local pharmacies, including Collier Drug, Medical Arts Pharmacy, and Heartland Pharmacy in Fayetteville will vaccinate those in the 70 and older group, and some education workers. Others will be vaccinated through mass clinics organized by their employers.

Here are links/info for the waiting lists for pharmacies in NWA for the 1-A and early 1-B group:
» Collier Drug Stores – Email [email protected]
» Medical Arts Pharmacy – Visit this website
» Community Pharmacy – Visit this website
» Heartland Pharmacy – Visit this website

A list of other pharmacies around the state vaccinating right now is available here.

The top counties for new cases announced Tuesday were Pulaski (247), Benton (127), Washington (85), Faulkner (72) and Saline (68).

Case report

Vaccine updates