State passes one million vaccine milestone, veterans of any age added to vaccine-eligible group

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced that the state has reached a significant milestone in COVID-19 vaccinations in the state.

Hutchinson said during his weekly COVID-19 press conference in Little Rock that statewide efforts combined with federal programs have resulted in a total of more than 1 million vaccine doses administered so far int he state of Arkansas.

The state’s dashboard on the Department of Health website shows that the state has administered 874,294 doses so far, and a federal program to administer shots at retail pharmacies has added an additional 104,490. The governor said an additional federal program to give vaccine to veterans in the state put the number over 1 million doses.

Hutchinson said he hopes to be at 1.1 million shots administered in the state by the end of the month of March.

Veterans of all ages added to vaccine-eligible group

Veterans of any age are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the state of Arkansas, it was announced on Tuesday.

The new group joins Arkansans in the 1-A through 1-C priority individuals now eligible for the vaccine in the state.

Veterans may be vaccinated at any VA facility, including the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville.

Statewide mask mandate

Hutchinson said the state is on track to meet the criteria he has set to lift the statewide mask mandate at the end of the month on March 31.

“Of course March 31 is when I said the mask mandate would be lifted if we meet certain criteria, we are far below that criteria,” he said. “Everyone can expect on March 31 for that mask mandate to be lifted.”

The governor said he is currently working on guidance for cities, employers, and school systems, and plans to make a final decision and announcement on the mandate next week.

Hutchinson said whether to continue to require masks at businesses would be “the prerogative of business,” and that school systems may continue to require masks at their discretion.

Cities, he said, will not be allowed to enact their own mask mandates, however.

“I would expect this to be a statewide, we’ve always moved as a state on significant issues, so I would expect when we lift the mask mandate, that would include everyone,” he said.

“One statewide standard is what I expect to announce next week.”

NWA vaccines lagging

The governor was asked about concerns brought up by congressman Steve Wommack recently that the vaccination distribution in Northwest Arkansas is lagging behind other areas in the state.

“It was a good conversation with congressman Wommack,” he said. “He’s right, and two weeks ago there were numbers that showed that the 3rd congressional district not having the same number vaccinated as some other parts of the state,” he said.

“We are increasing the doses there, so we’ve got a mass vaccination clinic planned again, so we are trying to make up for that, and equalize that across the state, so he was right on point and we are addressing it.”

Case report

Hutchinson announced that COVID-19 cases in Arkansas increased by 239 on Tuesday.

The state also announced 3 new deaths as a result of the virus, bringing the toll in the state to 5,547 since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations were down by 11, bringing the total number of Arkansans hospitalized in the state to 173. There are 40 patients on ventilators, down two from yesterday.

There are currently 2,263 cases of COVID-19 considered active in the state, which includes those that have tested positive by both PCR and antigen testing methods.

The state reported 3,315 new PCR tests on Monday, along with 1,150 new antigen tests.

The new cases bring the total cumulative count in Arkansas to 328,946 since the pandemic began.

The top counties for new cases on Monday were Benton (36), Pulaski (28), Marion (16), Washington (16), Baxter (13), Saline (11), and White (11).

Vaccine update

Hutchinson announced the state has vaccinated 14,387 Arkansans since last count yesterday, bringing the total number of doses given by the state to 874,284. In addition, a federal program to vaccinate at retail pharmacies resulted in an additional 4,606 people vaccinated in the state, bringing the total number of Arkansans vaccinated as part of their efforts to 104,490.

The state is now vaccinating individuals in the 1-A through 1-C priority groups on the state. The groups eligible to receive vaccines includes individuals over 65 years of age, workers in food manufacturing, and workers in education including higher ed, K-12, and daycare, essential workers in food and agriculture, grocery stores, meal delivery, postal service, public transit, government workers, houses of worship, along with those with developmental disabilities. As mentioned above, the 1-C group added today includes essential workers in several categories including energy, finance, food service, IT and communication, legal, media, public health/human services, public safety, shelter and housing, and transportation and logistis, along with and those with pre-existing conditions aged 16-64, and people living in congregate settings.

Local pharmacies, including Collier Drug, Medical Arts Pharmacy, and Heartland Pharmacy in Fayetteville are working to vaccinate those groups now, as are several Walmart and Sam’s Club locations around the state.

Vaccination clinics are also taking place around the region, including at Washington Regional, Northwest Health, and Mercy in Springdale.

Here are links/info for the waiting lists for pharmacies in Washington County for the 1-A, 1-B, and 1-C eligible groups.
» Collier Drug Stores – Visit this website
» Medical Arts Pharmacy – Visit this website
» Community Pharmacy – Visit this website
» Heartland Pharmacy – Visit this website
» Walmart – Visit this website
» Sam’s Club – Visit this website Pharmacy

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

Here are some ADH vaccine clinics coming up around the state. There are currently none listed in NWA, but there are several coming up in Fort Smith.