Big news today: The governor has expanded eligibility for vaccination effective today to those 65 and older.
This group was opened ahead of essential workers because of the higher risks for older people. Most of the rest of the country is already accommodating 65-plus people.
That should cover about 115,000 more people. They’ll be served by the existing supply chain. He said it didn’t mean all 70-plus people had been vaccinated yet. But he said teachers and emergency workers and nursing home workers had all had vaccinations made available (some didn’t take them, of course). He said expanding availability will depend on supply, which is improving. But he gave no estimate on the date that would happen.
He also said he wasn’t prepared to say how long he plans to extend his emergency declaration.
He said the Biden task force had informed him today about a new allocation of 4,000 doses to come next week and each of the following two weeks.
He also said approval may come next week for Johnson and Johnson vaccine that could put 2 million doses into the national supply.
The state has a good supply thanks to the recent receipt of new doses.
The governor’s weekly coronavirus update also included the governor’s acknowledgment of the U.S. passing the 500,000 mark in coronavirus deaths and the lowering the flag at the Capitol to half-staff.
The covid-19 cases jumped back up today on a relatively low number of tests. But the governor cheered the declining hospitalization number, a product he suspects of more vaccinations and better therapeutics. The active case number is lower than it has been since September.
The governor also used the briefing to promote a campaign to encourage people to get shots. It focuses on both employers and the community at large.
Hutchinson was asked why Arkansas hadn’t set up a centralized vaccination signup process. He said there was more flexibility in letting the pharmacies make arrangements, rather than having the state work with them. But he was asked further about people unable to get on lists. He said people just needed to keep trying and “be patient.”
He said he didn’t have a projected date for lifting restrictions on businesses, such as capacity restrictions on restaurants. “It’s premature at this point.”