Governor Hutchinson’s weekly COVID-19 briefing today was his last though it sounds like vaccinations will remain a topic for some time to come.
He said he’d continue a weekly news update from his office every Tuesday, but with a broader outlook than a coronavirus report.
The day’s COVID-19 news wasn’t good: A jump in new cases, deaths and number hospitalized, with low testing and modest vaccination numbers.
He set an ambitious goal today to increase the percentage of people vaccinated ahead of the start of another school year.
He announced a list of coming clinics scheduled where crowds are expected to gather. No appointments are necessary. Shots will be available for all takers.
Perhaps as an encouragement to a resistant public, the governor outlined the legislature’s effort to restrict health measures to deal with COVID-19. Several will take effect in 90 days, such as an end to local mask mandates.
Hutchinson was asked what tools he had should Arkansas experience a COVID spike. He said he has the same tools, but he now needs legislative support to use them. He said he thought they’d be supportive if a “serious issue” arose.
The governor was asked about reports that people might leave Arkansas because of legislation prohibiting gender-affirming services for minors. “We care and we value them,” Hutchinson said. But he said he understood if somebody had to leave for health care.
He was asked why this had become such a national issue. He didn’t want to jump into that. But he reiterated that the “heavy hand of the law” shouldn’t be a first response to cultural issues. He said he hoped it could be avoided on some issues in the future.