State expands vaccine eligibility; UK virus variant detected in Arkansas

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,345 views 

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero on Tuesday (March 2) discusses vaccination efforts in the state.

With more than 1 million vaccines received in Arkansas and more than 650,000 Arkansans receiving at least one dose, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday (March 2) he is expanding vaccine eligibility to an estimated 49,000 food manufacturing workers.

The workers, which include meat processing and grain and oilseed milling, are eligible effective immediately and may get vaccines through their employers, at local health clinics and at pharmacies. Gov. Hutchinson said Tuesday during his weekly COVID-19 press briefing that he opened up vaccine eligibility to this group because it was one of the hardest hit during the early days of the pandemic.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is also establishing a vaccine clinic at five county health clinics in the state to reach populations with “low vaccine uptake.” The clinics will be in Conway, Dallas, Lee, Mississippi and Pulaski counties.

The state has received 975,910 vaccines since federal distribution began Dec. 14, including 73,890 received in the previous 24 hours. Vaccines administered in the previous 24 hours rose by 15,147 to 609,055, or 62.4% of vaccines received. Gov. Hutchinson said the state is set to receive later this week 24,000 of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccines.

The federal program in which CVS, Walgreens and Walmart are managing vaccinations in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities has received 91,070 vaccines since Dec. 28, including 3,510 received in the previous 24 hours. Vaccines administered in the past 24 hours rose by 955 to 43,647, or 47.9% of vaccines received.

Gov. Hutchinson also announced that the more transmissible UK variant of the COVID virus has been detected in Arkansas. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said he is surprised the variant has just now been discovered in the state.

“This is not a surprise to us. We expected the UK variant to be here. It’s just simply a matter that it has now been documented that the UK variant is here,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “It is a reminder that we have to be cautious … and what the scientists say about the UK variant is that it is more contagious. And so for all of those reasons, let’s adhere to the guidelines, and let’s do everything we can to get vaccinated so we can be safe.”

The governor also said the pace of vaccinations points to opening up eligibility to 1c in early April. That group, of which there are an estimated 424,817 Arkansans, includes those age 65 to 69, public health workers, transportation and logistics workers, public safety workers and water/wastewater workers. (Link here for more details about the state’s vaccination plan.)

Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden challenged each state to provide educators at least one vaccine dose by the end of March. He also announced efforts to expedite vaccine manufacturing to reach a goal of providing enough vaccines for every adult American by the end of May.

COVID REPORT – March 2
New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• Total confirmed and probable cases: 322,949, up 440
• Total confirmed and probable active cases: 4,254, up 12
• Total confirmed and probable deaths: 5,254, up 4
• There were 3,121 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 1,873 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.

Hospitalizations
416, down 25

Ventilators
80, down 4

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (50), Pulaski (49), Washington (32), Lonoke (29), and Jefferson (17). The counties accounted for 40.2% of the 440 new confirmed and probable cases.

As of Tuesday at 2 p.m., there were 28,696,302 U.S. cases and 515,640 deaths. Globally, there were 114,686,486 cases and 2,544,286 deaths.

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