LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson held a rare primetime address Thursday evening, discussing how Arkansas is responding to the coronavirus ahead of the holidays and sharing a few details of the state’s vaccine rollout plan.
Hutchinson noted that Arkansas has tested over 40 percent of of the state’s population – 1.3 million different individuals.
While no new restrictions were announced for the state. Hutchinson did say that the emergency orders related to the pandemic that were set to expire within the week would be extended through the end of the year.
Despite no new mandates, the governor did ask Arkansans to see how they could celebrate the holiday season differently than years past, suggesting holding outdoor or virtual events, or limiting the size of gatherings.
Hutchinson said they state is readying its vaccine plans in anticipation of the first federal approvals, noting that frontline health care workers and seniors in nursing care would be the first recipients.
“As I speak tonight, we have nurses, doctors and staff in our hospitals and long term care facilities who have looked death in the eye for nine months, and they have not wavered in their commitment and determination to beat the virus one human being at a time,” he said.
The governor told viewers both he and first lady Susan Hutchinson would take the vaccine “when it was their turn.” At the same time, Hutchinson noted that the state would not require vaccinations.
Thursday saw the highest number of active cases in Arkansas since the start of the pandemic, with 19,723 patients currently fighting the virus, more than 1,000 of which are hospitalized.
In a statement earlier Thursday, Hutchinson noted that while the state has seen a couple days of drops in the number of hospitalizations, there is still a great deal more to do.
“Yesterday saw a very strong day of testing, with over 18,000 total tests administered. A decrease in hospitalizations is a good sign, but this has not been the trend,” he said the statement. “Continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance as you are out and about.”