LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed growing concerns over the use of masks in schools as fully immunized Arkansans surpassed 1.1 million on Tuesday.
Hutchinson said he would like to provide masks for students in schools, but there is an added challenge of the availability of high-efficiency filtration masks for schools in children’s sizes. The supply chain for those sizes is limited. Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key said that there is $500,000 left for PPE for state schools.
The governor also said that he is working with Secretary Key in starting a “Stop the hesitation, get the vaccination” program for schools to have educators encourage vaccinations for those who have hesitations.
The Arkansas Department of Health announced that there are now 12 available COVID ICU beds in the state after Thursday morning reports stated that only one was available.
When asked what happens if COVID ICU beds went down to zero, Hutchinson stated that an ambulance containing a COVID-19 patient or trauma patient would have to wait for available space.
Hutchinson said that the state is in the process of using relief funds to add additional beds and provide funding for staffing in hospitals.
It was also announced that 4.3 percent of Medicaid recipients have been vaccinated, which Hutchinson described as a “very vulnerable and at-risk population”.
Hutchinson announced that Arkansas will be increasing the fee of reimbursement for COVID-19 vaccines for physicians from $40 to $100.
Also, when asked about the recent lawsuit against himself and the state, Hutchinson said he will be seeking outside counsel concerning the mask lawsuit and that the Arkansas attorney general will not be representing him.
The governor said he has decided who will represent him but will not release that information at this time. He said the money for that will be coming out of his budget.
ADH released updated COVID-19 numbers for Tuesday showing a continued climb in new cases of COVID-19 at 2,620 to a total case count of 407,892.
The ADH report shows 24 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Health officials reported the active case count went up to 23,377 after an increase of 562.
Another 59 new hospitalizations were also reported in the last 24 hours. bringing the current total to 1,435.
There are 8 more patients on ventilators in the last 24 hours, putting the total at 294.
Vaccinations for COVID-19 continue to slowly increase with the number of Arkansans becoming fully immunized now at 1,101,327, an increase of 4,380 in the last 24 hours.
The number of partially immunized Arkansans increased by 3,158 in the last 24 hours, putting the total at 341,886.