Events are planned this week in Blytheville, Forrest City and Texarkana.
Governor Asa Hutchinson launched a statewide listening tour last week in response to the recent dramatic increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas and the low vaccination rate. He’ll lead two more discussions today in Blytheville and Forrest City.
“This is a chance for me to hear your concerns and ideas,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “It’s a chance for me to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. This is the challenge we face.”
A month ago, the number of active COVID cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas had declined, and vaccinations were increasing. Officials were optimistic about the return to normalcy, Hutchinson said.
“Then over the past month, our vaccination rate stalled at about 40 percent, and the Delta variant showed up,” he said. “This right-left punch has sidetracked our return to normalcy.”
More than 200 Arkansans have been hospitalized because of the virus during the last week. The Department of Health has reported 35 COVID-19 deaths during that same time frame.
The Delta variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus and the symptoms are worse. There are three vaccines approved for use in the United States and all of them protect against the virus.
Antibodies from a previous case of COVID-19 do not protect against the variant, and health experts advise those who contracted the virus to get a vaccine, Hutchinson said. The COVID-19 vaccine reduces symptoms in those who do catch it, and 90 percent of those people aren’t hospitalized. The vaccine cuts the chance of death to nearly zero.
“We know what we must do, and for the most part, Arkansans have done the hard work,” Hutchinson said. “The big task before us now is to vaccinate more Arkansans.”
Nearly 100 people attended the governor’s first Community COVID Conversation at the Veterans Park Events Center in Cabot last Thursday. The second event was last night at the Batesville Community Center.
Hutchinson will host two conversations today. The first is at noon at Chickasaw Arena in Blytheville High School. The second starts at 6 p.m. at the Forrest City Civic Center. On Thursday the governor will lead a discussion at the Texarkana Arkansas Convention Center starting at 6 p.m. He will also address the need for vaccinations at previously scheduled events in Northwest Arkansas.