Arkansas Governor Ends Daily COVID Updates as Hospitalizations Fall Below 1,000

Virus-related deaths remain high as active cases continue to decline.

Senior Black woman receives shot from Black doctor

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arkansas have steadily declined for nearly three weeks after hitting an all-time high of 1,819 on Jan. 26. The Arkansas Department of Health reported that number dropped to 931 today. 

With hospitalizations below 1,000, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced during today’s weekly press conference that his office will no longer provide daily COVID updates. That data will continue to be available on ADH’s website

Although hospitalizations and active cases are decreasing, the state is continuing to see high levels of COVID-19 deaths with 45 reported today. An average of 36 Arkansans have died per day in February with the state recording a total of 607 deaths so far. 

Approximately 75 percent of deaths during the last month have occurred in the 65 and older age group. Arkansans 18 to 44 years old account for roughly 4 percent of those recent COVID deaths, but no one who died in this age group was fully vaccinated and boosted, state epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to strongly encourage people to not back off on the vaccinations at this point,” Dillaha said. “We need people to be fully vaccinated as well as boosted.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance for booster doses last Friday. People with weakened immune systems may now get their booster doses as early as three months after they receive their primary vaccination series.

“That makes it a little faster for people to become fully vaccinated and boosted,” Dillaha said. “So I encourage people to do that so that we’re ready if we have another surge.”

Arkansas surpassed 10,200 total COVID-19 deaths today. Of those deaths, about 14 percent were African Americans and nearly 4 percent were Hispanics.

In addition to discussing the pandemic, the governor announced he is signing an executive order to create a commission to study the status of women in Arkansas. The group will have its first meeting next Tuesday. Hutchinson also approved a 2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment for state employees and state agencies.

Hutchinson also announced the disbursement of $6 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to support improvements at the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The project includes replacing the campuses’ water lines and power grid, and constructing a new health services building. The project is expected to be completed by September 2023. 

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.