Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson celebrated the waning severity of the pandemic in his weekly media briefing Tuesday — known active COVID-19 cases in the Natural State have fallen below 1,000 for the first time since May 2020, according to Arkansas Department of Health data. However, he also encouraged immunocompromised Arkansans and those 50 and older to get a second booster dose of the vaccine in accordance with CDC guidelines.
“This is the best protection that we can have from serious illness and hospitalizations,” Hutchinson said at the briefing.
The governor stepped away from the podium to receive his second booster shot on camera, joined by First Lady Susan Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. José Romero.
Hutchinson also announced that Romero accepted a job offer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will resign from his state position May 6.
“He’s developed a very strong team at the Department of Health that I know will be able to continue with great vigor and continued leadership,” Hutchinson said.
Giving a brief comment, Romero praised the efforts of public officials, department staff and healthcare workers in mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
“Any modicum of success I have had in this position is really the result of the work of the governor and the staff at ADH, and any missteps or failures are clearly on my shoulders,” Romero said at the briefing.
Statewide, active COVID-19 cases fell to 963 Tuesday, down by 275 in a week, according to the ADH. Cumulative cases increased by 547 in a week, for a total of 833,265.
The ADH reported a statewide COVID-19 death toll of 11,290 Tuesday, up 79 in a week.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arkansas fell to 103 Tuesday, down by 19 in a week, according to the ADH. Statewide, 22 patients were on ventilators Tuesday, a decrease of four from March 29.
State health officials had administered more than 3.99 million vaccine doses to Arkansans by Tuesday, according to the ADH, with 372,446 people partially immunized and almost 1.58 million people fully immunized. Officials administered 12,457 new doses — including third and booster doses — in a week.
The nearly 1.58 million fully vaccinated Arkansans represent 55% of the state’s 5-and-up population. Nearly 70% of Americans 5 and older have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Just over 80% of Arkansas’ vaccine supply — nearly 5 million doses — had been administered by Tuesday.
Washington County officials reported 73 active COVID-19 cases Tuesday. Benton County officials reported 79 active cases, according to the ADH. Those numbers each fell by 11 in a week.
The numbers of active and cumulative COVID-19 cases on the UA campus are impossible to accurately track since Pat Walker Health Center officials stopped publicly reporting totals Feb. 21.