Arkansas governor urges coronavirus restrictions to return to ‘normal state’

Arkansas governor calls for a return to a “more normal state” of handling the coronavirus pandemic as Arkansas records more COVID-19 cases and deaths.

At his weekly press conference on Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said coronavirus infections have increased by 1,630 since Tuesday, with 76 Arkansans having died from the disease during the same period. Active cases of COVID-19 fell by 1,470 over the same period.

Hutchinson said he spoke with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky earlier in the day, implying she was okay with the rest of the country returning to a more pre-pandemic approach to rules on masking and other restrictions.

“It’s very similar to other disease controls that you educate the public, the public responds to that, and so it’s education and vaccinations versus mandates and beating the drum on it every day . I think we’re at the point where everyone knows what to do and how to protect themselves,” Hutchinson said.

Walensky has said publicly that the CDC is focusing more on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations as an indicator of the potential lifting of public health restrictions. Despite a lower case count, Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said the state’s immunization rate continues to lag, which could cause problems for the state. to come up.

“Our vaccination rates are dropping dramatically. They are approaching 1,000 a day, which is really too low, and we must continue to vaccinate. Now is the time to prepare for the next push, which will inevitably come,” Romero said. “We don’t have a sufficient supply of antivirals or monoclonal antibodies, it’s just a matter of production. We just don’t have a large enough supply.

Romero urged Arkansans who have already been vaccinated to get a booster. 3,865 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed in Arkansas since Tuesday.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by 120 since Tuesday to a statewide total of 545. As of February last year, Arkansans not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 account for approximately 72% of all cases, 80% of hospitalizations and 80% of deaths.

Romero also answered questions about a new subvariant of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, saying the World Health Organization has found that it is more transmissible but does not cause more severe disease than other strains of the coronavirus. virus.

“At least in this country where BA.2 has already been seen, like in New York, it’s not taking off and becoming the dominant strain. So it doesn’t seem to be surpassing what’s already out there. So we’re watching it, we’re watching it. we’re sequencing both in our own state lab and outside, and it doesn’t seem to be taking off in the state,” Romero said.

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