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COVID-19 update: Herd immunity in 3 months with vaccinations, governor says

April 28, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). - Image by CDC via The Associated Press

As a service to our readers, The Sentinel-Record publishes updates released by the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson held his weekly press update Tuesday at the state Capitol. The following stats were posted Tuesday on the Arkansas Department of Health website:

• 262,428 cumulative confirmed cases, up 135 from Monday.

• 117.71 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, up 0.42 from Monday.

• 2,958,319 PCR test reports, up 3,943 from Monday.

• 8.9% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Monday.

• 72,570 cumulative probable cases, up 94 from Monday.

• 15.4% cumulative antigen infection rate, no change from Monday.

• 1,844 active confirmed and probable cases, up 39 from Monday.

• 327,373 recoveries of confirmed and probable cases, up 185 from Monday.

• 2,494,780 vaccine doses received, up 26,770 from Monday.

• 1,661,921 doses given, up 15,179 from Monday.

• 157 hospitalizations, down 13 from Monday.

• 26 cases on a ventilator, down one from Monday.

• 70 ICU patients, up two from Monday.

• 4,546 confirmed deaths, up four from Monday.

• 1,179 probable deaths, up one from Monday.

• 2,074 nursing home deaths, up two from Monday.

• 8,503 cumulative confirmed cases in Garland County, up four from Monday.

• 115,424 PCR and antigen test reports, up 424 from Monday.

• 87,104 private lab reports, up 80 from Monday.

• 27,977 public lab reports, up one from Monday.

• 8.9% cumulative PCR infection rate, up .04 from Monday.

• 24 active confirmed cases in Garland County, up two from Monday.

• 8,268 recoveries of confirmed cases in Garland County, up one from Monday.

• 1,601 cumulative probable cases in Garland County, no change from Monday.

• Six active probable cases in Garland County, no change from Monday.

• 210 confirmed deaths, no change from Monday.

• 49 probable deaths, no change from Monday.

Hutchinson said the state could achieve herd immunity in three months if more Arkansans get vaccinated. He called on public health officials and the private sector to make vaccines more accessible. Employers should provide time off for employees to get vaccinated or host workplace vaccination clinics, he said.

"I've challenged the Health Department to get the vaccine to harder-to-reach populations," he said. "It's simply what it's going to take to get from 40% vaccination rate up to 60%. We have to get it out there as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine. I'd like to see a vaccine clinic made available at Traveler's baseball games, malls, schools. "Communities need to engage. Employers, physicians, educators to make the vaccine as accessible as possible."

Resuming use of Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine is part of the strategy for greater accessibility. He said the state has 70,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine, use of which was suspended after 15 of the roughly 8 million people who received the viral vector vaccine developed blood clots.

Public health officials said the easier storage requirements compared to the two messenger RNA-based vaccines and the one-dose regimen make it more effective in rural areas and for "transitory populations." Both messenger RNA-based vaccines require two doses. The state said it's difficult to schedule booster doses for the homeless and other hard-to-reach populations. Dr. Jose Romero, the state's secretary of health, said variants of the virus have appeared with higher frequency in the few specimens the state sends off for genetic sequencing. Tests have shown a three-fold increase in the United Kingdom variant in Arkansas.

The unvaccinated provide a petri dish for the virus to adapt and grow more virulent, he said.

"The more people who are unimmunized, the more there is a chance for this virus to spread and to continue to mutate," Romero said. "We could see newer variants if we have a larger enough population of individuals not vaccinated."

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