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COVID-19 update: Third phase next month, governor says

March 3, 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:

• 254,353 cumulative confirmed cases, up 225 from Monday.

• 335.14 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, down 27.72 from Monday.

• 2,702,395 PCR test reports, up 3,898 from Monday.

• 9.4% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Monday.

• 68,596 cumulative probable cases, up 215 from Monday.

• 17.4% cumulative antigen infection rate, no change from Monday.

• 975,910 vaccine doses received, up 73,890 from Monday.

• 609,055 doses given, up 15,147 from Monday.

• 416 hospitalizations, down 25 from Monday.

• 80 cases on a ventilator, down four from Monday.

• 4,265 confirmed deaths, up eight from Monday.

• 989 probable deaths, down four from Monday.

• 1,987 nursing home deaths, up six from Monday.

• 8,186 cumulative confirmed cases in Garland County, up two from Monday.

• 15.57 rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases, down 2.86 from Monday.

• 103,673 PCR and antigen test reports, up 83 from Monday.

• 78,841 private lab reports, up 81 from Monday.

• 24,832 public lab reports, up two from Monday.

• 9% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Monday.

• 139 active confirmed cases in Garland County, down six from Monday.

• 7,855 recoveries of confirmed cases in Garland County, up eight from Monday.

• 1,550 cumulative probable cases in Garland County, up four from Monday.

• 44 active probable cases in Garland County, up one from Monday.

• 192 confirmed deaths, no change from Monday.

• 39 probable deaths, no change from Monday.

Hutchinson said the state is on schedule to start the third phase of its vaccination plan by the start of next month.

He said 520,000 people in Phase 1-B have yet to be vaccinated. The state expanded 1-B to include more than 100,000 people in the 65-69 age group last month. The group was moved up from 1-C, Hutchinson said, to vaccinate more people with health conditions susceptible to developing complications from the virus.

He said the state is expecting 328,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna's two-shot messenger RNA-based vaccines this month.

"If you look at 70% of 520,000, that's a closer number to 364,000 to be administered vaccine with an anticipated 328,000 doses coming," Hutchinson said. "That supply could increase some. I think we're close to meeting that goal of finishing 1-B by the end of March.

"Hopefully that's a word of encouragement for those in the 1-C category. That in some point in April we want to get to you. If supply increases we'll get to you sooner."

The 70% Hutchinson referenced is the rate of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity in 1-B, Dr. Jose Romero, the state's secretary of health, said. He said 50% of the 70-and-older population in 1-B has received at least one shot of vaccine and about 25% is fully vaccinated.

Hutchinson said the 24,000 doses of Janssen Biotech Pharmaceutical's one-shot vaccine the state will receive later this week allows it to move to the food and agriculture worker section of 1-B. He said there are 49,000 food and agriculture workers in 1-B.

"This includes meat processing and grain and oilseed milling workers," he said. "When we look back on the history of our cases and where we had early spikes and breakouts, we had a real jeopardy with those in the food processing industry. We wanted to move them in there because they work in close proximity to each other. They're on the front line."

Romero said the Janssen vaccine, which will be distributed by its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, provides immunity with one shot and can be stored at room temperature.

"It's highly efficacious at preventing death and hospitalizations," he said. "It's no more reactogenic than the current vaccines. There's a very small risk of anaphylaxis."

Romero said the more transmissible United Kingdom variant of the virus has been detected in Arkansas. Its genetic sequence was confirmed by Tennessee's public health lab, he said.

"I'm surprised we hadn't found it earlier," Romero said. "It reinforces the need to immunize. The vaccines we have available are effective against the UK variant."

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