The number of Arkansans added to the roles of the fully vaccinated in the 24 hours preceding Gov. Asa Hutchinson's weekly press update Wednesday was underwhelming, he said.
"That's a very slow incremental increase in vaccinations that I would like to see accelerated," Hutchinson, noting that boosters accounted for half of the 6,900 doses administered in the previous 24 hours, said of the 2,000 people that achieved full immunity.
Bills the Legislature passed during the extended general session will frustrate the vaccination effort, Hutchinson said. Passed in response to federal vaccine mandates in the workplace, the legislation requires employers to allow employees to submit to testing or provide proof of immunity in lieu of vaccination.
"My objection is, first of all, that this is not appropriate to be considered in an extended general session," he said. "But substantively, beyond that, these bills are unnecessary. The debate on these bills have been harmful to our goal of increasing vaccination rates in Arkansas. For those reasons, I will not sign the bills into law. I will allow them to become law without my signature."
Hutchinson said the Legislature is responding to a federal mandate with a mandate of its own, noting that he expects Department of Labor rules spelling out the federal mandate to include a testing option for the unvaccinated.
"These two bills are designed to push back on President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors and employers with more than 100 employees," he said. "Let me emphasize that I disagree with the federal mandate on vaccinations. I'm opposed to the mandate by the Biden administration, but the solution is not to place additional mandates on employers at the state government level.
"The solution is not to place the employers in a squeeze play between the federal government and state government. Employers need the freedom to protect their employees and their customers and the government should not interfere with that freedom through mandates."
As a service to our readers, The Sentinel-Record publishes updates released by the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.
The Arkansas Department of Health is no longer reporting confirmed and probable cases separately. The following stats were posted Wednesday on the Health Department's website:
• 504,516 cumulative cases, up 694 from Tuesday.
• 661.43 rolling seven-day average of new cases, down 26.86 from Tuesday.
• 3,996,786 PCR test results, up 6,797 from Tuesday.
• 9.3% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Tuesday.
• 6,702 active cases, down 104 from Tuesday.
• 1,707 active juvenile cases, down 10 from Tuesday.
• 489,520 recoveries, down 779 from Tuesday.
• 3,914,090 vaccine doses received, up 3,380 from Tuesday.
• 3,001,828 doses given, up 6,951 from Tuesday.
• 531 hospitalizations, down six from Tuesday.
• 160 cases on ventilators, up three from Tuesday.
• 253 ICU patients, no change from Tuesday.
• 8,166 deaths, up 19 from Tuesday.
• 2,241 nursing home deaths, up three from Tuesday.
• 15,796 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 11 from Tuesday.
• 14.86 rolling seven-day average of new cases, down 1.14 from Tuesday.
• 157,475 PCR and antigen test reports, up 140 from Tuesday.
• 10.3% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Tuesday.
• 114 active cases in Garland County, down six from Tuesday.
• 15,301 recoveries in Garland County, up 15 from Tuesday.
• 381 deaths, up two from Tuesday.