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As the statewide vaccination effort ramps up and active COVID-19 cases in Arkansas continue falling, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday that all Arkansans included in Phase 1-B of the vaccine rollout are now eligible to receive it.

When Phase 1-B began Jan. 18, only education employees and Arkansans 70 and older were permitted to receive their doses. Hutchinson expanded eligibility to include those 65 and up on Feb. 23 and to food manufacturing employees on March 2.

Hutchinson announced the full expansion of Phase 1-B, which includes police, firefighters, first responders and corrections officers not included in Phase 1-A, as well as all manufacturing employees, some essential government workers, public transit employees, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, grocery store and meal delivery employees, postal workers and those working in houses of worship.

“What led to this is (that) over the weekend, we had some great mass clinics, one of them being in Jonesboro and other places,” Hutchinson said. “And we noticed that we did not have the demand that we anticipated, which indicates either people are getting the vaccinations in different places, we’re getting more of them covered, but it also could simply indicate that there’s some resistance to the vaccines. So we have to keep the demand for the vaccine up. We have to keep the lines full, because people want access to those vaccines.”

Since March 1, state health officials have administered 105,604 new vaccine doses, for a cumulative total of 742,204, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Approximately 60.7% of the 1,223,700 vaccine doses received by Arkansas health officials had been distributed by Monday.

ADH officials announced Monday that the ADH will arrange mass vaccination clinics each week, in each of the state’s five public health regions. Some clinics are first-come, first-serve, while others have appointments by reservation. Clinic information will be posted on the ADH website each week.

Statewide, total active cases (confirmed and probable) fell to 3,593, a decrease of 374 in a day and 649 in a week, according to the ADH. Hospitalizations rose slightly to 338, up by three in a day but down by 103 in a week. Statewide, 74 patients were on ventilators Monday, an increase of nine in a day but a net decrease of 10 in a week.

Total cumulative cases increased by 2,442 between March 1 and Monday, for a total of 324,951, according to the ADH. Cases rose by 133 between Sunday and Monday.

The ADH reported 24 new deaths from confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Monday. The additional deaths bring the total death toll in Arkansas to 5,343, up 93 in a week.

In total, 316,000 confirmed and probable statewide cases were considered inactive by Monday, an increase of 483 from Sunday and 2,998 from March 1.

Washington County reported 291 total active cases (confirmed and probable), and 29,622 total cumulative cases Monday. Benton County reported 381 total active cases and 27,524 total cumulative cases.

Total active cases decreased by 18 in a day and 30 in a week in Washington County. In Benton County, active cases fell by 55 in a day but only 39 in a week. Total cumulative cases in the two counties increased by 225 and 267, respectively, in a week.

The number of active cases on the UA campus fell to 16 Monday from 23 Friday, according to the UA COVID-19 Dashboard.

Of those, 15 students and one was a faculty member. The dashboard lists four new cases identified in the reporting period of Friday-Sunday. The data sheet linked to the dashboard lists three new cases in that period. It is unclear which number is correct. Of the new cases, at least two were identified through on-campus testing, and at least one self-reported.

Of the 33,921 tests performed on campus since Aug. 10, 2020, 1,364 have been positive, for a cumulative positivity rate of 4.02%.

Sarah Komar is the news editor for The Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a staff reporter in 2019 and early 2020.

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