As our state deals with the spread of covid-19 in the midst of a global outbreak, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will publish five things you need to know each week in English, Spanish and Marshallese. You can read our full coverage at nwaonline.com/coronavirus/. Coronavirus coverage pertaining to crucial public health information will be available for all readers.
Here are this week’s five important things to know about the coronavirus.
• Arkansas has recorded 330,609 confirmed and probable cases of covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data available April 2. State health officials have reported 5,636 covid-19 deaths and 323,203 recoveries. Officials also reported that Arkansas has given 1,175,597 doses of the covid-19 vaccine.
• The requirement to wear masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible ended this week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced March 30. Hutchinson cited declining statewide case numbers and hospitalizations as the reason for the mandate’s end, even as national experts warn of a possible fourth surge. The governor added that even though masks aren’t required, he encourages Arkansans to wear them.
• Anyone in Arkansas age 16 and older is eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine, Hutchinson said March 30. Arkansans who want the vaccine can call 1-800-985-6030 for help scheduling their appointments or visit the Arkansas Department of Health website for more information.
• As the mask mandate ends, Hutchinson said March 30 businesses, school districts and health care providers must make their own decisions about whether to require masks. Cities can also institute local ordinances requiring masks.
• A legislative panel on March 29 approved the governor’s request to extend Arkansas’ public health emergency. Although public health directives have expired, the governor said the extension was necessary to encourage Arkansans to get covid-19 vaccines and allow low-income residents to qualify for certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from the federal government.