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Active cases drop in Arkansas; covid deaths up 22

by Ashton Eley | March 8, 2021 at 7:21 a.m.
A covid testing sign directs drivers waiting in line to get a free covid-19 self-test at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Arkansas' active coronavirus cases were down Sunday by 193 from Saturday, dropping below 4,000 for the first time since June, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

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The death toll from the virus rose by 22, to 5,319. The state's tally of cases since March 2020 increased by 165 Sunday to 324,818.

Benton County had the highest number of new confirmed cases at 35, followed by Pulaski County at 23, Washington County at 16 and Crawford and Faulkner counties at eight each. Three of the new confirmed cases were related to correctional facilities.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arkansas fell by 10, reaching an eight-month low of 335. The number of ventilators used by coronavirus patients in Arkansas also fell by 10.

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Results for 4,284 polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests and 188 antigen tests came in Sunday. A total of 48,130 tests have been given this month -- only about 57% of the 84,787 total tests that had been given this time last month.

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"As we near the 1st anniversary of our 1st case, I am encouraged by another decrease in new cases," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said via social media. "Get your vaccine when it's your turn. We should not let up until we win the fight."

Sunday, 7,334 Arkansans received vaccinations. The state program has administered 62.3 percent of doses received and federal programs have given 41.7 percent of the doses received. In total, 733,981 have been given.

Hutchinson, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace to discuss why he decided to ease covid-19 restrictions, allowing restaurants and other businesses to open at 100% capacity. The mask mandate is set to expire at the end of March if positive rates and hospitalizations stay low.

"It's been a year. During the course of the last year, we've educated the public as to what's required on public health," Hutchinson said. "Our businesses have taken the right measures in place, we've had a mask mandate in place, and there's just a limit as to how much the restrictions can be placed on business and for how long. They've struggled. They've suffered. So, we wanted to give more flexibility."

Guidelines will remain in place with incentives -- such as tort liability immunity -- for businesses that follow those guidelines, he said.

"I wanted to set a goal and give people hope," he said. "At some point we have to rely on common sense and good judgment vs. mandates."

Wallace brought up President Joe Biden's call out of governors reversing covid-19 related safety policies. Hutchinson responded by saying leaders have to balance public health guidelines with the reality of societal needs.

"President Biden is a perfect example of this. He's leading by encouraging people to take the virus seriously, but at the same time, he's saying vigorously, 'let's open our school.' Well, there's risks to opening schools, but a risk that's very, very important, because we need to have classroom instruction," he said.

"The president says we need to vaccinate all the teachers. Well, we did that. We moved them up in our priority list early on. That's important for governors to be able to lead their state. I don't think it's fair to say it's 'Neanderthal-type' thinking," referencing President Biden's comment Wednesday.

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