Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

COVID-19 in Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson won’t sign bills bypassing federal vaccine mandates

State News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that he will not sign two new bills from the Arkansas General Assembly that would allow for bypasses of federal vaccine mandate orders.

Hutchinson noted that the measures, SB 739 and HB 1977, would still go into effect in 90 days if they were not blocked in the judicial system.

The governor said that while he did not agree with the federal plan, he did not believe adding more legislation was the solution to the issue.

He also said he believed that these bills, as well as much of the debate surrounding them, slow down effort in the state to get more Arkansans vaccinated.

Hutchinson also believes that the extended general session was not the time for these bills to come forward, citing that the session should have been more focused on congressional redistricting.

While not signing the bills, Hutchinson is not vetoing them either. The bills passed through both chambers of the assembly with solid majorities, making a veto override very possible.

The governor also said he was not looking to take executive actions blocking the federal plans with way leaders in other states like Texas have done.

Hutchinson also shared the latest COVID-19 data from the Arkansas Department of Health, which should the state topping 3 million vaccine doses being given in the state.

As of Wednesday, there had been 3,001,828 vaccinations in Arkansas. Currently, there are 1,365,291 Arkansans with full immunity from the virus and an additional 286,278 residents with partial immunity.

Active cases of the virus continued to decline, dropping by 104 to 6,702. There were 694 new cases reported in the state in the last 24 hours, increasing the total caseload during the pandemic to 504,516.

The number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Arkansas also fell by six to 531, while patients on ventilators ticked up three to 163.

There were 19 new deaths attributed to the virus Wednesday, moving the total to 8,166.

Hutchinson continued to stress the effectiveness of vaccinations, noting that since February, 88.79% of new COVID-19 cases, 90.34% of hospitalizations and 89.36% of deaths have been among the unvaccinated.

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