210112_COVID-19 Press Briefing
9:05PM Jan 12, 2021
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Andrew DeMillo - AP
Brett Rains - 40/29
Leslie Peacock - Ark Times
Josh White - KAIT
David Ramsey - ANNN
Col. Robert "Gator" Ator
Good afternoon to everyone. Thank you for joining me for today's COVID-19 weekly update. We have some important news to share. today. I'm pleased to be joined by Dr. Romero, our Secretary of Health, as well as Secretary a key is here from education, who will be here and answer any questions related to education. We also have general pin, who's been very instrumental in helping us coordinate our planning for vaccination distribution. And he'll have a few words to say as well. So with that, let me first go to a vaccination report, which is our first graph, which brings you up to date on where we are with phase one of our vaccination program. And here as you can see, that on the left side, it describes who's in one a, health care workers, long term care residents and our first responders. And then on the right side, you see that we have the doses received, the doses that have been given out, and then the change in the last 24 hours, and so on doses received 227,000, round numbers 89,000 given which is about 39.3%. As you can see, we've received 24,000 in the last 24 hours. And so there's always going to be like yesterday, we were at 39.7%, but you get 24,000 in to increase your inventory. Obviously, that's going to take some time to get out. So there's so the percents are always changing. And then the dose is given the last 24 hours 8600. As you can see, over the last week, every day our dose has given has accelerated in term and that is the doses received by our state. There's the long term care contract with CVS and Walgreens. That is a federal contract that they've given our 15.7%. And they're still on target to have their clinics within the long term care facilities. And with that, where we are right now and talking with our hospitals, our COVID winner task force with Dr. Romero and his team, we have reached the point in terms of our one a phase that we're on target to reach that by the end of the month. And we are ready to move into two categories of one B. And so today I'm announcing that we're going to include to move to two categories of one B, which is the age of 70. And over. And the other category would be our K through 12. school staff and employees are daycare employees, as well as our higher education staff and teachers. Those will be included in the two categories that will be eligible beginning next Monday, January 18, for vaccination. The reason for this is we want to continue to increase as fast as we can, getting these doses into the arms of our Kansans. And at the same time, being able to manage the limited supply that we're giving. As you can see, 24,000 was received in the last 24 hours, we've been getting about 50,000 doses a week, I expect that to increase. And so we're trying to set the stage for increasing those doses and getting those out as quickly as possible to go the next slide.
This is phase one a now that I just went through which is the health care workers, the long term care facilities and our other priority groups of first responders. That's where we are right now. And there's we have vaccinated to the point that we can move into two different categories, which is one be beginning on January 18. As I indicated we're doing our Kansans aged 70 or older. And these vaccines are available through your community pharmacies. The hospitals are participating in this when they have the doses available. They can call ahead for an opponent an appointment, and there'll be vaccine clinics and events that may be available in your area. This is county by county approach in terms of the vaccinations, but we're increasing that opportunity for Those to get vaccinated these categories in terms of education, including higher ed and childcare, the school districts will drive it. So if you're a teacher, check with your school district, are you going to have a clinic? How are we supposed to get vaccinated, and they will have to work with their local provider, pharmacy or hospital to schedule a clinic or an opportunity or an appointment to get vaccinated. This is working from each county and community to assure that vaccinations are available across the state and not just in one area. And then this is later in one B, we're not all the way through one b, this is where we'll get to later. But the frontline essential workers were not to yet they don't start on Monday, but we will get to them there later in phase one be the next one. We're just reviewing the different phases and who's in it. This is one see. And again, right now this is people are 65 to 69. People with high risk medical conditions that are younger, and other essential workers. And this is all on our website. But this is something I want to talk about in terms of why we're doing priority populations, because we have a limited supply. And if we can bring in our workforce in education, which is about 132,000. That's a lot for our local pharmacies to handle. If they're 70, and plus, that's another 311,000. So we're looking at adding next Monday 443,000 new potential are Kansans to be vaccinated. Now we know that some will wait. But it's going to take time to get through all of those, we're going to start that Monday. Now there is a debate in Washington, I understand there's been some comments nationally, well, maybe we should go ahead and do 65 to 69. And bring in other categories early on, we have to manage the process in a way that gets vaccines out as quick as possible, but also in a way that doesn't. That gives priority those that need it the most. And so if you did 65 to 969. And by the way, that is when we say 462,000 that is for everybody in Arkansas 65 up. So if you really wanted to look at that one category, you'd subtract the 311,462, you'd be adding another 151,000. If you went down to that level, we will get there. But we're not ready to do that Monday. And so those are the the information as to what we're moving to Monday. Let's go to the next slide. And before I go to the next item of business, let me go ahead and and cover our case report for today. And our case report for today. The last 24 hours. Look in the middle right there, you'll see that we have added 3209 total cases over the last 24 hours. This is down about 1000 I believe it is from a week ago. Our testing is higher than it was a week ago. We have 10,600 that's been tested both PCR tests and antigen test.
The hospitalizations has decreased by 17, which is some summer leaf for our hospitals. But with the increase yesterday they before we're still got a ways to go to give any real relief for our hospitals is still a challenge for us. And then the deaths is what we're anxious to reduce that number we have 40 new Arkansans that are recorded as having passed away as a result of COVID-19. You can see our new cases by county as well. And it shows again, our top population counties are looking at be in the top numbers. With that, I want to say a couple more things about our vaccination plans. As you know, last week, I task general pin and his team working with director AJ Gary in emergency management to work on a specific plan that the public can see that they can know exactly what we are doing and how we're doing it. They have an I gave them a deadline of January 15. They are on target to have this plan developed that will go on our website. And this is a draft of it that they're continuing to work on. But we expect that to be concluded in the near future and that is part of our planning process with the Department of Health. Secondly, I wanted to recognize Colonel Robert aider that stands here. Colonel ater Come on over. He currently serves as director of military affairs for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He's retired as the commander of the 100 and 89th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard. And as commander, he is responsible for the wings, 14 subordinate units 1000s of members, our annual operating budget of $70 million. I have asked him and with Dr. Romero's agreement that he will come in as the program manager for the state's COVID-19 vaccine deployment, Colonel atre will serve as a project manager for a vaccine distribution. And so his responsibility will be to implement with our professionals at the Department of Health, the plan that is being that it will be released by January 15. And he will be he will manage the logistics related to the vaccine distribution and liaison to other state agencies to assist with the information sharing and data collection. Let me emphasize, the Department of Health has the lead in our emergency response. And they will continue to do but this is a whole of state government effort. And whenever we need the logistic support the technical support the planning capabilities of the military, we're utilizing, and we're delighted that Colonel Ator is able to take on that responsibility. Colonel, if you give a greeting and then General Penn if you would come up and give an update on the development of that plan.
Well, first off, let me say that I am humbled beyond words that the governor would trust me to do this for the for the state of Arkansas, I will tell you that every arkansan should be extremely proud of the efforts that the Department of Health has done and what what they've done is net nothing less than miraculous. And I the problem that we're seeing is that as we go into the different phases, and we expand the vaccination program, one of the things we're gonna have to work on is capacity. And so we're using an all state government approach to how we go about doing that. And I thank the governor for for allowing us to reach to all parts of government. And like I said, we're going to be using the Department of Commerce, the military department, obviously is very, very important to this. But we're using everything to be able to get to this so that we're servicing the needs of our fellow our Kansans. So I'm looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity. And I got to tell you that this is this is a big job, but it's one that is very, very meaningful. And like I said, Every our kids, it should be very, very proud. Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Governor. The Department of the military has had the distinct privilege over the last week to work in support of and with Dr. Romero and his team at the department of health as well as director AJ Garry with the division of emergency management, to put together the plan that will soon be posting out on the website, as we were looking at, you know, what needed to be done in large, broad terms. And we realized that to make this an efficient process that we needed to increase the capacity for giving vaccine across the state. And so we looked at what we need to do to enroll more hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, as well as in some cases, private industry has their own health units, and to bring all of those into the fold and make them eligible to give the vaccine. We also looked at the need to manage vaccine distribution, as well as the administration of shots. And so we've established procedures to enter data into a program of record management information system, if you will, that gives visibility across state government to the amount of vaccine that we've got on hand, where it's at and how often we are and how much of it that we are dispersing. We've also built in procedures where if a school district or some other large body wants to give a large vaccination clinic that they can request a strike team which is very much in line with the strike team concept used during flu season. And then finally, we bought built into the plan. The means to Both communicate what the plan is to the citizenry to the providers, and then also to coordinate information across state government so that we can manage the process and provide information back to Dr. Romero, and the governor in time to make timely decisions. So thank you.
Thank you, General pan and then Dr. Romero. We welcome your comments. And again, thank you for your leadership and partnership.
Thank you, Governor. So
let me begin by acknowledging and thanking both the general the kernel for their efforts in putting together this plan and aiding us in getting this forward. It's clear that we are stretched between multiple fronts on this and their help has been has been instrumental in getting this done. We will be getting more vaccine in the future. There is a third vaccine that is on the horizon, and will be discussed in the near future at the ACI p meeting and hopefully will be approved by FDA. So vaccines will increase in the in the relatively near future at the point at this point at this moment is that we begin to immunize those individuals at highest risk for morbidity and mortality. And that we can have the most impact, as has been stated by the ACP ACP on multiple occasions. The goal is to minimize disease, minimize adverse events and maximize benefit of each vaccine. So with that, I'll turn it back over to the governor.
Thank you, Dr. Romero. And with that, we'll turn it over to questions
pretty badly by other states in terms of percent of the population that's been vaccinated. I guess I understand what y'all are doing now. But I guess what what explains how it got to this point? Why is it so been weighing so much?
The New York Times gave a report yesterday based upon some CDC information that was inaccurate. And let me invite Dr. Romero, who talked to the CDC about that to explain.
So thank you. I also saw that report yesterday that placed us seventh from the bottom. And that alarmed me. So in reviewing the information that was listed on the web on the website, comparing it to what we had, I spoke with the with the CDC, the numbers are actually incorrect. So when we calculated the number of doses given and the number of individuals we had administered as of yesterday, 39.7% of our total allotment to the state. We had that when we calculated where we would fall in that in that column. We are 14 from the top. So the data is erroneous, and we are doing a good job at this time.
The percentage of the population that's been vaccinated as of yesterday was 20
was 2.7. As of today, it is 3%.
So by January 18. There will not be will there be available vaccine because if we will still be vaccinating people and healthcare facilities and nursing homes, I don't know what percentage of the nursing home population has been covered, or the percentage of the healthcare population. It has been covered. And will there be vaccine on January the 18th. For people in those other categories?
There will be there will not be 380,000 doses ready to give out when Monday. But whenever I talked to whether it's Baptist or whether it is St. Bernard's, they have vaccinated the largest percent of those health care workers that wanted to be vaccinated. And they have doses there and they're ready to move on to the next priority. And so they have doses they're ready to move on. Is it enough to cover 400,000? No. But is it enough to start vaccinating in the two categories that we mentioned? The answer's yes. And that same thing can be said for many pharmacies that are out there. And then we're going to be getting additional supplies in and I expect that the you know, whenever President Elect Biden indicated that he wanted to shift more of the vaccine and storage for the second dose to get to the state. I expect that to happen. And and so Paul, we're going to stick with that regimen of two doses for everybody make sure we can accomplish that. We do believe that there will be increased supply as we go into the coming weeks.
And if you're a hospital worker, and you have said, No thank you, then the hospital can go ahead and say, well, we're gonna offer this dose to someone else. If you're not interested.
That's exactly right. They had an opportunity for priority, which was important. Some chose not to take that priority. So we're going to move to other priorities. Yes.
It means they're going to fit in a priority group, and they are in that seven year old age group, are they going to be able to get it?
The doctor Mero, do you have an answer to that? The the inmates are in I believe it is one see at the present time. And we will adjust that as there's further guidance or necessity, or sufficient doses out there. But that's where they are at the present time. Do you have anything else to add on?
I believe that they would stay in one see but Dr. Romero
COVID question the FBI put out a bolton about armed armed protests rallies in all 50 state capitals. Want to see what kind of communication Have you had from the FBI or Homeland Security? About the threat level here? What kind of response Are you are you taking that were you taking here? And you know, how, how concerned are you about the capital as as potential target.
We take every piece of intelligence very seriously, we look at it, we evaluate it. In terms of the national FBI intelligence that's brought to us through our fusion center. I stay in direct contact with them through our state police. And we our first concern was the opening of the legislative session. We had sufficient security resources, both present and then available for whatever would come up. And we will have the same kind of plan for future incidences or threats that we might see. I know there's some discussion nationally about what happens on January 20, the inauguration of the president in days leading up to that we will continue to evaluate the press the information that we have, and make good judgments on it. I assure everyone that we're going to protect individuals and citizens and public servants as they are in the capital as well as the Capitol itself. As a seat of our democracy here in Arkansas.
factory's game are you going to use to decide whether or not activate the National Guard or to tell people to stay away from the Capitol? Well,
the factor would be that if civilian law enforcement is not sufficient to handle the the threat or the violence that would might be anticipated or that we might see. And that's the role of the National Guard is a secondary support to backup civilian law enforcement. At this time, I've not seen anything that indicates that our civilian law enforcement reef sources cannot handle any threats that we see at the present time. But we'll continue to evaluate that. As you know that last year, we did call out the National Guard but he was actually after visibly seen the actions that were taken that crossed the line into destruction of property. And then we at that time made them available.
The older you get in line to get the vaccine and they just have to call around to different pharmacies, where they
need to look at their community and determine where the doses the vaccine is available. The pharmacies are in every area that can be covered. And then secondly, you have your hospital as as an option. And and so look, we'll be continuing to provide more information but much of this information will be distributed locally so people will know where it is that they can go and what they need to do to get on the list. It's not all going to happen Monday, but they've already seen started creating lists. And we want them to do that as much as possible electronically. But regardless, we want them to be available whenever we have a senior citizen that might call Colonel the JV anything else to add there.
Now that's, that's exactly right. And I will tell you that the pharmacy association is working over over time to make sure that we're taking those names in, and then we're going to schedule them, so we're going to be able to communicate with them. So when the dosing comes, that we're calling in an individual and saying, Come in, we need you at 10 o'clock, and we're gonna stick a needle in your arm. So the whole point of it is, is that we want to be able to communicate, you know, and make sure that everyone understands that these are our priorities, and then we're going to get you in and so that we can take some of the confusion out of the equation, because if people start signing up for lists in five different locations, just trying to get it, it confuses the system, so we can prioritize who's going to get the shot, if that makes sense.
They're not going to be a centralized point.
The way the system works is that we have a we have a program that communicates with with all our systems in the CDC, and that system, is what where the the request for dosing comes into. And then that's how we prioritize where where it's going to go in the state. And so we're using that system as our system of record. And that's how we're going to go in. And so when when the people that are gonna upload that system to tell us that there is a demand for for the vaccine, that's going to come in from the providers. So that's going to come in from either a pharmacy or a hospital. And then from that it'll come to the Department of Health, and then we'll put in the request to get the dosing sent to that location.
Are you going to increase the capacity, you're talking about that capacity of people to actually administer shots, people that make phone calls and make sure people know that they're notified that they can come get machine? Where's that personnel?
So first off, right now, we've only had 212 pharmacies that have been involved in the one a program. And so the first thing that we're doing is we're trying to expand that capacity to other pharmacies around the state. We still haven't exercised, you know, the Department of Health has a long history of flu vaccinations, and getting out there with our local health units. We haven't done that. We've also talking with the military department to be able to put together strike teams, you know, with our local health units to go into a community and provide those shots. So that we there's a whole lot of things that we can ramp up to. I think the first thing is, is making sure we're spreading it out to the hospitals for large population areas, and the pharmacies and expanding the number of providers that we have here in the state. Sir,
let's go remotely. there's any questions online.
gov really hyper teach v. 11. I just heard the colonel say that there'll be a centralized waiting list. There's already several waiting lists being created out there by these individual pharmacies?
are the people who have signed up on those lists? Do they need to know to get often sign up for something else now?
No, that was a miscommunication, some fashion, the colonel said that there is not going to be a centralized list. This is lists that are compiled in the local pharmacy or hospitals or what the provider that's available. So there's not a centralized list.
Thank you for that. Another quick question. Lieutenant Governor Griffin today tweeted that he would rather see larger venues, something more along the lines of mass vaccination clinics. It doesn't appear in this plan right now, like you're going in that direction. Why is it? Well, that's,
as general indicated, the mass distribution option is still as part of the plans. And so that absolutely can be done. But it's not, it would not be good to have War Memorial Stadium for a mass dance distribution center when you only got 50, you know, a limited number of supply of doses. So you have to organize this in a way that makes sense. And this is and there will be opportunities for more mass clinics whenever we have the supply and when it makes sense. Now, for example, some of the school districts have over 1000 teachers. Well, that's Pretty much have a mass distribution effort whenever we get to that particular school district. Whenever you get to some employers, which is down the road, you're going to have a lot a large number of employees that will be vaccinated. And that's going to have to be in that type of a mass clinic. So all of this is part of the plan. And that is one option that's there. But it is important that our pharmacies, which is our in every community and our community health clinics, our Department of Health, which historically has done mass clinics for flu vaccinations, they will continue to use that capability in the future.
Governor, this is David Ramsey with the Arkansas nonprofit News Network. While we wait to vaccine, the National Academy of Medicine and nine other national organizations last month issued a call for states to establish a statewide crisis standards of care plans for the pandemic. And my understanding is that I think more than 30 states do have a crisis standard of care plan in place, basically something that would establish protocols for how to allocate scarce scarce resources if the capacity situation does reach a kind of crisis point and to kind of have a plan for that statewide. My understanding is that's kind of in development in Arkansas, I guess, could you just speak to where things stand if there is going to be a plan released and whether something like developing a crisis standard of care would would help manage the pandemic right
now, Dr. Romero, would you address that?
So we hope we never have to activate a crisis standard of care, that would indicate that we have reached the limit of our capacity of caring for patients, both in the hospital and on ventilators. So that standard of care that document is in the process of development. It's in the near near completion state. We hope to have a final review of this within the health department and contributing authors. And then we'll pass it to the governor for his review, but it should be coming shortly.
Hi, Governor, this is Rachel Herzog with the Arkansas democrat Gazette. I wanted to go back to the topic of the FBI warning of attacks on state capitals. Do you think that Arkansas is less likely to see any kind of Riot not having been a swing state in this past election? Or is there any other kind of insight you can give us based on your background in Homeland Security?
Thank you, Rachel. And the answer is less likely. If you look at where we are in Arkansas, the information we have and we have a long history because mine goes back into the 80s in which we had neo nazi groups. And we had a white supremacist group in Arkansas. We had posse comma Todd is here. And so I don't want to diminish the fact that there's work to be done here in this state. But in terms of, of challenging state authority, or coming in and protesting what's happening in Washington, I did not see that, as you've seen in many other capitals. So I'm hopeful that we had, it's less likely to happen here. I have more confidence, both in our law enforcement capacity, but also in our citizens. So I'm hopeful of that being the case. And of course, everybody has the right to protest. You don't want to diminish that. But in terms of violent acts, or other destruction of property, I expect that to be less likely here. And I hope that's the case that we will be prepared in the event of those circumstances change. Next question.
Governor, this is Joshua Kitt. Want to ask a quick question off of code in your state of the state address this morning. You had mentioned the hapeville crime. The hate crime building that you were hoping to pass didn't seem like it was you got warm response from applause. What is your gut feeling on that and how the General Assembly will tackle that issue?
Well, I thought it was well received as important information as something that they are thoughtfully considering. And I expect that to proceed in the normal fashion of debate and listening to constituents and our community. So I was encouraged and not discouraged by it. We'll see where it goes.
It's good after
one last question sorry on the state of estate Any nostalgia on this shirt. Last one, anything looking back, that stands out.
Just optimism. And as I said, we started aggressively and strong. And we're going to continue that way. And I was referencing this being my last regular session. But it's not my last session of the legislature, not mine last state of the state address. And so it's sort of hard to be nostalgic whenever you got a lot of work to do, particularly during a pandemic. So I switch from the State of the State Address very quickly to vaccinations. And that'll be on my focus simultaneously with the upcoming legislative session. Just one, did I hear one more remotely? Then we'll come back to the table?
Yes, good afternoon. It's Brett Raines with 4029 News. Back to the rollout for the first group of phase one B, for larger school districts. A little more specificity. What are we advising like teachers with a school district? Should they contact their pharmacies? Or should the school districts wait for a little more information from the state to try and organize like an MS. Blue clinic for lack of a better term?
a great question. And first of all, the teachers should first contact their principals and superintendents and say, what's our options? What's our plan? And the superintendent, the leadership, the schools should be contacting the healthcare healthcare providers, and trying to determine what's the timeframe that that particular provider, whether it's a hospital or a pharmacy, will have sufficient doses to go into the school and do a clinic and vaccinate them. And so this is a ground up from the, from the grassroots up initiative, where it starts with the school district, contact the provider, and managing it when we have the doses that they can schedule that clinic. And so that is what they need to do. I'm sure that they will be other options will be considered. But that's the most logical one and where we see it, being able to proceed the quickest. Back to the table with any other questions.
Want to go back to the question. This is maybe for Dr. marrows. Welcome to the on the percentage of population that's been vaccinated. And you know that to 2.7% versus with what the CDC it had, I guess it was out of 1.4%. Is that number, that much that much better in terms of where you you hope to be added at this point? Is that still, that still seems like a pretty low? No?
Well, I'm not happy with it. And that's one of the reasons we're moving into the first two categories of phase B, I don't think anybody who wants to get all the vaccinations that can be satisfied with it. But I also know that the CDC set up a three day lag in reporting. And this is for all the states, but the focus was not necessarily the paperwork, but getting the shots in the arms. And so we're dependent upon pharmacies and hospitals entering the data. And they have three days to do it. And then we collect the data and is transferred to the CDC, and they've got to upload it and get it right to so it was a little bit of a gap yesterday. But you know, this is a logistics challenge. And that's why we brought on the, the the program managers, the experts in logistics to help us to manage this and to accelerate that throughput. Because we're getting supplies, we're getting them out to the population, we want to reduce the delay there and get it out quicker. That's the whole objective is to shorten that time. It takes when you have a limited supply, it takes a lot of partners to accomplish that. Not Romero, this was addressed to you and I started talking. You have anything else there.
So no, I mean, we'd like to have a lot more vaccine and into arms at this point. But if you look at us in comparison to other states, we're all in the same boat. We there is only so much vaccine to be distributed. We're getting that vaccine and we're pushing it out. We will push it out faster as we develop more and more capacity to do so. So we will reach out to more Arkansans in the future.
We probably have time for one more question if it is yes.
She does is involved. person do you have any information on how many unique people have been vaccinated this point. And also just kind of related to that? I heard there's some reports the federal government was going to Got a second? Well, how significant? Well that?
Well, as some of our viewers See, the second dose some health care workers have others are in line for it. And so the the impact for us is it gets more doses to us quicker, and allows us to manage both the first and the second dose. You know, we're not going to the UK model of just trying to get one dose for everybody. We want to stick with that program that the that the FDA approved for the two doses, but it gives us more flexibility to get that first dose out more quickly, not primarily, on the unique.
So you're you're actually talking specifically about the metrics that need to be looked at. And that is not just the number of doses you're giving. But you also want to look at how many people have completed the immunization schedule. So again, I will rely very heavily on on Colonel ATAR, to give us that to get that granularity. We're going to be getting that for us, and then we'll be able to provide it to you but it is a very good question. We also want to have enough vaccines to begin the immunizations. I have read simply the press release from those from that conference, we understand that we will be receiving more vaccine and that vaccine will need to be used for both the primary dose and then the final dose in case there will be vaccines in the future that require only a single dose. So those will also go into the mix. So this this plan of vaccination will become progressively more complex as we move into this year.
Thank you all very much today. Have a good afternoon.