210420_COVID-19 Press Briefing
7:40PM Apr 20, 2021
Andy Davis - ADG
Governor Asa Hutchinson
Dr. Jose Romero
Andrew DeMillo - AP
Alex Burch - KATV
Chelsea Helms - KNWA
Alexis Wainwright - KARK/Fox 16
Jamie Weiss - 40/29 News
Good afternoon to everyone. Thank you for joining me for today's weekly COVID-19 update. First, let me digress just for a moment because I've been asked questions as we await on the outcome of the verdict in Minneapolis. I did want to say that I have conferred, and I've been briefed by my public safety team, and that we understand that there may be civil protests that will occur, and that we are prepared to make sure that they can be handled peacefully. And that we can make sure that the protesters if that is the case, are well protected, have right to exercise their First Amendment. But I have engaged in those conversations were prepared for whatever circumstance might come as a result of any verdict out of that trial. And now let me go on to our case update for today. Let's go to the graph that tells the story. And here you see on the top left, the cases and you go right to the middle for the total new cases, you see the change is that there's an increase of 198 new cases from yesterday. I look back as my habit to a week ago, and last week, it was 224 increase in cases. So we continue to hold our own on the number of new cases, our active cases are up by 15. Our deaths, regrettably, are up by seven. And then if you look on the right side is the worrisome point is the hospital data is up by 13. Now, we think about, you know, with the level of testing that we're doing, that you can have somebody that does not report as a case, but they'll wind up as a hospitalization because they get ill, and they did not. And then they'll wind up being a case and a hospitalization. But that 13 jump, we're going to continue to watch that. And it's just a reminder that we do have the virus in our community, and that we need to be careful and to get vaccinated. And that leads to the vaccinations. We've get we've received, we continue to receive our federal allocation, and 29,000 were received in the day. And then we've given out 19,583 doses over the last 24 hours. Not bad, but we'd like to have it higher, a week ago is higher than that. And so we need to increase the demand for our doses, we have an ample supply. We continue to order what's allocated to us in the federal government, but we need our citizens to go out and get vaccinated. And I'll spend some time talking about that today. But our doses in terms of our total given if you look at those partially immunized and those fully immunized, that totals up to about 973,000. So we're still about 27,000, away from my goal of 1 million Arkansans vaccinated, I expect to reach that this week. And that will be a big occasion to celebrate having 1 billion Arkansans vaccinated either fully or partially. And then let's go on to the next graph. That tells I want to break it down a little bit more. And this is the proportion of Arkansas residents 18 Plus, that have received a vaccine, either partially or fully. And so you add those together, and you get 41.7% of Arkansans adultansans have been vaccinated. Now, that's some good news that is going up at that level. But I will say also that this is below the national average. And I think part of it is just some natural resistance in the south in a rural state. And it shows that we have some of that resistance to overcome. We're below the national average, there's vaccines out there, and it's a demand issue. So we need to increase that percent, we're getting closer to the 50% and then we're going to have to work real hard to get it closer to the 60 and 70% that we want.
You go to the next slide. This breaks it down by age category, which is instructive. And we see on the just let's look at the fully vaccinated side. O f those 65 Plus, we've had 52 percent vaccinated. If you go down to the 18, to 64, age group, it's 20%. And then those that are under 18, which is really 16 to 18. That's 1.8 and you can understand that. What we've got to work on harder is the 18 to 64 age group, those people that believe they're very healthy, they're very busy, and they put it off, and they say, well, we can do it later. We need you to get vaccinated for the good of the state, for the good of the community and your own health. And then your next one, you'll see it broken down by race or ethnicity, we have and just look on the white on the right side, if you will, the white category, there are Hispanics, and so Hispanics are being Vax are 55.8% of their population is being vaccinated. That is the best it's a smaller population. The next one is the white population. And that's 49.1% of the white population in Arkansas is fully vaccinated. And then, if you look at the African American category, which is the one on the left, that is 45.1%. And the storyline is that if you looked at that one month ago, there was a 9.5% difference between African Americans and white population in terms of vaccination. We've closed that gap down to 4%. And so that is good news. I think it reflects the good work of the Department of Health, our community partners, our churches that are working to get those in the minority population vaccinated and access to the vaccine. You go to the next one, and this is one that I really covered with 18 plus, this is the 16 plus. So let's go to the next one. And this is something I want you to see, which is the new cases per 100,000. In the Arkansas and their surrounding states, and this is for the time period of April 9 through April 15. So it's about five days old, but our cases have remained steady since then. The red is where you have a high number of cases. So the darker the higher number of cases per capita, versus the lighter colors. Now, if you can see, obviously up in Michigan, and Minnesota, you've got a high number of cases in that area, and the Northeast, you've got a high percent of cases. In Texas, you've got some areas that with a high number of cases in red areas, Florida the same way. You look at Arkansas, there is no red areas in Arkansas. Now you look at Oklahoma, there are some red areas, you look at Tennessee. And so we are doing well in comparison with our surrounding states. But the concern is obviously, whether that we could look like the northern part of the United States or the North East if we do not continue to get vaccinated. And that is the key to having our success. We're not putting in more restrictions. We're not putting in more mandates. We're just simply saying the what has to be done is to get vaccinated. And I believe that. Then finally we'll end with this, which is the vaccine call line 1-800-985-6030, please call that number. If you haven't been vaccinated, if you're an adult, you're eligible. And we'll make sure that you get referred to the right clinics so that you can get vaccinated, they will be prepared to help you.
We are concentrating on the younger generation. I've asked the Department of Health the Department of Education and we have Ivy Pfeffer here today, Dr. Pfeffer, that is working with schools to encourage clinics in the schools. And you go around in Alma, we've had 56 students that have been vaccinated in their school system. And this is just 16 plus. Bentonville, 375 students and El Dorado, i believe is 190. And so they're working in the schools to have access to the vaccines. We want to also emphasize that to higher education, and we want to tell our students get your vaccine before you go home for summer break. If you only get one vaccine, whenever you go home, you get your second vaccine. And the same thing will be true for the students who will be coming home from other out of state schools. You can even get your second vaccine here so don't hesitate. Get your vaccine, you're the population and we need to increase those numbers. And so with that, let me invite Dr. Romero, who will have another meeting of his committee later this week to deal with a J and J. vaccine, but he's got some points he wants to emphasize, in reference to the variance.
Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. So I wanted to give you an update on where we are with the variants. I think that's very important. Because what we're learning, as you know, is that the variants do have a higher transmissibility rate. And at least for the UK variant, there is a higher morbidity or mortality with it. So our jump in the number of cases was approximately 25%. From the week prior, with total number of variant cases. We saw a 70% increase in the number of UK variants identified. That's the one that has the 30% transmissibility, and the higher mortality, mortality, morbidity rate. And then we were seeing increases in the number of California variants which have about 20%, more transmissibility. So we're watching this, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We are not testing every sample. But we would probably find this to be higher, as we go forward. What the governor showed you on this slide nationally of the number of cases, now is the time to vaccinate, we have to get ahead of this. If we don't, we can, we will have significant transmission and new cases here. Also, what we're learning about the variances that in those northern states, we're seeing more cases in children and adolescents. And the disease tends to be more severe than it had been for the original strain. So again, Dr. Pfeffer and the health department, I sorry, to the Department of Education are starting to immunize children and adolescents. So permanent adolescents, excuse me, 16 and above. But those, those adolescents should avail themselves of the vaccine. We're hopeful that will have vaccine for a lower age group, possibly down to 12 years of age and upwards towards the end of the summer. So we need to get that population of individuals vaccinated. We're making progress. It's slow, but we're keep pushing ahead. So thank you very much.
And I've asked Stephanie Williams, our chief of staff, the Department of Health, to make some comments on some of the clinics that are ongoing.
Thank you, Governor. We're pleased to be able to announce today that vaccine is being shipped to all of the Department of Health's local health units across the state. We will begin offering appointments next week. And so we are asking that individuals that would like to receive their vaccination through one of our local health units for them to call either the local health unit or call our vaccine hotline to get assistance with scheduling an appointment. We will be doing appointments at first until we determined the flow that we'll see in each of those units, because we want to make sure that we don't waste any vaccine. So we're excited to offer that service. We do have at least one service location in each Arkansas's 75 counties. Those units are open on Monday from 8:00 to 4:30. And then also on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:00 to 4:30. But we do offer late hours on Tuesdays each week in each local health unit. They're open 9:30 to 6:00. So hopefully that'll make it easier for people to access. Also, in addition to calling the unit directly or calling our 800 number, you can also access information about vaccine availability on our website healthy.arkansas.gov. We have information about the physicians who have vaccine, pharmacies, hospitals, and community events for vaccination that are ongoing. And we continue to work with partners to offer these special events and develop more opportunities because we want receiving the vaccine to be as convenient as possible. We are we are developing a new partnership with more War Memorial Stadium. As many of you that live in the Little Rock area know they're our neighbor. They're just their stadium is just to the east of our main campus. And so in May they're having an event called Arkansas Made, Arkansas Proud. This is an event where over 100 artisans and craftsmen from across the state come and sell their products. And so we're pleased that we're going to be able to offer visitors to that event vaccination there on site and we intend to continue to collaborate with them throughout the year to offer that as long as it's needed. The other thing I should mention about our local health unit events, we are receiving Moderna vaccine. So that means that we will serve individuals 18 years of age and older. It also means that two doses will be required so when we provide that first dose, we'll also be asking you to schedule an appointment for your second dose at those local health units. Thank you.
Thanks, Stephanie. And with that, we'll take any questions. Alex,
What will happen if you can't manage to increase demand, and we're not able to reach that 70% vaccination goal in the state?
Well, that means that we're in jeopardy of having our cases go up, particularly this winter. You know, now, whenever you have 50%, vaccinated, that is a protection for many in the community. And that's, that's helpful. But the epidemiologist want to get up to higher level and, and that's what we want to do. And so it's just gonna take some hard work, I, you know, whenever you get up to 50% 60%, we're going to have to be going out to where the people are, and make it as convenient as possible for them. So it'll just continue that effort long term, and we will get there, it's just going to take a little while with that kind of intensive effort.
Can you elaborate on why you think we're kind of lagging the rest of the country or, you know, people are resistant to getting vaccine.
Well, we'll hesitancies a challenge all across the United States, I was on a call today with a White House, but all the governors are on there, so I've heard from the different governors. And but I believe it is a greater challenge in the southern states and in rural states. And I think you can see that that there's greater resistancy there that we have to overcome and you overcome it with information. You overcome it with influencers and with examples being set and making it as convenient as possible for for everyone to get the vaccine. Is there. Do we have anybody remotely today?
Yeah. This is Andrew with AP. had a couple of questions for you. On some legislation. First of all on on the agenda in the legislature today, there's proposals to both bat and ban mask mandates, as well as a banning of vaccine passports. Wanted to see what you thought about these proposals. I know you talked previously about the ban on mask mandates. I know it's been amended so I want to see if it addressed any of your concerns. And on a non COVID issue, I wanted to ask you about the two gun, two gun bills, dealing with enforcement of federal gun laws that's on your desk if you've made a decision yet on those bills.
Thank you. And in terms of the legislation that makes prohibitions on mask mandates or other things, I want to see the bill as it's amended, I've saw an original version of it. And, you know, I understand the legislature wanting to think about the here-and-now. I think it's as though what we need is a state now, and we don't have a mask mandate, we don't have a restriction on travel in any way. And so there's no problem in terms of the President. But as governor, you have to think about the future and future governors as well. And what happens in the next, you know, 50 years and do want to have those kinds of restrictions on the Executive Branch. So we'll look at it, try to work with the legislature on that. But I haven't made a decision because I haven't seen the final product and whether it passes or not. And in terms of the two, we call them gun bills, but they're actually ones of state sovereignty bill and the other is a bill that allows interstate - intrastate production of accessories in firearms versus interstate. And so there's really two separate bills there that accomplished two different things. I have less problems with the intrastate intrastate bill, because historically, that is not a part of the flow of interstate commerce and it's subject to state regulation. That makes some sense to me. But I'll be looking at that one and the other one and I expect not to make a decision until close to the end of the week or the end of the week. Next question.
Governor Hutchinson, this is Alexis Wainwright with KARK and Fox 16. I want you to know if you had any comment about the concern over the pause still happening with the J&J vaccine, and the the worry about sometimes trying to get that vaccine to people like the homeless in the vulnerable population in Arkansas.
Yes, I'm very anxious to get the J&J vaccine back in use, it is a very low statistical level of risk with what six cases out of 6 million. And, and so we need that for the reasons you stated that there's a hard to get to populations. There's a homeless population, but also workers in manufacturing facilities, they like to have one shot and be done with it. And so that's a very, very useful tool. I'm anxious for it to get back in production, get to get in is being produced. But to get back where the pause is lifted. I was on the call of the White House. I urge them as to the urgency of that, and hopefully they can complete their review quickly. I know that Dr. Romero has a unique perspective on that, would you want to comment Dr. Romero?
So we understand that there may be persons that have some hesitancy because of the vaccine being on pause. But But overall, we believe that the public will appreciate this as another reminder that the vaccine safety system in this country is working and is robust. We will meet again on Friday, the full hcip membership and the liaisons to discuss this and see if we have enough information on the benefit risk ratio, and whether there have been new cases. We've we're scheduled to meet all day on Friday, and there will be some workgroup meetings before that time. As you may also know that the Janssen vaccine right now also it has a pause on it because of the FDA and the factory where it's being produced. And that is another factor in this at this time, but it is not due to safety issues. So I think we'll be able to be resume the use.
Governor, this is Chelsea Helms with KNWA and Fox 24 in Fayetteville. I have two quick questions for you. The first we know it takes about two weeks from the time someone gets their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to be actually considered vaccinated. So I just wanted to know if you could confirm if is this what's reflected on the ADH data that's released daily? Are those fully vaccinated numbers coming two weeks after a person's received that shot? Or is that counted as a second shot going in the arm? Of course, we're talking about the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. And then with that said, the next part of my question is you mentioned that when you combine the amount of Arkansans who are fully vaccinated with the amount of partially vaccinated Arkansans, we've got upwards of 41% of 18 and older in the state who have been fully vaccinated, Is this really a fair representation of the amount of people in the state who are vaccinated if certain amount of people in that number aren't considered fully vaccinated? Thank you.
Thank you. And we consider them fully vaccinated for statistical purposes when they have two shots. And so we don't put a timeline on it after that. So what we're referring to is those that have had both shots, or if in the case of the Janssen, they've had one shot, and they're considered fully vaccinated. And yes, I think that's informative. That's the best way we can demonstrate that the percent of Arkansans that are vaccinated fully, and it's also the same measuring stick that is used nationally. So it's the same level of information that's very comparable to what's being done nationally. Next question.
Governor, this is Jamie Weiss with 402/9 News. I've got two questions for you as well. First is at the beginning of the press conference, you mentioned you had broken down, which rknasans have been vaccinated based off ethnicity. I was curious if you have any data about the arshalese community since that was a population that was very hardly hit by COVID-19 through the past year. And then my other question is, especially within the last month and a half before all Arkansans became eligible to get the vaccine. We did see a lot of folks heading to Oklahoma or Missouri to get their vaccine. had that been updated in the data to show how many Arkansans are considered vaccinated?
That's a good question in terms of the Marshalese sometimes we have this statistic of the Pacific Islanders, which includes the Marshalese. I did not present that today. We have that information, but we'll have to present that another occasion. The information I have from my conversations in Northwest Arkansas is that they're working very hard to get the Marshalese population vaccinated and making sure that they have particular clinics designated for them. The second part of the question help me out again, what was the second part?
Yes, Governor, we know that more so in February and March, a lot of Arkansans would travel to Oklahoma or Missouri to get the COVID-19 vaccine - Earlier eligibility. Do you know if that has been reflected in our state's numbers?
... Help me I need to have my statisticians here. Alright, Dr. Romero.
So I have reached out to some of my counterparts in different states, and they have acquired some of the information. We don't have that information for all the states. But we've given, they've been given, we've been given some of the data from some of the states. And we are adding that back in so that we do have some of that and hopefully be able to get most more of it as we go forward.
So So correct me if I'm wrong, but that means that we don't automatically get the information. If Arkansan goes to Oklahoma, or to Dallas and get their shot. We have to work hard to get that data and to ask for it. And so it may not be reflected in these numbers. That is correct. Any other question?
Governor, good afternoon, it's Neil Gladner at KZNG in Hot Springs, you started by talking about preparations in the event of demonstrations when there is a verdict. Is, has intelligence giving you any reason to think that you might have to reinitiate a unified command? And I don't remember if anything the legislature did keeps you from the ability to do that.
Certainly, I have the authority to do that as governor. Absolutely. And a unified command is what we set up. Last, I believe it was August, whenever we had the civil protest here in Central Arkansas. And so I have that authority. In terms of the intelligence, you know, we have without getting into specific details, intelligence that there is some unrest that is planned. And, you know, so that's an element of it. And of course, there's also the the civil protest, part of it that is exercising your free speech that we want to make sure that those who want to do that can do that safely. And so we're just acting out of an abundance of caution. And we wanted people to know that we are prepared, and that we have thought this through and that we do have a strategy and a plan in the event there is a challenge that we face. One final question. For remotely, then I'll come here. Was there any other question remotely? Alex, I think you've got the last question.
Regarding the variance. Do we have a sourcing on those? Are those those results of travel out of state or out of the country?
No, we don't have information of where they're coming from. It given the widespread nature of it, it's probably interstate travel.
Alright, thank you very much today. Have a good afternoon.