LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that the number of patients admitted with COVID-19 in Arkansas had dropped to less than 1,000 for the first time since the beginning of last month.
The new data shared by Hutchinson of the Arkansas Department of Health showed the current number of admissions as 931, a decrease of 73 from the previous day. There was also a decrease in patients in ventilators, decreasing 13 to 142.
There were 1,149 new cases of the virus reported on Thursday, pushing the state’s pandemic total to 811,669. The state currently has 12,484 active cases of COVID-19, a decrease of 482 from the day before.
Hutchinson added that while it was good to see the decline in the number of COVID-19 patients in Arkansas hospitals, he was still sad to report 45 more deaths to the state census, which now stands at 10,235.
Health authorities offered a breakdown of the most recently reported deaths, which showed that out of 619 deaths in the last month, 467 of them, 75.4%, were people aged 65 or older.
The governor pointed to the increase in vaccinations seen in the state and noted that over the last 24 hours, 4,019 doses had been administered. The number of fully vaccinated residents of Arkansas rose to 1,560,933, while a further 370,506 had partial immunity.
Hutchinson noted that there will no longer be a daily report on COVID-19 case numbers released by his office, noting that the benchmark was passed with hospital admissions falling to less than 1,000. He noted that the numbers will still be updated daily on the ADH COVID-19 dashboard.
The governor also weighed in on the issue in the Canadian capital Ottawa, where a convoy of tractor and trailer drivers has been protesting for days, shutting down the city. Hutchinson reiterated his opposition to the mandates required of drivers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border, saying he sent letters to both Pres. Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are urging them to let the private sector set its own mandate rules.
Hutchinson began the briefing with the announcement of a new commission on the status of women in Arkansas. The commission will be headed by Alison Williams, the governor’s chief of staff, who will be joined by 14 other commissioners, including Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson.
It will focus on studying women’s participation in the labor force in the state, especially in STEM careers, as well as examining barriers to getting women into the labor force. It will compile the results into recommendations and a final report that will be presented to the governor in December.
The governor also announced a cost-of-living adjustment of 2% for government employees. Hutchinson said government economic indicators gave him confidence to take this step, which will take effect in pay slips from February 25th.
He noted that these wage increases were issued in response to the record-high inflation levels seen in the United States and that the adjustments were not in place of merit increases for employees. The governor did not have a total for the number of civil servants affected by this increase and no total cost of the adjustment was announced.
Hutchinson also announced a new boost in funding for the Arkansas School of the Deaf and the Arkansas School of the Blind. The $ 6 million will come from discretionary funds and will be used to improve the water and power supply to the schools as well as pay for a new health building to be shared by the schools.