Gov. Asa Hutchinson has started a tour of appearances that will bring him to the Batesville Community Center Monday evening to discuss Arkansas’ response to the current surge of new COVID-19 cases and the state’s low vaccination rates.
Called a “Community COVID Conversation,” the first such event was held Thursday in Cabot with almost 100 people in attendance, the governor’s office said.
“This is a chance for me to hear your concerns and ideas,” Hutchinson said in a statement last week. “It’s a chance for me to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. This is the challenge we face. A month ago, the number of our active COVID cases and our hospitalizations had declined. We were increasing our vaccinations across the state. We were very optimistic about the return to normalcy.
“Then over the past month, our vaccination rate stalled at about 40 percent, and the Delta variant showed up. This right-left punch has sidetracked our return to normalcy.”
Health officials stress the Delta variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus, and the symptoms are worse. All three of the available vaccines will protect against COVID. The antibodies from a previous case of COVID do not protect against the variant, and health experts advise those who have contracted COVID to get a vaccine. The vaccine reduces the symptoms in those who do catch it, and 90 percent of those aren’t hospitalized, the governor’s office said.
“The state is wide open. We aren’t mandating masks or vaccinations. We know what we must do, and for the most part, Arkansans have done the hard work. The big task before us now is to vaccinate more Arkansans,” Hutchinson told the Cabot audience.
In his weekly radio address released over the weekend, the governor said someone at the Cabot meeting suggested the state offer more incentives to encourage people to take the vaccine.
Hutchinson said the fishing licenses and lottery tickets offered were “…worth a try, but we learned that the incentive wasn’t effective in changing the mind of someone who isn’t already inclined to get a vaccination. The most powerful incentive is the reality that if Arkansas doesn’t significantly increase its rate of vaccinations, we won’t be getting rid of COVID-19 and its spinoffs anytime soon.”
The governor added, “Education is our most powerful tool. The best incentive is to appeal to the hearts of Arkansans with the fact that taking the vaccination is the best way to protect family and friends.”
Gov. Hutchinson’s Monday appearance at the Batesville Community Center begins at 6 p.m. The center is located at 1420 20th St.
Click below to listen to his radio address from this weekend.
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