Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke optimistically about the state’s COVID-19 fight Tuesday, saying that another round of new doses of the vaccine against the deadly virus were on their way to the state.

The first vaccines were delivered and administered Friday.

Hutchinson said that as of Tuesday 12,969 health care workers had received the vaccine since the state started distribution.

Next Monday, the state will receive another 23,400 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and 17,700 doses of the Moderna.

The Moderna vaccine will be distributed to pharmacies for residents of long-term care facilities, Hutchinson said.

But the governor also emphasized that caution is still needed. The state is working on a plan to prioritize the distribution of vaccines to those outside the cohorts listed, he said.

As of Tuesday, the state had a total of 21,979 active cases of COVID-19, and had seen 3,338 deaths — a total that jumped by 48 from Monday to Tuesday.

“The deaths, that number remains way too high for us,” Hutchinson said. “I am concerned about that, but it is the result of increased cases.

Statewide, 1,103 people were hospitalized, up 25 from the day before, and 173 were on ventilators. 

As of Tuesday, Ashley County had 128 active cases of COVID-19, and had recorded 19 deaths in connection with the viral pandemic.

In addition to tracking COVID numbers, the Arkansas Department of Health has begun issuing its weekly flu tracking reports.

For the week ending Dec. 19, the department reported that flu activity was “minimal” in Arkansas. Peak flu season across the last 15 years is on average in February.

A total of seven flu deaths have been reported this season, and the report notes that, “Nationally, the proportion of deaths reported to the National Center for Health Statistics attributed to pneumonia and influenza is above the epidemic threshold this week.”

Health officials have noted, however, that following the same guidance as is given to avoid COVID infection — social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask — can go a long way toward preventing contracting flu. 

Officials continue to urge residents to get a flu shot so that as the COVID pandemic continues to take up hospital beds flu patients will not also need them.State Health Secretary Jose Romero also urged people to keep Christmas gatherings small.“Limit your gathering to the nuclear family and do not bring in others,” Romero said. “We are seeing a lot of transmission in these small gatherings.”The ADH has previously issued guidance on holiday visits for residents of long-term care facilities.“Because individuals living in long-term care facilities fall into the category of increased risk, the ADH strongly recommends against families taking persons who reside in long-term care facilities to their homes or to gatherings for holiday events. This recommendation does not apply to residents who in the last 90 days have been diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19. However, because immunity is not guaranteed by previous infection, such individuals should abide by all precautions in this guidance and must also meet CDC criteria for discontinuing transmission-based precautions prior to a home visit,” the guidance said. “Instead of visitations in your home, we recommend visiting with loved ones at the long-term care facility either through outdoor visitation or in those facilities that permit indoor visitation. For families who will have high-risk individuals who reside in long-term care facilities in their homes over the holidays, we recommend taking the following steps to lower the risk of COVID-19 infection.”Nationally, the United States has recorded 18.3 million COVID-19 infections, and more than 322,000 deaths.

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