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Arkansas virus hospitalizations, new cases continue to decline

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The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas continues to fall as officials push vaccines and work to raise testing numbers.

Officials logged 306 more confirmed cases and 97 more probable cases on Thursday. Hospitalizations were down another 25 to 372. Of those, 85 were on ventilators. There were 12 more deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 5,273.

Arkansas’ mask mandate is set to end on March 31 if COVID-19 numbers continue to decline.

The state’s testing numbers have risen substantially from Wednesday with 2,903 more PCR test results logged Thursday. Officials reported the results of 8,154 PCR tests and 1,331 antigen tests.

Since the pandemic hit Arkansas in March, there have been 323,756 confirmed and probable cases reported in the state. There were 4,261 confirmed and probable active cases in Arkansas on Thursday, down 17 from Wednesday.

“Most numbers continue to trend in the right direction: new cases and hospitalizations are down; vaccinations are up by 13,571,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a tweet. “This trend reflects our drive to beat the coronavirus. Let’s keep doing everything that we’ve been doing so that we can rid Arkansas of COVID-19.”

Hutchinson announced on Tuesday that food manufacturing workers in Arkansas can now get the COVID-19 vaccine. He also said the state is receiving 24,000 doses of the new single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. And starting next week, the Department of Health will begin to host a vaccine clinic in each of the five public health regions.

Of the state’s 1,118,410 vaccine doses, 687,197 have been given to Arkansans — about 61 percent.

The White House said President Joe Biden was expressing his “frustration and exasperation” when he said Republican governors lifting mask mandates and other virus measures were acting like “Neanderthals.” Nationwide, 28.8 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 519,000 have died.

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