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As COVID-19 Cases Drop, State Eases Restrictions on Indoor Gatherings

Gov. Asa Hutchinson devoted the first few minutes of his weekly coronavirus response briefing to the pair of winter storms hammering the state this week. He said the snow, wind and record-setting lows are combining to create the most severe weather situation he's seen in the state in his lifetime. As a result of the weather emergency, Hutchinson extended the National Guard's deployment through Friday in the event Arkansans need assistance. Around 100 service members are deployed around the state. According to the governor, the frigid weather and compromised roads contributed to far fewer COVID-19 tests on Monday and that likely why the Arkansas Department of Health only recorded 117 new cases in the last 24-hour testing cycle. Hutchinson also provided an update on vaccination efforts. He said the state has administered about 70 percent of the 658,000 doses of vaccine Arkansas has received so far and the weekly dose allotment is expected to increase soon. Since the spread of coronavirus has slowed down, Hutchinson announced the state would also be easing regulations regarding indoor gatherings. The state had required that indoor gatherings of 10 or more people must submit COVID-19 safety plans to ADH for approval. That will now be required of indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. Restaurants and bars will continue to operate under already-existing capacity protocols. Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero also spoke at the briefing. He said the state is yet to detect any COVID-19 variants, though health officials suspect they're already here. Romero also reminded Arkansans that they should continue to wash their hands, stay socially distant, and wear two masks as recommended by the CDC. To watch the full briefing, click here.

Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
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