As our state deals with the spread of covid-19 in the midst of a global outbreak, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will publish five things you need to know each week. We'll be posting these roundups in English, Spanish and Marshallese. You can read our full coverage at arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/. Coronavirus coverage pertaining to crucial public health information will be available for all readers.
Here are this week’s five important things to know about the coronavirus.
• Arkansas has recorded 323,756 confirmed and probable cases of covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to data available March 5. State health officials have reported 5,273 covid-19 deaths and 314,207 recoveries. Officials also reported that Arkansas has given 687,197 doses of the covid-19 vaccine.
• The number of Arkansans hospitalized with covid-19 dropped below 400 on March 3, the lowest since September. Citing a decline in new infections, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Feb. 26 lifted most state directives aimed at slowing covid-19’s spread, but kept the state mask mandate until at least March 31. The change means that restrictions affecting restaurants, bars, hair salons, sports venues and other businesses are now recommendations rather than requirements.
• Hutchinson on March 2 also extended eligibility for the coronavirus vaccines to workers at poultry plants and other food manufacturing sites. About 49,000 more people will be able to receive shots under the directive, and will get the bulk of the first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected to arrive this week, state epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said.
• The covid-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, a more contagious version of the virus, has been identified for the first time in Arkansas, Hutchinson said March 2.
• Arkansas on Feb. 28 also reported a total of 3,220 older cases of covid-19 as a part of a data clean-up. The cleanup also lowered the state’s death count as the Department of Health reclassified some deaths.