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Hutchinson: Federal mandate will harden resistance to vaccinations in Arkansas

Not federal decision, he reiterates; state cases up 1,116; deaths rise by 35 by Ashton Eley | September 13, 2021 at 7:07 a.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks on covid-19 vaccines during a town hall meeting in Texarkana, Ark., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. (Kelsi Brinkmeyer/The Texarkana Gazette via AP)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that President Joe Biden's new vaccine mandate is federal overreach and will increase the division over vaccines.

Hutchinson told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday morning that any government mandate should be left up to states, though he said he supports businesses making the decision on whether to require employees to be vaccinated.

[How is the coronavirus affecting you in Arkansas? Tell us here » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/form/]

His position follows Biden's Thursday announcement that all private employers with 100 or more employees will be required to ensure workers are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week -- affecting about 100 million Americans.

[DOCUMENT: Read the transcript of Hutchinson's appearance on "Meet the Press" » arkansasonline.com/913nbcgov/]

"We're all together in trying to get an increased level of vaccination out in the population," Hutchinson said Sunday. "The problem is that I'm trying to overcome resistance. But the president's actions in a mandate hardens the resistance. And we talked about the fact that we've historically had vaccination requirements in schools. But those have always come at the state level, never at the national level."

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the state saw 1,116 new covid-19 cases, which is about typical for Sunday report. Active cases, as well as people hospitalized and on ventilators with the virus, all decreased compared to last week.

In a 24-hour period, active cases decreased by 265, to 19,588, which is 3,755 less than last Sunday, according to the health department numbers.

Hospitalizations dropped by 13, to 1,118 and five fewer patients were on ventilators, lowering the total to 287, according to Sunday's update.

Another 35 Arkansans have died from covid-19, raising the death toll to 7,267, the state reported.

[VACCINE INFO: See the latest information on covid-19 vaccines in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/vaccineinfo/]

Washington County had the most new cases with 93, followed by Benton County with 80 and Pulaski County with 76.

Little Rock School District reported that in a 48-hour period over the weekend, it had 26 individuals on quarantine and 10 positive cases, seven of which are students.

The 5,188 vaccine doses given out were about on par with last Sunday and resulted in 3,331 more individuals becoming fully immunized.

"Our numbers continue to remain steady with what we've seen on the weekends," Hutchinson said Sunday afternoon in his daily covid numbers social media post. "Getting vaccinated is a choice we should all make. It's a choice that could keep you out of the hospital and save your life, and it gives us the opportunity to safely enjoy fall festivals and sports."

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

On "Meet the Press," Todd pressed Hutchinson about his support of businesses wanting to require vaccines but not for the government to give some cover to those businesses that would like to enact the requirement but are afraid of the blowback.

Hutchinson said no state had a mandate for businesses to require vaccinations, even in blue states. It would lead to enhanced distrust in the government, he said, especially in a state like Arkansas.

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"I support businesses being able to require vaccination. But it's their own independent choice for their workplace. But to have the federal mandate will be counterproductive," he said. "We're going to grow our vaccinations whether you have this or not...But this will make it much more difficult, and will increase the divide.

[Interactive Arkansas map not showing up above? Click here to see it: arkansasonline.com/arvirus]

In my judgment, we've been divided over masks, but we've been more unified in terms of vaccination. Not totally, but more so. But this will not help us."

As of Sunday, around 49.9% of the state's population 12 and up are fully immunized and 12.4% are partially so. The state reported that 15,714 people have now also received a third dose.

Unvaccinated individuals made up 85.7% of active cases reported Sunday, according to the health department website. Since Feb. 1, they have accounted for 88.3% of cases, 90.5% of hospitalizations and 87.9% of deaths.

Print Headline: Hutchinson: Federal mandate will harden resistance to vaccinations in Arkansas

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