Editor’s note: This editorial expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat editorial board, which is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday made the coronavirus vaccine available to nearly 1 million more Arkansans by expanding eligibility to 1C, which was welcome news.
“It is important to move to 1C so that we can open up more and keep the demand coming for the vaccine to make sure there’s not any gap, and to give everyone the best opportunity to get the vaccine who wants it and needs it,” the governor said in his weekly briefing.
Phase 1C vaccine recipients include energy, finance, food service and information technology workers, as well as members of the media, the legal community and public health officials. Additionally, Arkansans aged 16 to 64 with pre-existing conditions that place them at increased risk of severe complications from a coronavirus infection are eligible to be vaccinated.
The reason for the early expansion – a slowdown of demand across the state, particularly in rural areas – was disappointing.
The Log Cabin Democrat continues to urge eligible recipients to get their vaccine as soon as they can. We also encourage the governor to go ahead and open it up to all adults, regardless of industry, health or age rather than waiting until May 1, which is President Joe Biden’s target date to have the vaccine available to all adults in the U.S.
Of the more than 1.55 million doses the state had received, only 902,981 had been administered, according to the Arkansas Department of Health on Friday.
Though the statewide mask mandate is all but certain to be dropped to a guideline instead on March 31, we want to encourage people to continue wearing them. We remind residents that even if the state no longer requires a mask, private businesses can – and many likely will – continue to require them.
We commend the Conway and Guy-Perkins school board for deciding to continue to require masks through the remainder of the school year.
We hope city of Conway officials will continue its citywide mask mandate until more people are inoculated against the virus. We are getting close to be able to resume pre-pandemic activities. Let’s not drop the ball now.