Effective Tuesday, March 2, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expanding COVID-19 eligibility to include food manufacturing workers in Arkansas.
Hutchinson is expanding the Phase 1B eligibility to include food manufacturing workers in the state. These workers in the meat processing, poultry processing, and grain and oilseed milling industries.
Based on state estimates, this expansion will impact 49,000 Arkansans.
Phase 1B eligibility originally was restricted to Arkansans age 70 and older, as well as frontline workers, including teachers and school staff, food and agricultural workers, firefighters and police not included in Phase 1-A, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, child care workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and essential government workers. Hutchinson expanded the eligibility to Arkansans age 65 and older on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Expanding eligibility to Arkansans 65 and older was projected to increase the number of eligible Arkansans by 115,000. Originally, state officials estimated that there were 400,000 individuals that would be impacted in this phase. With the addition of food manufacturing workers, this number could rise to roughly 564,000 individuals.
Hutchinson said that the state was making progress toward getting vaccines into Arkansans’ arms and that he wanted to continue pushing forward with a goal of finishing Phase 1B by the end of March. “We’re making progress step-by-step. Hopefully, that’s a word of encouragement for those in the 1C category that at some point in April, we want to get to you, and if supply increases, we’ll get to that sooner,” he said.
One of the most significant aspects of the vaccination effort, Hutchinson said, has been supply. Based on figures for Tuesday, March 2, Arkansan has received a total of 1,066,980 vaccine doses with 652,702 doses given out.
Arkansas will be receiving an additional 2,500 to 3,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Hutchinson said, from the federal government. This will be supplemented by a shipment of 24,000 doses of the recently approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
“That J&J vaccine is what’s going to give us an extra margin that we can move in and start with our poultry workers and other food manufacturing workers that we’ve identified,” he said.