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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he’s been traveling around the state to combat misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines and to reassure residents reluctant to get a shot that the vaccine isn’t a “bioweapon” as the pandemic surges once again with the emergence of the more infectious Delta variant.
He said resistance to the science has “hardened in certain elements, and is simply false information” during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
“It is myths. As I go into these town hall meetings, someone said: ‘Don’t call it a vaccine. Call it a bioweapon.’ And they talk about mind control,” said Hutchinson, a Republican. “Well, those are obviously erroneous. Other members of the community correct that.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 49 percent of adult Americans are fully vaccinated.
In Arkansas, only 40 percent of the residents have had both shots — one of the lowest rates in the country, according to the state Department of Health.
And coronavirus cases are on the rise, hitting highs not seen since January, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Monday.
The governor said the state is at a “pivotal moment” in the fight against COVID.
“We have school coming up. We have a lot of sports activities that people are expecting and anxious about. And it’s important for normalcy,” he said.
“And what’s holding us back is a low vaccination rate. We’re doing all that we can. And I made the decision that it’s really not what the government can tell you to do, but it is the community and their engagement and citizens talking to other citizens and trusted advisers, whether it’s the medical community or whether it’s employers. Those are key,” Hutchinson said, adding that the engagement has resulted in a 40 percent increase in vaccinations.
During the CNN interview, Hutchinson was asked by host Jake Tapper why he signed a law prohibiting the state or local government from implementing new mask mandates in April.
“That was the will of the General Assembly. I signed it,” he said.
“At that point, we had very low case rates in Arkansas, and people knew exactly what to do. They were capable of making their decisions. And then we shifted to the emphasis on vaccination. And I really think it’s important not to have the current debate about mask-wearing, but to have the current emphasis on getting a vaccine,” he said.
“And so that’s the singular focus we have, even though our guidelines continue to say, if you’re not vaccinated, you should wear a mask. And that is the guideline that we have in place. But we don’t have a mandate, because that was held back from the legislature,” he said.