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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke out on “Face the Nation” about the possibility of lifting the state’s mask mandate at the end of the month and hesitation to get the vaccine among Republicans.

“We need to continue to wear a mask, socially distance until we get the vaccine widely accepted, but you can do that two ways,” Hutchinson told host Margaret Brennan. “One is by a mandate or you can do it by public common sense. And so I didn’t want to have a jump off the bridge in one moment, so we have a ramp in which we want to see what our testing, our– our cases look like, our hospitalizations, positivity rate look like toward the end of the month. And we’ll make a decision whether we can lift the mask mandate and turn it into guidance and common sense as we said. I think the time in this pandemic for heavy-handed restrictions and mandates are going by the wayside so people can make good judgments. And we expect that to happen even after March 31st if the mask mandate is lifted.”

According to a CBS Poll, young Republicans in the state are particularly hesitant about getting the vaccine. Thirty-three percent said they would not be getting the vacccine, while 47 percent said they would or already have. In comparison, 71 percent of Democrats said they would be getting the vaccine and only 10 percent polled said they would not.

Hutchinson confirmed that has been a problem they’ve come across.

“We are seeing that problem and the poll numbers are troubling because in Arkansas, it’s a very pro-Trump state in terms of the last election. And so we see that resistance. Whenever we are opening up eligibility for the vaccine, we’re moving through it very quickly because we’re not having everybody sign up to take it,” he said. “What we’re doing to address it is having influencers who would need to broaden that to help shape the thinking. But as more and more people get the vaccine, they see it’s a way to get back to more normal life. They’re excited about it. They’re optimistic. So, I see those numbers changing. Sometimes someone will not take the vaccine saying, ‘I just want to wait a little bit longer to make sure everything’s OK.’ We’re encouraging them not to do that. When it’s your turn, take the vaccine. But at the same time, we’re going to move through the eligibility and then we’re going to have to come back and catch up because we’ll probably be at a 50% rate. We need to get up to 70 to 80% acceptance rate to increase the immunization of the vaccine.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 546,200 people have received their first dose of the vaccine and 298,535 have been fully vaccinated as of Monday morning. The state is vaccinating Phase 1-B which includes the following groups:

  • 65 years and older
  • Education
  • Police, fire, other first responders
  • Corrections
  • Food and Agriculture
  • People with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • Essential Government
  • Grocery Store/Meal Delivery
  • Postal/Package Delivery Service
  • Public Transit
  • Houses of Worship
  • Manufacturing

Those in Phase 1-A can also be vaccinated. That group includes those employed in the following areas:

  • Health care workers
  • Residents and staff at long-term care facilities
  • EMS, fire, and law enforcement who serve as first responders
  • Primary care, urgent care, college/university student health center, K-12 health clinics
  • School nurses
  • Dental clinics
  • Pharmacies
  • Home health, private care/personal care, hospice care,
  • Dialysis centers
  • Correctional staff involved in patient care and transfer
  • Morticians/funeral home staff involved in direct contact or conducting transports
  • Blood donation centers