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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state of Arkansas is “losing ground” to COVID-19 in July after the state was “winning the battle” against the pandemic earlier in the spring.

Hutchinson noted that the current spike in COVID-19 cases is being driven in large part by growth in the number of cases of the delta variant of the disease.

Data shared by the governor showed that the delta variant has gone from being less than 20 percent of cases on May 31 to more than 50 percent of cases on July 5.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said the delta variant is considered to be 30-50 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant seen early in the year and noted that it is affecting younger parts of the population in the state.

The governor added to the explanation on how younger residents were being affected by showing how the average age of people diagnosed in new COVID cases has dropped by 10 years since November, with the average age of deaths from the disease falling by 12 years.

Romero also emphasized the importance of getting full doses of vaccines for the immunizations, noting that only receiving one shot if two are needed does not offer high protection.

He also explained that while some people who have already had COVID-19 may think they do not need a vaccine, the delta variant is proving that not to be the case.

Romero also warned that the delta variant is reaching down to more strongly affect children in the state, who currently have no way to receive vaccine protection, saying that getting adults vaccinated can provide a protective barrier to keep kids safer.

Tuesday saw 270 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Arkansas, bringing the total case count since the pandemic to 352,095. Active cases dropped by 107 to 4,625, but deaths grew in the state by six to 5,926.

Hospitalizations in the state from the coronavirus have hit numbers not seeing since before vaccinations were available, with 55 new patients moving the state to 416. Of those76 are on ventilators, an increase of 10 from the prior day.

The number of Arkansans fully immunized continued to slowly tick up, moving to 1,003,703, with 225,525 residents partially vaccinated.

Hutchinson said he is launching two new efforts to combat the growing COVID-19 surge in the state, the first being a new campaign to reengage employers to help fight the virus.

The governor said he is looking for companies to offer paid time off for staff to get vaccinations, to reach out to the state to improve access through in-house clinics and for the employers to be greater advocates of getting vaccinations.

Hutchinson also said he is kicking off a Community COVID Conversations tour around Arkansas to connect directly with state residents and push back against vaccine hesitancy.

These discussions, which will feature community and health care leaders along with the governor, will start Thursday at 6 p.m. in Cabot at the Veterans Park Events Center.

The governor also mentioned that Bradley County is the only county in the state to already hit the goal of at least 50 percent of its population to be vaccinated by July 31.