Arkansas has lifted its mask mandate and made everyone aged 16 and older eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said on Tuesday that businesses, such as restaurants and stores, will have the option to require masks on their premises  and implored residents to respect those decisions. 

‘Please be respectful and mindful that while the mask mandate is lifted, there will be many that continue to wear it, many businesses will continue to require it,’ he said. 

‘Be respectful of that and if you don’t want to comply with that, then you have options to go somewhere else.’

In additional, all residents in Arkansas are now eligible for vaccinations. making Wyoming the only state that has not announced plans to expand access to all adults. 

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson lifted the state’s mask mandate on Tuesday and announced that all residents aged 16 and older are now eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines. Pictured: A nurse at Pat Walker Health Center gives a vaccination to a university patient

In total, 11 states that are making vaccine available to all adults starting this week, with an average of 2.7 million being vaccinated every day

Hutchinson first implemented the mask mandate in July 2020 after the state experienced a surge of cases.

However, in February, he said he would end the measure if Arkansas met two benchmarks: a positivity rate of less than 10 percent and below 750 hospitalizations.

Currently, 164 people are hospitalized, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Local municipalities will be allowed to continue mask policies – although Hutchinson does not believe most will – as will local school districts.

Little Rock, the state capital, announced it will be continuing its mask mandate. 

Hutchinson warned Arkansasans to not assume the state or the country is ‘out of the woods’ yet and that precautions are still necessary.  

‘We want to make sure we stay in the right direction by taking these steps,’ he said.

At the same press conference, Hutchinson said Arkansas will be joining 10 states that made vaccines eligible to all adults this week. 

Six of those states – Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas – lifted restrictions for residents aged 16 and older by Monday.

Minnesota removed restrictions on Tuesday, Indiana and South Carolina will follow on Wednesday and Connecticut will on Thursday.

In addition, New York lowered coronavirus vaccine eligibility to New Yorkers aged 30 and older beginning on Tuesday and all adults will be eligible on April 6.

Of Arkansas’s 1.6 million doses, 1.1 million have administered, and the state will receive an extra 25,000 doses this week from the federal government. 

‘Get the vaccine, don’t delay,’ Hutchinson said. 

As of Tuesday, 96 million Americans – 28.9% of population – have received at least one dose, and 53.4 million – or 16.1% of the population – are fully immunized

According to the White House, 26 states have already opened or will open eligibility by April 15 and 49 states, and the District of Columbia, have pledged to do so by May 1, in line with President Joe Biden’s goal.

This leaves just one state, Wyoming, that has not yet confirmed plans to expand eligibility ahead or by the May 1 deadline. 

As of Tuesday, 96 million Americans, 28.9 percent of population, have received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

Meanwhile, 53.4 million, or 16.1 percent of the population, are fully immunized, with an average of 2.7 million people vaccinated every day.  

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