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LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said he opposes government-mandated coronavirus "vaccine passports" to access services, but he also said private businesses should have the right to require vaccinations.

The governor echoed other Republicans' opposition to state-required proof of vaccination. However, he said he favored giving employers latitude to require vaccinations, comparing them to drug tests.

"I think you have to give latitude to the private sector," Hutchinson said, saying some venues may want to make vaccinations a requirement to enter. "As a government, no, the state is not going to be requiring or mandating vaccinations."

On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order banning vaccine passports by the state and some government entities, and an Arkansas bill filed last week would prohibit government-mandated vaccine passports.

The Department of Health said the state's virus cases rose by 163 to 331,261 total cases since the pandemic began last year. The state's COVID-19 deaths grew by five to 5,653.

The state's active cases, meaning ones that don't include people who have died or recovered, dropped by five to 1,602. COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by seven to 152.

More than 1.2 million of the nearly 1.9 million vaccine doses allocated to the state have been administered so far, the department said.

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