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LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday urged pharmacies, hospitals and other providers in the state to schedule extra hours this weekend for coronavirus vaccinations to make up for a slowdown because of this week's snowstorms.

The state has seen a slowdown in vaccinations, testing and new coronavirus cases because of this week's winter weather. The governor also urged people who are eligible for the vaccine to make an appointment.

"It is critical to get our vaccines out as quickly as possible, and we have to catch up on the missed appointments and slow vaccine distribution over the last week," he said in a statement. Hutchinson has said the state needs to vaccinate more people aged 70 and older before expanding the vaccine program to others.

The state Health Department on Thursday reported that 498,158 of the 752,525 coronavirus vaccine doses the state has received have been given so far.

The head of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association said its network of community pharmacies is reporting they have adequate capacity to double or triple their appointment slots during the next two weeks.

Arkansas reported 268 new virus cases on Friday, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 314,713. The Department of Health said COVID-19 deaths rose by 13 to 5,336 and hospitalizations increased by five to 630.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Arkansas has decreased by nearly 72%, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

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