A statewide campaign to encourage those with symptoms for the coronavirus to get a test is going into effect immediately and lasting through Saturday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced at today’s COVID-19 briefing. If you think you have symptoms, the governor said, don’t wait — get tested.
State health officials at the briefing said testing is available, and in fact, the state is not utilizing its capacity of testing.
Currently, testing for COVID-19 is averaging about 1,000 a day. The goal is to have 1,500 tests processed both Friday and Saturday. Commercial lab processing has drastically increased the number of tests that can be processed. Yet in almost the past two weeks, the governor said a decline in testing has been noted.
Officials encourage Arkansans who have symptoms to not wait and to contact their health care provider for further guidance.
The Arkansas Surge Campaign, as it’s called, will also help health officials obtain a better grasp on where the state is in its fight against the coronavirus. The goal is to test strategically and use the data strategically to help identify those infected and to help stop the spread, thus saving lives.
Hutchinson said his advisory group for testing strategy recommended increasing testing capacity and to concentrate on:
- Expanding testing as a whole for all patients with COVID-19 symptoms and those with a history of potential exposure, as well as contact investigations.
- Screen for COVID-19 in high-risk settings.
- And develop a strategy for statewide serosurveillance (tracking those who may have already had the coronavirus).
Officials said any testing site should be taking those with symptoms for a test without hesitation. Cam Patterson, chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), noted UAMS is committed to the surge campaign. He noted UAMS, along with most other facilities, is not asking for payment at the time of testing and any insurance questions should not be a hurdle.
Patterson also said the projected surge in Arkansas from national models has not happened, but that still does not mean citizens should let down their guard. Following all guidelines from the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control is still essential for every Arkansan during this period, Patterson said.
When asked if the state will reconsider the target date of May 4 for the possible lifting of restrictions if officials see a dramatic surge in positive cases during the campaign, the governor said it will look at all data, measured day-by-day, and make the best decision as the date approaches. Hutchinson said the state has flexibility on what can be determined and will look at a multitude of factors, relying on public health experts when facing the May 4 target date.
In other news from the briefing:
- Hutchinson says the system is being built and the money is available to soon begin handling claims from the self-employed affected by the coronavirus. The first week of May is the estimated start for processing claims.
- There were an additional 189 new positive cases reported since Wednesday. The statewide total is now 2,465.
- The dramatic increase includes an additional 122 inmates from the Cummins State Prison Barracks. There were 67 additional positive reports for civilians in the state. At Cummins, there are 687 inmates total who have tested positive and 35 staff members. Testing at Cummins is almost complete, according to Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health.
- Federal officials report the Forrest City correctional unit has 75 inmates who have tested positive along with 10 staff members.
- There are now 101 hospitalizations — an increase of four patients since Wednesday. Twenty-four patients are on a ventilator. That’s one additional since Wednesday.
- Three more deaths have been reported since Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 45.
- There are 174 patients in nursing homes — an increase of four since Wednesday.
- And there have been 902 recoveries — 39 more than Wednesday.
Get up-to-date local and regional news along with the latest sports and weather every weekday morning by listening to Gary B. on Ozark Newsline, broadcast from the First Community Bank Newsroom on Arkansas 103.3. White River Now updates are also aired weekday mornings on 93 KZLE, Outlaw 106.5, and 99.5 Hits Now. Have a news tip or event to promote? Email White River Now at email@example.com. Be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Add don’t forget to download the White River Now mobile app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.