Positivity rate with nursing home tests at a low 0.9%; COVID-19 cases continue to rise

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,084 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Tests have been conducted among about 13,000 residents and staff in Arkansas nursing homes as of June 13, with a lot more required to meet Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s goal of testing during June the more than 56,000 estimated to work or live in the facilities.

The bright side of the testing, Gov. Hutchinson said Tuesday (June 16) during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Hot Springs, is there have only been 113 positive cases among the 13,000 tested – a positivity rate of 0.9%.

The governor announced earlier this month a plan to test all nursing home workers and residents in June as part of a broader effort to conduct 120,000 tests for the month. He said the increased testing in long-term care facilities was to not only identify and respond to COVID-19 cases, but also provide state officials with a direction in how to best reopen the facilities to family visits. At the time, Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said less than 5% of cases statewide were from nursing homes, but 39% of total deaths were from nursing home residents. The state is using LabCorp to facilitate testing in nursing homes. Following are the number of residents and staff, provided by the governor’s office, to be tested in June.
• Nursing homes: 16,000-18,000 residents and 20,000-22,000 staff
• Alternate living facilities: 6,000 residents and 5,000 staff
• Arkansas Department of Human Services facilities: 5,000 residents (no staff number is given)

Gov. Hutchinson said he plans to provide details Wednesday on when and how people may return to visit family and friends in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 13,191 on Tuesday, up from 12,917 on Monday. Of the 274 new cases, only one was from a correctional facility. The number of deaths rose from 182 to 188. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 214 on Tuesday, up from 206 on Monday. The number of patients on ventilators was 47, up from 45 on Monday.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 2,123,124 U.S. cases and 116,526 deaths. Globally, there were 8,084,369 cases and 438,399 deaths.

Gov. Hutchinson said the rising number of hospitalizations is still “manageable for us as a state.”

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), provided age demographics on Arkansans who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic was first reported on March 11.
• 1,357: ages 0-17
• 1,469: ages 18-24
• 5,012: ages 25-44
• 3,840; ages 45-64
• 1,512: ages 65 and up

She noted that while the 65 and older category is only 11.5% of the total known cases, the group accounts for 134 of the 188 deaths since March 11, or 70%. She said many of those deaths were in long-term care facilities.

Also on Tuesday, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said state jobless claims have fallen in the previous four weeks from around 122,000 to 106,000 in the previous week. He said there are about 32,000 in the state receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. He also said beginning in July, jobless claim filers will again have to note efforts to look for work.