Low testing numbers continue to frustrate Gov. Hutchinson, says commercial labs are ‘slammed’

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 689 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson held his daily COVID-19 briefing held on the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (July 29) again expressed frustration with the low number of test results reported, but said he has been told by the White House that commercial testing labs will be able to do more in August.

On Wednesday the state reported 4,519 test results from commercial labs, and labs at the Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The number is below the 6,000-8,000 typically reported during most of June and July. The governor called Wednesday’s testing results discouraging, and said delays in getting test results returned from commercial labs may discourage some people from being tested.

“They (commercial labs) are being slammed by cases from all over the country. They are backed up. We’re not getting as quick a turnaround, and we’re not getting the number of cases from the commercial labs. And part of it could be that if people realize that it’s going to take a long time to get it (as result), it discourages them from going in and getting the test. We’ve got to turn that around nationally,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

In a recent report from The Hill, Quest Diagnostics said the turnaround time for non-priority patients is more than seven days or up to two weeks. LabCorp has said the average turnaround time is now between three and five days, though some people have waited longer for their results.

Gov. Hutchinson announced July 27 that the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) ordered 200 BD Veritor COVID-19 test machines that will come with testing kits and necessary supplies. They should begin to arrive next week, and officials have not determined where to locate the devices. A May 9 update from the Federal Drug Administration said antigen testing machines play a “critical role in the fight against COVID-19” because they are cheaper and easier to produce, but are not as reliable as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests used by most commercial and state testing labs.

The ADH also ordered two high output PCR testing machines that will double the state’s testing capacity when the machines are operable. However, the machines will require testing supplies which are also subject to supply chain problems.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 40,968 on Wednesday, up from 40,181 on Tuesday. Of the 787 new cases, 170 were from correctional facilities. There are 6,596 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 428 to 434. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 508 on Wednesday, up from 501 on Tuesday. There are 108 patients on ventilators, down from 110 on Tuesday. There are 33,938 cumulative recovered cases.

The top five counties with new cases reported were: Pulaski (82), Sebastian (43), Benton (33), Little River (30), and Craighead (24). The counties accounted for 34.4% of the new 617 community cases reported Wednesday. Chicot County had 152 new cases reported, but 145 of those were in the Delta Regional River Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Dermott.

As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 4,380,871 U.S. cases and 149,783 deaths. Globally, there were 16,810,315 cases and 661,917 deaths.