Testing glitch results in fewer reported COVID-19 cases; Gov. Hutchinson thanks healthcare workers

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,033 views 

A more than 30% decline in COVID-19 test results pushed the number of known new cases in Arkansas below 600 for the first time in eight days. A data “entry challenge” means results that should have been reported Wednesday will be in future reports, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

Results from 3,933 tests were part of the governor’s daily COVID briefing held Wednesday (July 22) at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. Wednesday’s test numbers were well below the average daily testing of 5,988 through July 20, a drop of 34.3%.

Gov. Hutchinson has also noted in recent weeks that national testing labs are not able to provide as many Arkansas tests results in a timely manner because of a growing number of cases around the country.

The lab capacity issue may not be soon resolved, according to officials with the two major national lab companies. Quest’s Executive Vice President James Davis recently told the Financial Times the problem is “our ability to get physical machines and, more importantly, our ability to feed those machines with chemical reagents.” LabCorp CEO Adam Schechter told CNBC: “We need all states to ensure we’re doing everything we can to better control the virus. If we can do that, then we’ll be able to have the tests that we need.”

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 35,246 on Wednesday, up from 34,655 on Tuesday. Of the 591 new cases, 7 were from correctional facilities. There are 6,876 active cases. The number of deaths rose from 374 to 380. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 474 on Wednesday, down from 488 on Tuesday. There are 107 patients on ventilators, down from 110 on Tuesday. Of the known cases since March 11, 27,990 have recovered.

The top six counties with new cases reported were: Pulaski (80), Benton (46), Washington (38), Craighead (33), and Faulkner and Garland with 30 each. The six counties accounted for 44% of the 584 new community cases reported Wednesday.

As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there were 3,925,025 U.S. cases and 142,401 deaths. Globally, there were 15,016,440 cases and 618,001 deaths.

Gov. Hutchinson took time Wednesday prior to his briefing to visit with nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers at Washington Regional.

“I just want everybody to know that I could see a lot of exhaustion and stress on their faces. Just the stress of dealing with very seriously ill patients, watching some of them pass away in very lonely circumstances, it takes a toll on you emotionally. I just wanted to thank them for what they are doing to save lives and the difference they are making,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced $3.2 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants to eight U.S. Economic Development Administration Economic Development District organizations across Arkansas to update economic development plans and fortify programs to assist communities in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.