Arkansas one of 10 states in testing consortium; State officials working to report COVID numbers in schools

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,044 views 

With no nationwide strategy to improve access to COVID-19 testing and ensure timely testing results, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has joined Democratic and Republican governors from nine states to create a testing buying consortium to be coordinated by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Gov. Hutchinson first announced the consortium on Aug. 12, but his office on Friday (Aug. 14) finally provided the letter dated Aug. 4 from the 10 governors to the New York City-based Rockefeller Foundation Chairman Richard Parsons and Foundation President Dr. Rajiv Shah.

The participating governors in addition to Gov. Hutchinson are: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (D), North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R ), Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

The number of daily test results in recent weeks in Arkansas has declined to often being less than 5,000 a day. Gov. Hutchinson has said demand from California, Florida, Texas and other states with significantly rising COVID cases has resulted in fewer tests in Arkansas and delays between testing and the availability of results.

According to the letter of intent from the governors, other state governors to join the consortium with “any final agreement or contract between a vendor and participating state will be subject to that state’s standard terms and conditions.” The letter also noted that the timing and size of orders for tests “will be subject to availability of funding/financing,” and the vendor or vendors must provide testing resources that “meet or exceed the minimum acceptable specifications.”

“Our entire nation faces a health crisis the likes of which have not been seen for one hundred years, and we look forward to working with the Foundation and working in concert with other states as we fight together collaboratively against the novel coronavirus,” noted the letter signed by the 10 governors.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 52,392 on Friday, up from 51,766 on Thursday, with 5,519 test results from the previous 24 hours. Of the 626 new cases, 189 were from correctional facilities. There are 6,359 active cases.

The number of deaths rose from 582 to 587. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 466 on Friday, down from 473 on Thursday. There are 113 patients on ventilators, up from 112 on Thursday. There are 44,602 cumulative recovered cases. The positivity rate was 8.9%, up from 8.8% on Thursday.

As of Friday at 1 p.m., there were 5,269,868 U.S. cases and 167,528 deaths. Globally, there were 20,995,929 cases and 760,889 deaths.

Gov. Hutchinson also said during Friday’s daily COVID-19 briefing he has asked Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key and Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr, Jose Romero to work on a system that will provide information on COVID cases within school districts. Talk Business & Politics and other media outlets have for weeks asked Gov. Hutchinson and his administration if they will inform the public of COVID numbers among students, teachers, faculty and others within the school system.

“I’ve challenged both Secretary Key and Secretary Romero to be as transparent as possible consistent with privacy guidelines so that we can provide as much information as possible in reference to any positive cases in the school districts. We want information that is out there, so that’s still an objective that we have that they’re working on and we hope to be able to refine that more carefully in the coming days,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Romero also said the Arkansas Department of Health is working to establish up to 10 testing teams that can be sent to school districts that may show signs of an outbreak. Classes for most Arkansas schools are set to begin Aug. 24.