As the state of Arkansas continues to see a rise in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, there is also a growing concern around testing.
Both Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith noted the decline in the number of testing and longer wait times for test results due to the pressure on commercial labs as cases increase across the United States.
Although the state officials set the testing goal for the month of July at 200,000, there have only been 68,515 tests completed so far.
According to Smith, there have been 68,515 COVID-19 tests completed across the state during the month of July. The state has set a goal to complete 200,000 tests for the month of July, but the number has been lower between nearly 3,500 to a little over 6,000 tests per day for the past week with the majority coming from commercial and private labs.
“We are going to have to kick up the pace if we’re going to hit 200,000, but we have certainly kicked up the pace in the public health lab and we will continue to enhance our capacity,” Smith told Arkansas Money & Politics after Hutchinson’s press conference today. “We can’t do it by ourselves at the public health lab if there’s not some sort of progress on the national, you know reagents for commercial labs and our hospital labs will also depend on the supply for the reagents, then we may not be able to meet our target goal. But, I’m hoping that we can.”
Smith also said that the public health lab “will be adding a third, possibly a fourth, high-put instrument” to increase testing in the near future.
“The thing about our system is that it does respond to supply and demand,” he said. “Back a couple of months ago, we were only about 100 tests a day at the public health lab and now we are doing more than 10 times that.”
When asked about the state’s efforts to expand testing, Hutchinson said that he would like to expand testing capacity within the ADH.
In regards to commercial and private labs, he noted that “I think I’m becoming a singular national voice for utilizing the National Defense Production Act to expand and coordinate our national testing, but that’s a message I continue to push.”
Hutchinson previously mentioned “the need to look at the greater use of the Defense Production Act so that we can make sure that supply keeps up with the demand that we know is going to continue growing” on ABC’s “This Week” on June 28. The governor also said during his press conference last Friday, July 10 that the White House is “looking at that” and that he’s having those discussions “to strengthen that supply chain.”