Health care facilities will be able to test more individuals for COVID-19 under relaxed guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
ADH Secretary Dr. Nate Smith announced that health care facilities will now be authorized to test individuals for COVID-19 who display symptoms consistent with the viral illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms can include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Emergency warning signs of COVID-19 include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse or bluish lips or face.
Previously, testing was restricted to specific groups of healthcare workers and individuals of specific ages and medical conditions. Individuals outside of these specific groups who displayed symptoms could still be denied testing based on the previous criteria.
“Our testing criteria has been and remains healthcare workers, those in long-term care facilities and hospitalized patients, as well as those who have symptoms and are either aged 65 years or older or have underlying medical conditions or have clear risk factors, contact with a positive case or a travel history that puts them at risk,” Smith said.
“Previously, someone who was less than age 65 who did not have underlying medical conditions might have been turned away just because they did not meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing.”
Smith attributed this change in policy to increased testing capabilities in the state and shorter turnaround times in commercial labs. However, he noted that health care facilities should ensure that they have adequate supplies to fulfill the original criteria.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson heralded the relaxed testing criteria as indication the state’s success in managing COVID-19. He struck a cautiously optimistic tone, saying that the relaxation of testing criteria is a prelude to lifting emergency orders.
“That indicates we’re getting stronger in that capability,” he said. “That should be – is one of the criteria for removing some of the emergency orders that are in place now, that we have a broader testing capability.”