The state has received a commitment from the federal government to receive 90,000 COVID-19 test kits and supplies this month from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Weekly shipments of supplies should begin arriving this week to allow an increase in commercial testing capacity.
The goal, Hutchinson said, is to test at least 60,000 people before the end of May, which would double the amount of tests conducted since the pandemic began. The state health department had reported 59,995 total tests as of Thursday morning (May 7).
The governor said details on how the administration plans to achieve that goal will be revealed on Friday (May 8).
Dental work to resume
Non-emergency dental work will resume a week earlier than anticipated.
Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said officials held a conference call with a COVID-19 dental advisory group on Tuesday who convinced the administration to allow non-urgent appointments to begin Monday, May 11. A previous directive had stipulated a suspension of those services would remain in effect until May 18.
Smith said the decision was primarily based on input from the Arkansas State Dental Association.
“They went through some of the steps that have been taken to prepare and they felt that most of the dentists had adequate supplies of personal protection equipment and had protocols in place that would help protect their patients and their staff,” said Smith. “Not every dental office will be ready, but those who are wanted to have the ability to start seeing patients.”
The new directive comes with several conditions, including social distancing measures, face masks, and other safety requirements.
Smith said the health department with work with the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners to conduce unannounced visits to dental offices to make sure those conditions and safety requirements are in place.
Smith said the fastest increases in positive COVID-19 tests this week have been in the younger age range.
“I’ve heard from a number of people that this is something that only older people get,” said Smith. “This is not true at all.”
He said there’s been a 2.5% increase in positive tests for people between the ages of 18 and 24 since May 5.
Smith gave the following data for age ranges of total positive tests:
Age 0-17: 3.2%
Age 18-24: 8.3%
Age 25-44: 38%
Age 45-64: 33.6%
Age 65 and older: 16.9%
“We are very concerned for those over age 65…but the majority of people who have been infected in Arkansas are really in those younger age groups,” said Smith.
Total positive cases reached 3,568 on Wednesday, which is an increase of 72 since Tuesday. Of those, 20 were from inside a correctional facility, said Smith. Hospitalizations decreased from 89 to 69, and there were two additional deaths, bringing the toll to 85.