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Arkansas to increase COVID-19 testing as omicron cases surge

As the state sees a surge in omicron cases, the National Guard is helping pass out hundreds of thousands of at-home COVID tests to Arkansans.

ARKANSAS, USA — On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Governor Asa Hutchinson updated the state on the rising omicron surge threat. He says to combat it Arkansans need to wear masks, get vaccinated and increase the state's testing.

"Active cases have doubled since the last week," Gov. Hutchinson said.

Last week, Arkansas had 32,000 active cases and the state currently sits at more than 64,000 active cases.

Tuesday, Jan. 4, 50 National Guard members were mobilized in Arkansas to help hospitals.

"Freed up their hands to go help those who are in dire straits,” said Arkansas National Guard State Public Affairs Officer, Lieutenant Colonel William Phillips. “They are having to do intake forms and it helps speed up the process of getting people tested."

Across the Northwest Arkansas region, we have less than two dozen members. 16 are in Northwest Arkansas and four are in the River Valley.

“We are always ready and always there to help our Arkansans in need," LTC. Phillips said.

The state is also delivering its promise of 1.5 million at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits. Tuesday, the state received 211,000 testing kits.

Individuals will receive one test kit per visit. Families may receive three testing kits per visit. Each kit comes with two COVID-19 tests that can be picked up at local health units and some libraries in the area while supplies last. For a full list of where you can pick one up, click here.

"We started handing out at about 3:00 and they were gone by 5:30," said Jessica Reed, reference coordinator at the Springdale Public Library. 

Reed says it took less than two hours to give out over 1,000 at-home tests to residents.

The Fort Smith Public Library received 400 testing kits and ran out 20 minutes. 

"Call numbers for our staff has just pretty much tripled from the numbers we get,” Reed said. “I mean it was just constant pick-up ring."

The state is also working to increase hospital capacity.

"This will provide us with 265 beds," Gov. Hutchinson said."You can't stop living. You can't be calling for suspensions of public interactions.”

Gov. Hutchinson says that in direct response to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement’s recommendations discussed the day before.

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