ARKANSAS, USA — During his weekly COVID-19 press conference, Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed the need for more COVID-testing and COVID-19 treatments as Arkansas breaks records for news cases, active cases, and test positivity.
“We’re entering in a period of probably the greatest risk and the greatest challenges that we face during the pandemic,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said.
On Tuesday, Jan. 4, Arkansas reported 6,562 cases, the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. This comes as the demand for testing grows and Arkansas breaks its record for most active cases and tests positivity rate at 25.5%.
“Challenges that we haven’t faced before and so we have a lot of work to do during this coming month,” Hutchinson said.
Governor Hutchinson announced the deployment of 50 National Guard members in addition to the 10 deployed to UAMS in Little Rock. He said this is in an effort to reduce the burden of hospital staff and give them a break and reduce the waiting time for people wanting to get tested.
“Now is the time to increase that testing capacity and the speed of it,” Hutchinson said. “And that’s why we’re putting the National Guard out there now and that’s why we are also investing in at-home testing as well.”
Thursday, Dec. 30, Hutchinson announced that the state ordered 1.5 million at-home rapid COVID tests. This week Hutchinson could not give an update on the timeline of when they will arrive in Arkansas but says he is working with the supplier.
As more people test positive for COVID, Arkansans are looking for ways to treat their mild symptoms with treatments such as monoclonal antibody infusion treatments. However, the state says they are running on low supply and cannot receive more for the time being.
Hutchinson said the federal government is in control of the monoclonal treatment supply. Because the federal government is ordering so much supply, states must go through the federal government to get the treatment. The federal government is allocating the treatment to places they deem need it most and Arkansas is not on the top of that list.
However, Governor Asa Hutchinson wants Arkansans to know the state is working to get these treatments to Arkansas.
“We’re working very hard to get from the federal government the allocation of those monoclonal antibodies that we need to take care of the people Arkansas,” said Governor Hutchinson. “It is very important that that be ramped up and we get that out because that’s just necessary.”
When the state gets more supply, they will be sure to distribute evenly across the state but no timeline has been given of when more will be in stock.
The state says they are also in a low supply of Pfizer and Merck’s antiviral pills as well but are working to provide different treatment options to Arkansas.