The state Department of Health will not release ages and other demographic stats on patients with COVID-19 until the number of cases reaches between 50-100, Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said today after the governor’s press conference at the state Capitol. Smith said the numbers are too low and could be misunderstood. Too, a large proportion of the number known now to be infected derive from contact with the first patient to test positive — the health department sought out more than 100 people — thus skewing the sample.
Smith added that the health department will be limited to a bit over 200 tests a day because of equipment and personnel factors. The department is trying to purchase additional automated extractors that glean samples for RNA, and has made a case to sellers for priority. Smith said the department is not worried so far about finding funds to pay for equipment.
Private labs, like Lab Corp and Quest, are also doing testing, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences expects to begin doing its own tests and lab work this week, with a quick turnaround of six hours rather than the health department’s 24 for results.
At the press conference, the governor listed the sites of drive-through screening for COVID-19. In addition to UAMS, they include Arkansas Children’s Hospital (children only), Baptist Health in Heber Springs and in Little Rock, Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, North Arkansas Medical Center in Harrison, St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro and Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. Conway Regional Health System has drive-through testing for patients referred by physicians. UAMS Chancellor Cam Peterson said the medical center’s drive-through hs screened 500 patients.