LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced plans Wednesday afternoon for the distribution of Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid COVID-19 Tests.
Governor Hutchinson said the tests can give a quick response on positive tests and quick assurance on negative tests.
The tests will be utilized in schools, health care, Human Development Centers and the Department of Corrections.
“This is a new world for us that will give us new benefits,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This testing will give us a quick response on positive tests, but also offer quick assurance for negative results. We will utilize it in schools, health care settings, human development centers, and with Department of Corrections staff. Health care workers will always have priority. This is the first time we’ve developed a plan for broader surveillance testing. These tests will help us identify new cases in ways we haven’t before. You get results within 15 minutes. The tests give us more flexibility.”
State officials say they have 100,000 Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid antigen tests in hand.
Hutchinson said these can be used in school nurse’s office and no lab is needed.
According to state officials, approximately 50,000 tests are expected to be received each week.
The state also has BD Veritor antigen tests available through the Arkansas Department of Health local offices.
Long-term care facilities have a direct supply of antigen tests, according to state officials.
According to the governor, test results will come back in 15 minutes.
State officials say health care workers are always the priority and are prioritized on PCR tests that are generally handled within their hospital setting. Antigen tests will be used for health care workers as needed, according to state officials. They will receive 5% of the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Tests.
The Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) will receive 20% of the tests. These tests will be used by ADC staff, visitors and residents with public-facing job assignments. According to Arkansas Department of Corrections Cabinet Secretary Solomon Graves, facility staff within both ADC and the Division of Community Corrections, facility medical staff employed by Wellpath, IT staff, maintenance, porters and trustee-level inmates will be available for testing. Graves says the department will begin a phased rollout next week and plan to have the rollout across the department by the week of October 27.
State officials say the Arkansas Department of Human Services Human Development Center staff in Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway, Jonesboro and Southeast will receive 20% of the tests. Melissa Stone, Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, says about 1,800 staff take care of about 900 clients with profound intellectual disabilities. Stone says her division looks forward to being able to test 100% of the staff on a weekly basis. According to Stone, the staff is being trained this afternoon and they plan to begin testing on Monday.
State officials say 55% of the tests will be distributed to K-12 schools and will be used as a weekly screening test for staff. According to state officials, symptomatic staff will continue to have priority for rapid testing at ADH local offices. Education Commissioner Johnny Key said his department will prioritize schools that are in red zone districts from ACHI weekly data, schools with a history of modifications, may have current high case numbers and any emerging factors. The selected districts will attend a webinar. Key says the districts will be expected to have one trained person on staff, file both positive and negative results with the Arkansas Department of Health, work with ADH to order supplies, as well as take part in ongoing training and updates. Key says his department plans to identify the school districts by October 19 and the target date to start screenings is November 2.
State officials also said election workers will have priority at ADH local offices for rapid tests.
State officials say all participants will file reports on antigen tests electronically with the Department of Health.
You can watch the full news conference above.