Fewer than one percent of Arkansans have been tested for COVID-19. That puts the state below Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma to name a few neighbors.
That might sound a little surprising considering the good-news-review coming from some of our elected officials every day. But with pressure from political leaders like Asa Hutchinson and Donald Trump to re-open the economy it’s more important than ever that we have actual testing data in Arkansas.
Elected leaders should listen to Arkansans. The testing is simply not available, no matter how many times politicians say it is.
Alicia Austin said that when her 6-year-old daughter’s sore throat expanded to a cough and a 103-degree fever, she took her to the pediatrician for a flu and strep test. Both were negative. When her daughter began coughing so bad her inhaler wasn’t helping, she took her to the emergency room at Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock. An X-ray showed that her lungs were cleared, so she was sent home with steroid. “I asked both Children’s Hospital and her doctor about a covid-19 test, but they said kids weren’t getting it and we were refused a test,” Austin said.
Arkansas has tested a lower percentage of its residents for coronavirus than all of its neighbors but Texas, according to a comparison by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The state’s guidelines for testing have broadened in the past three months, but still, obtaining a test depends on where in Arkansas a person is. As of Monday afternoon, Arkansas had tested more than 26,000 people. With a population of about 3 million, that means fewer than 1% of state residents have been tested for the virus.
Public health officials are recommending Arkansas needs to more than triple its testing before it’s safe to re-open the economy.