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National Guard to deploy members around Arkansas next week to assist in COVID testing

UAMS Medical Assistant Latondra Ford sticks a swab deep into the nose of a North Little Rock Police officer being tested for the coronavirus in Little Rock on July 23, 2020.
Michael Hibblen
UAMS Medical Assistant Latondra Ford sticks a swab deep into the nose of a North Little Rock Police officer being tested in Little Rock on July 23, 2020.

The Arkansas National Guard has announced 40 of its members will assist with COVID testing in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Mountain Home, Pine Bluff, Rogers and Springdale. It is also activating 14 medics to help the state Department of Health at local health units in Clarksville, Conway, El Dorado, Forrest City, Lake Village, Magnolia and Star City.

For the fourth consecutive day, the Department of Health on Friday said another daily record had been set for new cases. 8,434 new infections were reported, pushing the number of active cases up by 6,541 for a total of more than 50,000 people being impacted by the virus. Hospitalizations rose by 41 to 933 statewide.

People have often been waiting hours to be tested as hospitals face staffing shortages. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced earlier this week he was ordering up to 50 National Guard members for medical support, with state officials working with the Arkansas Hospital Association “to identify the greatest area of need.”

The National Guard members, at the request of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, are from the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and are being sent “to help protect state residents and meet testing demand in the current Covid-19 surge.” In addition to testing support, members are also available to help with hospital administration and intake jobs, according to Lt. Col. Will Phillips.

The members will gather Monday at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock and then report to assigned hospitals on Tuesday. Their orders are for 30 days but could change based on needs in the health care sector.

Four Guard members are going to Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas in Fayetteville, four to Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith, six to St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro, four to Northeast Arkansas Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, six to Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, two to Baxter Regional Health System in Mountain Home, two to Jefferson Regional Hospital in Pine Bluff, six to Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, and six to Washington Regional Medical Center in Springdale.

The new activation follows 10 Guard members previously being activated to help the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences conduct testing in Little Rock.

The medics are being activated for 30 days beginning Monday, but the period may change depending on conditions.

This story comes from the staff of Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with KUAR News. You can hear the weekly program on Mondays at 6:06 p.m.