Arkansans seeking a test for COVID-19 now have more options to find one as the Arkansas Department of Health has expanded its testing ability to its Local Health Units, located across the state.
The expansion, which began on Monday, means testing is now available at around 70 of the state’s local health units. The list of health units providing testing can be found here.
Anyone who is symptomatic of COVID-19, has traveled to an area experiencing active transmission of the coronavirus, or believe they have been in contact with someone who contracted COVID-19 is eligible to receive a test.
Don Adams is the center director for local public health at the state health department. He says though the clinics will allow walk-in appointments, calling ahead of time will lead to a shorter wait time for the patient and helps the clinic prepare for the visit.
"We’re going to try to test most individuals outside if the weather permits for the safety of everyone and we are doing something called a self-swabbing method. So this is where we provide instruction and oversight, and we ask the individuals to swab their nasal cavity and that provides the samples we need to send to our public health lab in Little Rock for testing," Adams said.
Adams says the adding coronavirus testing ability to these Local Health Units will help people who live in more rural areas with not as many resources as more metropolitan places.
"We’re hoping that this will increase access to individuals who may have had trouble getting tested in the past," Adams said.
Those who are tested will not have to pay out of pocket for the procedure, though their insurance may be billed.
With the addition of testing at the Local Health Units, Adams predicts an increase of around 200 to 250 tests done per day as a result of the local health units now offering testing.
While a story from NPR earlier in May found that Arkansas was not meeting the estimated minimum of testing required, Adams believes the state has made improvements in its testing ability.
"We’re averaging over 2,000 tests a day, which is a significant increase from where we were a couple of weeks ago. We had a testing event this weekend in St. Francis County and we tested 550 individuals in about a five to six hour period of time," Adams said.
Eventually, as testing availability increases even more, Adams predicts a loosening of restrictions on who can get a test.
"I do believe that at some point in the future, we may move towards anyone can get tested that wants to get tested. Right now the priority groups are what we discussed, with contacts, people that are symptomatic, people that travel," Adams said.