Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells announced a partnership to help increase the state’s testing capacity during the COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.

The governor said that when the pandemic started six months ago, the Arkansas Department of Health had one machine that could do 20 Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests per day.

In the past six months, the capacity has increased to around 3,000 tests per day in the public health units.

Following inconsistent testing from commercial labs – strong testing numbers in June that decreased in July and August, Hutchinson said the state saw the need to “control its own destiny” when it comes to testing. He said the partnership will increase the state’s testing capacity by 20 percent. He said 50 percent of the PCR tests the ADH receives will got to Baptist Health for analysis.

Wells said the partnership will be mutually beneficial.

“The state is providing the equipment and Baptist Health will provide the technical resources to run that equipment 24/7,” Wells said. “This will add some needed capacity to our in-state testing. It’s a way to use our collective resources to better serve Arkansas.”

Baptist Health will use the equipment for its own testing when it’s not in use for ADH tests.

The equipment has been ordered and is expected to be in hand and operational by Oct. 1, Wells said.

The state completed 5,208 PCR tests and 699 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours, the governor said Wednesday afternoon.

The state added 385 positive PCR tests and 114 presumptive positive antigen tests, which are not included in the state’s cumulative total until after those positives are confirmed with a PCR test, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Since the start of the pandemic, 928 Arkansans have died as a result of COVID-19.

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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