People turned away as Washington County lags behind in COVID-19 testing

Local News

Testing clinic criteria for testing does not line up with state guidance.

Fayetteville, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — People complain they are getting turned away from COVID-19 testing sites as Washington County lags behind in testing data.

COVID-19 testing sites are swamped in Northwest Arkansas.

“We were prepared but probably didn’t anticipate we would be testing as much as we are now,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Berner with Community Clinic NWA said.

Berner says they do 400 to 500 tests per day. Despite those efforts, Washington County lags far behind statewide testing numbers.

Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson showed testing data for the area. Statewide, there have been 925 tests per 10,000 people. Benton County is even better at 1,200 tests per 10,000. But Washington County is nearly half that number at 625 tests per 10,000.

“They have the same availability in Washington county through their clinics, through their hospitals, through our mobile units that are there,” Gov. Hutchinson said, urging people to take advantage of testing resources.

Testing information posted to the ADH website

According to guidance on the Arkansas Department of Health website, anyone without symptoms who lives in an area experiencing active transmission will get a test. But in one of the counties with the highest growth rates of new cases, that is not happening.

“Those that meet criteria for testing either have been exposed or have a close contact with someone with coronavirus, or are having symptoms consistent with coronavirus,” Berner said.

State Rep. Nicole Clowney surveyed people having trouble getting tested in Washington County. She said the biggest barriers are asymptomatic people getting turned away and people without exposure to a known COVID-19 case getting turned away. For example, even if someone you work with tests positive, Dr. Berner said that does not necessarily mean you will get a test.

“Those are a bit of gray area. But then there are specific criteria about was someone in PPEor wearing a mask. How long were you with that person. What proximity or how close were you to that person? All of those pieces further develop or define what an exposure is,” he said.

Washington Regional has the same testing policy as Community Clinic NWA.

In a statement released to KNWA News, Director of Marketing and Public Relations Natalie Ladd Hardin said, “Washington Regional has based its testing practices by following the most current ADH and CDC recommendations for who qualifies for finite testing resources.”

She said Washington Regional has conducted more than 10,300 COVID-19 tests since March.

With these testing barriers, The Department of Health says it hopes to help with more testing events soon.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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