The White House COVID-19 Response Team said earlier this week that an additional $1 billion has been allocated to purchase rapid at-home tests.
The announcement followed last month's $2 billion investment in at-home tests, which detect antigens, or the tell-tale spike protein on the coronavirus' surface. They aren't as accurate as polymerase chain reaction tests that test for the virus' genetic material, but PCR specimens have to be sent to a lab. The over-the-counter rapid swab tests can return results in 15 minutes.
While rapid test kits are widely available in Europe, shortages have been reported in the United States. Initiatives such as the test to stay pilot program the state announced last week have increased demand for the rapid tests. Four of the state's largest school districts are piloting the program that allows unvaccinated teachers and students to take the rapid tests in lieu of quarantine after an exposure to the virus.
At home testing makes it easier for the public to self-diagnose an infection but more difficult for public health authorities to track the spread of the virus. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said last month that home test results aren't reported to the Arkansas Department of Health.
"We have robust home testing now," he said. "People can actually go into the pharmacy. They can get their home test. They can do their test, and they can have that information for them without it going through the Department of Health. We do not have a mandatory reporting requirement for those who use home tests. There could be thousands of home tests being done we're not aware of."
As a service to our readers, The Sentinel-Record publishes updates released by the city of Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas.
The Arkansas Department of Health is no longer reporting confirmed and probable cases separately. The following stats were posted Friday on the Health Department's website:
• 501,518 cumulative cases, up 739 from Thursday.
• 671.71 rolling seven-day average of new cases, down 16.85 from Thursday.
• 3,972,047 PCR test reports, up 7,174 from Thursday.
• 9.3% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Thursday.
• 7,667 active cases, down 23 from Thursday.
• 2,088 active juvenile cases, down 71 from Thursday.
• 485,913 recoveries, up 754 from Thursday.
• 3,874,280 vaccine doses received, up 3,740 from Thursday.
• 2,974,587 doses given, up 6,958 from Thursday.
• 563 hospitalizations, down 30 from Thursday.
• 175 cases on ventilators, up two from Thursday.
• 267 ICU patients, down 13 from Thursday.
• 7,810 deaths, up eight from Thursday.
• 2,214 nursing home deaths, up two from Thursday.
• 15,721 cumulative cases in Garland County, up 14 from Thursday.
• 13.86 rolling seven-day average of new cases, down 0.43 from Thursday.
• 156,707 PCR and antigen test reports, up 225 from Thursday.
• 10.3% cumulative PCR infection rate, no change from Thursday.
• 152 active cases in Garland County, up two from Thursday.
• 15,194 recoveries in Garland County, up 11 from Thursday.
• 375 deaths, up one from Thursday.