Gov. Asa Hutchinson

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday announced that the state had acquired 100 new antigen testing machines and had ordered 100 more with plans to prioritize testing at public schools.

Antigen tests quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or within the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hutchinson said the testing machines will be distributed to Arkansas Department of Health units across the state over the next three weeks. The state aims to conduct 10,000 antigen tests this month and 190,000 virus tests.

Hutchinson, speaking at a news conference at the State Capitol, said the state still plans to resume in-person classes with supplemental online instruction Aug. 24, though the number of new virus cases recently has been "too high." More than 10% of test results in the past week were positive.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has said that states with a positivity rate higher than 5% should reconsider in-person classes. Thirty-three states, including Arkansas, have a positivity rate higher than the recommended figure, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Hutchinson said he has received "tons of admonitions" from school teachers and is listening to their concerns about reopening schools. His comments came as a group of teachers placed tombstones outside the Governor's Mansion representing deaths that could happen if schools resume in-person instruction. The union that represents Little Rock School District employees teachers has called for a phased reopening of schools that begins with online-only instruction.

"I want our state to be able to move, at least at the beginning, all together [and have] in-classroom instruction ... everybody needs to understand that if things do not go as planned, you need to be able to make adjustments along the way," Hutchinson said.

State officials last month reported unusually high numbers of infected children in multiple counties.

The state reported 787 new virus cases Monday, bringing the total to 44,597. Eleven more people died from the virus. The death toll is up to 513.

The state conducted 6,357 tests. Hutchinson said he again asked the White House to help increase testing. He said he spoke to Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday and Pence told him, "We're going to work on that."

Monday marked two weeks since a statewide order requiring masks to be worn in public took effect. State officials have said the order could show results in as early as two weeks.

"If there is compliance," Hutchinson said Monday, "you'll start seeing a difference."

Virus deaths in Arkansas increased 83% last month. Hospitalizations increased by 84%.


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