Jose Romero

Jose Romero

Arkansas officials on Thursday announced that the state will no longer require patients to be tested for the coronavirus before undergoing elective medical procedures.

Interim Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero said an analysis of virus data found fewer than 1% of cases linked to elective procedures. He said the state will now allow physicians to decide whether to test patients before a procedure.

"We think it is prudent, in some cases, because of the prevalence of the disease in the community, that physicians still consider testing their patients before surgery," Romero said.

Under the previous health directive, patients had to be tested for the virus within 48 hours of an elective procedure and could not be showing symptoms of the virus. Restrictions had been in place since March.
 
State officials on Thursday reported 791 new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 41,559. There were 6,580 active cases.

Eight more people died from the virus. The state's death toll increased to 442.

The number of patients hospitalized decreased by four to 504.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said that commercial testing labs have been "slammed" by a nationwide surge in demand, which has led to lower testing figures in Arkansas. The number of tests reported Thursday was 5,598, up from 4,519 on Wednesday. The state surpassed its monthly testing goal of 180,000. The goal was originally 200,000 but was lowered due to decreases in testing.

Hutchinson said the White House has assured him that commercial labs are set to "ramp up" operations and provide quicker test results in August.

Hutchinson has scheduled an announcement on contact sports, including football, for Friday. The state has prohibited contact sports but allowed individual workouts.

Certain amateur team sports including baseball, track and swimming were allowed to resume in June with health measures in place.

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