The Times’ Lindsey Millar reported yesterday on the lack of reagents needed to process coronavirus test samples at UAMS after Medical Director Dr. Stephen Mette revealed the shortage at the Little Rock COVID Task Force meeting. The dire shortage of test kits has been an issue nationally.
Testing for coronavirus requires several things: swabs, chemical assays, machines that extract RNA and computers that read the RNA. Swabs are also in such short supply.
Previously, UAMS representatives had said the medical center would be able to test about 200 a day this week, and perhaps three times that, once its own assay was ready.
UAMS Vice Chancellor Leslie Taylor released a statement today on the situation:
There is a shortage of supplies and reagents that is affecting testing across the country, not just at UAMS. For example, we have purchased machines to allow us to do hundreds of tests but we didn’t receive the number of test kits we have ordered to be able to do that. One machine has the capacity to do 144 tests per day but without enough test kits, our capability is limited. There is also a shortage of swabs to gather the samples. Today we are able to do about 55-60 tests. Tomorrow, if we receive the supplies we need, that could increase. We keep being promised that things will be delivered and then they are delayed or diverted.
Asked today about the lack of reagent at today’s COVID-19 update, Secretary of Heath Dr. Nate Smith said the Department of Health has also run into problems with a lack of reagent chemicals used to process the coronavirus tests. “That’s what UAMS, as well as our lab, try to have more than one platform, so if we run out of reagents for one test we have another testing platform that we can use to keep going.” Smith said he was encouraged by the production speed of new tests, some of which can also produce much quicker results.
On the roadblocks to testing, Governor Hutchinson acknowledged the need for testing kits, but said that “we’re getting enough tests to get a flavor for where we’re going in Arkansas.”