Postive antigen tests, by percentage, in August.

The chairman of the Fayetteville Board of Health and the city health officer wrote Governor Hutchinson and Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero yesterday seeking help to contain the “alarming” outbreak of coronavirus infections at the University of Arkansas cited last week by Romero, saying, “The situation is much worse than you reported.”

The two wrote that, according to reports from clinics performing point-of-care antigen tests, worrisome clusters of infections are emerging:

Starting Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Martha Sharkey, our City Health Officer, was starting to see both an increase in positivity in the antigen tests as well as emerging clusters associated with the University of Arkansas as well as local bars and restaurants. She passed on her concerns to the Board of Health, which includes professionals at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville as well as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. This resulted in quick action from the University as well as ADH, and major factors contributing to increased cases on campus were identified and are related to noncompliance with safety guidelines within some of our residential student organizations and non-sanctioned large student group activities being held. … While we appreciate the local data provided by the Arkansas Center for Health Initiatives, it does not included antigen test results. Since a significant number of these antigen tests are being run in our community, it is critical that we have the full reporting of these test results …

The letter is signed by Dr. Hershey Garner, chair of the city’s board of health, and City Health Officer Dr. Sharkey, a pediatrician.

Numbers are not being provided, the ADH says, because they may be duplicates of numbers reported from PCR tests. Governor Hutchinson said at today’s COVID-19 update that the situation in Arkansas is not yet a “challenge,” and that 95 percent of the people on campus are wearing masks.

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Yesterday, the governor announced a cumulative total of antigen tests for August — 4,644 — but did not report the number of positives or where the tests were taken. He did say the percentage of positives among those who get results from antigen testing was 17 percent on average, but it’s unknown what numbers he took into account to reach that percentage.

Also at the update, Romero announced that ADH is performing tests from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. through Thursday, Sept. 3 at the Baum Stadium lot at the University in Fayetteville. The ADH will also test Wednesday from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Jefferson County Health Unit, 2306 Rike Drive in Pine Bluff, and Thursday from 3-7 p.m. at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, 4-8 p.m. at the Garland County Library, and 3-6 p.m. at the Paragould Community Center, 3404 Linwood Drive.

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