State Partners with Walmart, Quest Diagnostics on Drive-Thru Testing

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday a partnership with Walmart Inc. of Bentonville and Quest Diagnostics of Secaucus, New Jersey, to install a drive-thru testing facility in Bentonville that will focus on first responders and health care workers with symptoms.

Speaking at his daily coronavirus briefing, Hutchinson said people would have access to a mobile app they could use to determine whether they qualify to be tested.

“I am very proud of that partnership with Walmart,” Hutchinson said. “They’ve been working on it nationally, but they wanted to be able to bring one of their pilot projects here to Arkansas.”

In other news, Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston asked self-employed, gig economy workers and independent contractors to hold off applying for pandemic unemployment compensation authorized by the federal CARES Act, which President Trump signed into law on Friday.

He said the state is waiting on guidance from the Federal Department of Labor on how to process those applications.

At the same time, Preston said, website capacity has increased and more state workers have been hired to address the influx of unemployment claims.

Before the pandemic, the state had been processing about 1,000 claims a week. Now, it’s seeing 30,000 a week, he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Arkansas had recorded 584 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths. Of the state’s COVID-19 patients, 56 are hospitalized (90 have been hospitalized since the outbreak began), 25 are on ventilators (32 have been on ventilators) and 42 have recovered.

In addition, state parks will go to day use only on Friday, at the recommendation of Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, in an effort to limit out-of-state visitors who may be contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Twenty-eight other states have done this, Hurst said.

Cedar Falls Trail on Petit Jean Mountain and the East and West Summit Trails on Pinnacle Mountain will be closed as well.

Hurst said visitors will also be issued citations for parking anywhere other than on-site, approved parking spots.

The department’s staff and park rangers will work to disperse crowds, and some may be transferred from less frequented parks to more frequented parks as needed. Hurst said she would make new recommendations if these measures don’t curtail out-of-state visitors.

The governor added that he has recommended that the U.S. Secretary of Interior close the national Buffalo River recreation area over concerns about crowds. He said that on Tuesday, 60% of the visitors there were from out of state. 

Hurst said her recommendations were based on visitation data, the staff’s and public’s observations of day use and best practices of other states.