Arkansas long-term care facilities see aggressive testing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Healthcare Association says aggressive testing inside Arkansas’s long-term care facilities is leading to less severe spread of the virus.

“There’s a lot of unknown and we’re doing the best we can to take care of people,” Rachel Bunch, executive director of Arkansas Health said.

176 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in 34 long-term care facilities in Arkansas. Nine people have died.

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One death is too many, but Bunch believes Arkansas is doing a good job at controlling the virus in nursing homes.

“It’s just dealing with something new and so unknown,” Bunch said.

Anytime someone tests positive in a facility, whether it’s a worker or resident, the health department tests everyone in the building.

“When we’re testing all of them, we’re getting lots of positives from people who are not symptomatic,” she said.

Bunch credits this aggressive testing to why we haven’t seen extreme outbreaks.

“In the cases where you have a facility and there are quite a few residents there that are positive, we are going back and retesting those,” Bunch said.

But if a facility does not have any symptomatic patients, they are not being tested at the moment.

“We don’t have the resources to test all of those proactively. We’re hoping at some point we can get there,” she said.

Bunch also credits the staff, who are risking their lives daily.

“We’ve got staff everyday that are raising their hand every day and volunteering to say, ‘I’m going to be there in the front lines and take care of these people,'” she said.

102 workers in long-term facilities have tested positive.

“If a worker tests positive for COVID, they’re sent home and we bring in more workers,” Bunch said.

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Because more workers are being brought in, there are still enough people to care for residents. Bunch said these workers have been crucial for minimizing the spread of the virus.

“Even though it’s a scary time, they’re proud to do it and go to work every day and take care of their patients,” she said.