By the Numbers

  • 1,923 cases (+142)
  • 93 hospitalized (+5)
  • 42 deaths (+2)
  • 749 recoveries (+28)
  • 1,132 currently infected

The erroneous White House graphic

Gov. Asa Hutchinson shared a graphic given to him by the White House that purported to show that Arkansas was one of the leading states in the country on testing. The problem? The White House apparently thinks Arkansas has 301,780 residents instead of 3,017,804. What’s worse than that? Either the governor’s office does too, or it has no idea how many people the state is testing for Covid-19.

Here’s the graphic.

It purports to show tests per month per 1,000 people by state. Let’s look at both March and April to see if we can make the numbers fit the graphic.

Arkansas conducted 5,794 tests by March 30. Assuming all of those tests were done in March, that would be .00191/per person or .191 per 100 people or 1.91 per 1,000 people. No where near the 50 or 60 per 1,000 shown on the map.

So far in April, Arkansas has tested 16,913 people. That’s 0.00560 per capita, or .56 per 100 or 5.6 per 1,000. I suppose, if the White House thought Arkansas had 301,780 people instead of 3,017,804 people, that would put us between 50 and 60 for the month. That fits – if they left off a 0.

Ok, so what if they were looking at mid-March through Mid-April? Well, let’s be generous and go ahead and include every single test Arkansas has done to date. That’s .00823 per person, which is .823 per 100, or 8.2 per 1,000. Even if we included every single test Arkansas has ever done, we would be at the bottom of the barrel among states on this map.

What’s most bothersome isn’t that someone left off a zero. Mistakes happen. What’s bothersome is that no one in the governor’s office or the Arkansas Department of Health said, “You guys, that’s not right. There’s no way we’re testing 50 or 60 people a month. We’re not even testing 10 people a month.” If the people leading this testing effort are this clueless about the number of tests they’ve conducted, what else is off the rails?

Trust in government, especially in what is being communicated, is one of the keys to effectively battling a pandemic.  When that trust is gone, we are adrift.

Prisons

The state continues testing at Cummins Unit, where 117 new tests came back positive today. That brings the total up to 465 positive tests among inmates. Yesterday, Gov. Hutchinson said the state is testing almost 1,400 inmates. Today, he said around 1,000 are undergoing testing. There are approximately 1,200 inmates at Cummins. The Cummins numbers are not yet all reflected in the overall state case number. Dr. Nate Smith, director of the Department of Health, said they are still experiencing a lag with manual entry on those cases, but that they will eventually all be included.

Testing

Dr. Smith said he feels like the state is doing a good job with testing. He said he is more focused on the percentage of tests returning positive than overall number of tests being done. (While the state’s overall percent positive is 7.2%, there are 23 counties with more than 11% of their tests coming back positive. Five counties have a higher than 25% positive rate.)

He said as turnaround times have improved, he wants clinicians to test anyone with symptoms. His words: “Please, do a test.”

Gov. Hutchinson said the goal is to move toward surveillance testing where the state identifies who has it and who has had it, whether they are symptomatic or not. Dr. Smith and the governor are creating a working group to look at how to best accomplish this goals.