ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas saw one of its biggest spikes in COVID-19 recoveries this week.

On Thursday, May 7, Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said the Natural State had an increase of more than 700 recoveries.

“There is quite a change from yesterday because we did some cleaning up in our books so to speak,” Dr. Smith said.

So what was this “cleaning”?

Arkansas Department of Health Deputy Chief Science Officer Dr. Austin Porter said the department wasn’t seeing the expected number of recovered cases and decided to look closer at its data.

“We noticed we had this large number of individuals who we were unable to get in touch with,” he said.

Dr. Porter said the Arkansas Department of Health actively monitors positive cases through a program called SARA Alert — it sends texts, emails.

“We even call positive cases during this two-week period to determine if they have developed any symptoms, or if they have been asymptomatic over this whole time period,” he said.

Dr. Porter said if they don’t answer, and the department can’t get in touch with them, their status changes from active to recovered.

That had a lot to do with that big increase in recovered cases that we have been seeing.

DR. AUSTIN PORTER, DEPUTY CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, AR DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

KNWA/KFTA asked Dr. Porter, ‘What happens if a case they marked as recovered, actually was not?’ and ‘What if a patient has complications and ends up dying from the virus?’.

“Those situations are very few and far between, fortunately,” he said. “They do their very best to contact individuals.”

Dr. Porter said he believes most of the clean up had to do with the department not being able to get in contact with patients who tested positive earlier on, and the Cummins Unit.

“We have identified those who have been admitted to the hospital and we left those as active cases,” Dr. Porter said. “Those others who were asymptomatic and who have tested positive for COVID-19, we went ahead and rolled those off as recovered cases.”

Dr. Porter said the department is very limited in its contact with the inmate population.

“We have to rely on the Department of Corrections to determine which of those inmates have admitted to the hospital versus those who are asymptomatic,” he said.

Dr. Porter said he feels much more confident about the state’s numbers as they are now, and thinks moving forward the department will have a better idea on where we fall as a state in this health crisis.

“We work hard to make sure that we deliver good quality data, good quality reporting to the media, the governor, the public,” he said.