Dr. Gary Wheeler at Little Rock City Hall (file photo)

Two officials with the Arkansas Department of Health announced in two separate meetings today on state preparation for a possible coronavirus outbreak that the agency has had to visit two individuals being monitored for the virus with warrants to drive home the importance of their quarantine.

Dr. Gary Wheeler, speaking after a press conference at City Hall where Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced the formation of a coronavirus task force, said the warrants orders were delivered to people’s homes by local law enforcement. He said the agency took the step because there were individuals “not taking [the monitoring] seriously. This was a way of impressing on them how serious it was.”

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Wheeler said no one has flaunted the warrant, and he was unclear on what steps would happen should they ignore the quarantine mandate.

Under state law, the state secretary of health and the state board of health can issue orders of quarantine and isolation, health department spokesperson Meg Mirivel said; courts issue the warrants.

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Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, medical director for immunizations at the health department, and medical personnel from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital held a noon question and answer session today at UAMS. Dillaha said the health department has the ability to run 20 tests a day and has “sufficient tests to do 2,000 total at this time.” A spokeswoman for the health department said yesterday that the lab has been able to automate some of the testing process, allowing them to do more, though she put the estimate at 10 a day. Two commercial laboratories, Quest and Lab Corp, now have the capability to test for the virus; they are to provide results to the health department.

Other members of the city task force on COVID-19 are City Director Dean Kumpuris; Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS; Dr. Gerry Jones, chief medical officer at CHI St. Vincent; Dr. Jared Capouya, vice president of quality and safety at Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Adam Head, CEO of CARTI; Dr. Amanda Novak of Baptist Health; Dr. Gary Wheeler, senior medical advisor to the state Department of Health; and Greg Crain, president of Baptist Health Little Rock Campus.

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CLARIFICATION: The health department said only orders, not warrants, have been delivered so far.