Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday (March 12) named Marie Holder of Little Rock to the Arkansas Highway Commission, and the governor confirmed five more potential cases of coronavirus.
Additionally, Hutchinson announced he is closing schools for the next two weeks in four counties: Pulaski, Saline, Jefferson and Grant.
Holder was a consultant to Hutchinson’s re-election campaign and is the CEO of Holder Consulting. She will serve out the remainder of the term of Highway Commissioner Tom Schueck, who died earlier this month. Schueck’s term was slated to end at the end of 2020. Hutchinson said he would re-appoint Holder to a new 10-year term in January 2021.
Holder has served as a board member and consumer representative on the Arkansas State Medical Board and a fellow of the Federation of State Medical Boards since 2016. Prior to her time with Holder Consulting, she worked as the executive director and communications director of the Republican Party of Arkansas and as the deputy press secretary for former U.S. Senator Trent Lott, R-Miss.
Holder graduated from the University of Mississippi. She serves as an elder and has formerly served as a deacon at the Second Presbyterian Church. She is the chairwoman of the board at Second Presbyterian Preschool and a volunteer with Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary and Girl Scouts of America. She resides in Little Rock with her husband, Ryan, and her children, Alexandra and Katherine.
On Wednesday, the Highway Commission selected Robert Moore as chairman and Alec Farmer as vice-chairman.
CORONAVIRUS & MORE
Five new “presumptive” cases of coronavirus were confirmed by the governor in the press conference on Thursday. Hutchinson said people connected to those cases, plus one announced yesterday, have made contacts in Pulaski, Jefferson, Saline and Grant counties.
Presumptive cases have been confirmed by state testing, but a second test is also warranted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those results have not been returned yet.
“The last 48 hours has been a whirlwind,” the governor said.
“Out of an abundance of caution … the schools in those four counties should be closed for the next two weeks,” Hutchinson said.
Health officials said that four of the five new presumptive cases had contact with yesterday’s confirmed Pine Bluff patient. A fifth patient came in contact with a coronavirus patient in another state. Some of the cases involve children, but none of the new patients are requiring hospitalization at this time.
“They’re all at home,” Nate Smith, Secretary of Health, said.
Today, 135 people are being monitored in the state of Arkansas, health officials said. That does not mean all have coronavirus, but they either have symptoms or have come in contact with coronavirus patients and could be susceptible.
Smith said he couldn’t give an exact number of how many tests have been administered by the state, but capability has nearly doubled from last week’s roughly 20 test kits at a time.
“Resources are not the issue,” Smith said. “Availability of the assets we need is the greatest issue.”
He said that includes the preventative equipment necessary for health care workers to interact with potential virus patients. Smith said more capacity was needed for screening, not test kits.
“At this point, capacity means more sites that can collect those specimens and send them off to a lab… that’s where the bottleneck is right now,” he said.