FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Some Washington Co. elected officials said they tested positive for COVID-19. Two Democratic Justices of the Peace said they learned they’d been exposed by their colleague through a Daily Beast article.
Monday, Eva Madison (D) announced she’d tested positive. This followed Suki Highers (D), who’d previously announced she’d had the same result.
“I’ve been really careful,” Highers said. “I wear a mask everywhere. I’m vaccinated.”
Highers, who said she has mild symptoms, said she learned she’d been possibly exposed in a quorum court meeting last week. She said she learned from a Daily Beast article that quoted colleague Sean Simons (R) saying he’d sought out ivermectin treatment after testing positive.
“Honestly, I’m pretty angry about the whole thing,” Highers said. “I opened it immediately and it let me know that a colleague of mine that had been at the Thursday meeting had tested positive.”
Madison confirmed Monday she’d also tested positive. In a Facebook post, she said the Daily Beast article also informed her of the exposure.
I have tested positive for COVID. My only known exposure was a fellow Justice of the Peace who attended one of our meetings unmasked and unvaccinated. He learned of his positive result on 8/23 but declined to tell any of us. We learned about it Friday from an interview he did with a national media outlet. I do not sit close to him, and I was wearing a mask, but now two more of us have tested positive. I have been so very safe for my family and me for 18 long months, and now this. Please be safe friends. This is pretty terrifying, but at least my vaccine appears to be working.Eva Madison, J.P. (D)
Highers said she sent an email to Simons expressing her displeasure at not being notified, and he didn’t respond. She said he did respond to an email she sent her colleagues after testing positive.
“I’m so sorry to hear this! I will keep you in my prayers. I hope you have a mild case and recover quickly!” Simmons said in an email Highers forwarded to KNWA.
Highers said early notification could have had an impact.
“I wish that when he’d gotten his results, he’d have let all of us know immediately,” Highers said. “I know by CDC guidelines, he didn’t have to. They say 48 hours.”
Simons didn’t respond Monday for a request for comment. County attorney Brian Lester said there’s no contact tracing policy in place for the quorum court. He said Simons didn’t start having symptoms until nearly three days after the meeting.
“Based on the information provided by the CDC, he wasn’t contagious at the meeting,” Lester said.
Highers said she hopes this pushes a reinstitution of virtual options for meeting.
“I would love for the county to reinstitute the hybrid Zoom meetings,” Highers said. “I think right now, it’s dangerous for JPs to be meeting in person.”
In a statement, JP Patrick Deakins (R) said that’s unlikely.
“As chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee, I continue to monitor the situation but have no current plans to change our meeting format,” Deakins said.