An ambulance was deployed Saturday morning to the Anthony Timberlands lumber mill in Bearden after some "twisted" anonymous hoaxster reported that the mill was "full of people with coronavirus," according to owner Steven Anthony.
"I cannot even imagine how twisted someone would have to be to use the COVID-19 pandemic to settle a petty grudge," he wrote on Facebook on Saturday. "Just know that those people are in your community."
No cases of the virus have been reported in Ouachita county or in neighboring Dallas and Calhoun counties, according to the Arkansas Department of Health's statistics as of Monday morning. Teresa Emerson, director of the health department's unit in Camden, directed questions about the response to the state, where a spokesman said the Department of Health "has no knowledge about this incident."
Anthony said he knew of no employees at any of his company's plants that had any symptoms.
As of Monday morning, Anthony Timberlands plants were continuing to operate on a normal schedule, even though Anthony said operating was a money-loser at this point. "[We] can only do so if we have markets, which are rapidly disappearing," he said.
The Department of Homeland Security has designated the forest products industry "as an essential industry and requested that it continue operating a normal schedule," he told Arkansas Business. "Paper mills are desperate to continue operating, but will have a hard time doing so if sawmills shut down. I don't think they can operate without the residual chips that sawmills produce."
Anthony is resigned to the likelihood that COVID-19 will eventually show up in his area. "If we have an employee test positive, I don't think we will be able to continue running at that plant site."