By Jerry Jordan, Editor
CLICK FOR: Judicial Order To Fight Coronavirus Spread In Six-County Region
CLICK FOR: List Of Essential And Non-Essential Businesses/Activities
BEAUMONT, TX — In an effort to further slow the spread of the Chinese Coronavirus in Southeast Texas, a coalition of six county judges ratcheted up restrictions on citizens and businesses but stopped short of a “Shelter-in-Place” order in favor of what they termed a “Stay Home-Work Safe” order limiting activities for anyone not employed by an essential business.
The order impacts Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Jasper, Newton and Tyler counties, which has seen a total of 19 positive case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as of Friday afternoon. There are 12 cases reported in Jefferson County, six in Hardin County, one in Orange County and no cases in the other three counties. One person from Lumberton has died from the virus, so far.
“We have never faced a pandemic, so it is obvious under these circumstances, we have to rely on those where we can get the best medical that we can get,” said Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, during a daily briefing at the courthouse. “There has been a change from yesterday to today in what those medical opinions are.”
Branick explained there have been additional concerns by hospital administrators in the area about what a rapid spread of the Coronavirus could do to “strain their resources to the breaking point.” Those concerns come from what Branick said, were violations of a previous order limiting the number of people who can enter stores and other essential businesses, as well as, some people congregating together at parties or other events.
For the most part, people have done well in avoiding crowds and spacing out, he said, but there had been reports of groups gather at state parks, area lakes and beaches that were larger than the 10-person groups allowed.
Branick said he went to several stores including Academy, Target and Walmart, on Thursday, to see if the stores were following the guidelines he and the other judges had put into places regarding their customers. He said Target was in compliance but he found issues in other places. Academy was following the order but they had people “huddled up” together outside waiting to get in and Branick said, he had to meet with management to get people to space out as the waited to get inside the store. At Walmart, there were bigger problems.
“Walmart was not complying with the court order and I had a conversation with the manager and he assured me they would take care of it,” Branick said.
According to the wording in the joint order signed by all six county judges, those stores can be closed, face fines and other penalties. Violating the order can include jail time up to 180 days but Branick said everyone is doing their best to keep their jail populations to a minimum.
An attempt to obtain a comment from Walmart’s corporate media group was unsuccessful at the time this article was published. A visit to the Academy store in Beaumont following the daily briefing revealed people were spaced out as the waited to enter the store and an employee was at the door regulating how many people could go inside.
Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel said, it is not anyone’s intention to infringe on anyone’s rights and the county judges are doing the best they can under the circumstances to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. He said one of his jobs is to help businesses in Hardin County, so he is a difficult situation when it comes to certain businesses being closed.
On Thursday, a Lumberton man became the first person to die in Southeast Texas from the Coronavirus.
Officials opened a Coronavirus drive-thru testing facility at the Jerry Ware in Nederland on March 20. To date, there have been 399 people referred for testing.
Positive for COVID-19 – 19 Total
• Hardin County – 6
• Lumberton – 3
• Silsbee – 3
• Jefferson County – 12
• Beaumont – 8
• Groves – 1
• Port Arthur – 3
• Orange County – 1
• Mauriceville – 1
Confirmed COVID-19 Fatalities – 1
• Hardin County – 1
Total calls received by Call Center – 1,192
• 399 have been referred for testing (since call center opened on 3/20)
• 57 were tested at the drive-through site today