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County hotline starts Friday morning for COVID-19 screenings, medical questions

By Mary Meaux

BEAUMONT — County judges in Jefferson, Orange, Hardin and Jasper, along with some local mayors, addressed the media to keep residents prepared, not panicked on Thursday.

The group met at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont, where audience members observed, for the most part, social distancing while information was being presented.

A dedicated hotline has been setup for potential COVID-19 screenings and medical questions.

The number, 409-550-2536, goes into operation at 8 a.m. Friday. The call taker will screen the potential patient and if he or she meets criteria, they will be given a screening sample.

But, there are limited screening kits in the county — 450 at this time, though officials are working to purchase some from other areas.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said this is a fluid situation and what was known just days ago has changed.

“We ask that you do not present yourself at the emergency room unless you are in respiratory distress,” Branick said.

As residents make their way through stores, sometimes leaving nothing for the next person, Branick wants to remind people that the grocers are working hard to keep the shelves stocked. When people panic and begin to horde, it affects all of us, he said.

Orange County Judge John Gothia expressed gratitude for the cooperation across the counties as they work on a united front.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie offered thanks to God, saying what is being done — the emergency orders — are necessary, including the idea of virtual church worship, as there is a clamp down on events of more than 10 people.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in this for the long haul,” Bartie said. “Be patient and do what’s right and God will get us though.”

Officials are asking citizens to stay informed by checking dshs.texas.gov for daily updates, adding this is a fluid pandemic and information changes daily.