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Orange County to issue ‘Stay Home, Work Safe Order’

By I.C. Murrell

BEAUMONT — Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick and his counterparts from five other counties are strengthening emergency orders designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The “Stay Home, Work Safe Order” — which would be Jefferson County’s seventh amendment to its emergency declaration — will go into effect at midnight Friday and is good for 14 days unless lifted or extended. The order was announced just as the Jefferson County Health Department announced a positive coronavirus test involving a Groves resident between the ages of 35 and 45.

Orange, Hardin, Jasper, Newton and Tyler counties are implementing similar orders, as their judges collaborate with Branick in the Southeast Texas Regional Emergency Operations Center housed at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

The order spells out that playground equipment, gymnasiums, fitness centers, martial arts facilities, public recreation facilities including swimming pools and splash pads, buses and other forms of public transportation including worksite busing, picnics, barbecues, sand-bar/beach parties and other social gatherings including more than 10 people are prohibited. Outdoor recreation areas where social distancing of 6 or more feet is observed are still open, eateries that serve food by take-out, delivery or drive-thru may remain open and laundromats/washeterias may remain open while observing social distancing.

“This morning, the five county judges that are behind me and we fielded several calls with local physicians, particularly critical care pulmonologists and other hospital administrators,” Branick said. “We heard their points of view. As a result, we began work on a new order, which in Jefferson County will be the seventh amended order, in meeting and responding to the COVID-19 threat in the community.”

Port Arthur confirmed its first case of coronavirus, a person between the ages of 40 and 50, Thursday evening.

“We just want the citizens to know that we are on board with this ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ ordinance that the county judges have actively gone with,” Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said. He added he concurred with the medical advice the judges sought in determining to strengthen their ordinances.

Bartie added his city would disallow drive-in religious and worship services.

Branick returned to work this week from a self-quarantine after learning his wife Sherrie tested negative for COVID-19. He also expressed concern that some big-name retail stores were not obeying an order to allow only one person per family to shop at their facilities unless the customer is a single parent with no other alternative for childcare.

“People out on the streets driving to and from essential services are OK,” Branick said. “People taking a drive and not getting out of their cars are OK. People going to the park and maintaining distancing are OK.”

The “Stay Home, Work Safe Order” does not change verdicts from district judges pertaining to child custody, Branick said.

Branick urged customers of eateries and stores to use credit cards when ordering items as often possible to slow down the passing of cash.

The order is not a total shutdown, although a 24-hour curfew for youths unless accompanied by adults is still in effect. Gatherings of 10 or more in public and private indoor settings are still prohibited.

Those with COPD, heart disease, cancer and diabetes are strongly urged to stay home and allow others to provide essentials for them during the order.