Port Arthur declares public health emergency, limits gatherings of 50 or more

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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The city of Port Arthur declared a public health emergency Tuesday, with city leaders prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more persons at public facilities in response to the coronavirus pandemic, mirroring an amended order from Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.

The declaration of a health emergency, Mayor Thurman Bartie said, would allow city health officials to write a citation against a person who has been tested positive for coronavirus and told to be quarantined but goes against the health official’s order. Violation of such an order or the 50-person maximum at a public facility can result in fines of up to $2,000 at the discretion of the municipal court judge.

The order does not apply to gatherings at private facilities such as places of worship, but council members urged residents to use caution with such an event.

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“We’re just being apropos for discouraging anything over 50 persons, houses of worship and things of that nature,” Bartie said. “… We don’t want our citizens in Port Arthur to think you have a free ride. There have not been any positive cases [of coronavirus] in Port Arthur because of an inability to test for these cases in Port Arthur.”

Test kits for coronavirus are expected to arrive in Jefferson County by the end of the week, Jefferson County Public Health Director Dr. Cecil Walkes told The News on Monday.

Copies of the actual ordinances, which passed unanimously during an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon, were not posted online as final edits were being made shortly after the ensuing regular meeting. A third ordinance that amends the city’s personnel policy pertaining to attendance and leave during the emergency order also passed unanimously.

Each ordinance was explained during a recess in the regular meeting. Councilwoman Charlotte Moses said she was happy for the clarifications, adding local clergy contacted her believing their churches would be fined $2,000 if they congregate.


The city announced a number of cancellations, including:

  • jury trials in Port Arthur Municipal Court (none may be set until after May 8); and
  • a citywide rally and community roundtable for Port Arthur’s Census 2020, both of which were scheduled for April.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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