Hardin judge says Branick ‘setting example’ with self-quarantine; COVID-19 drive-thru detailed

Published 12:32 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2020

NEDERLAND — Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick continued his self-quarantine and was noticeably absent, as expected, from Monday’s news conference introducing a five-county drive-thru coronavirus clinic at Jack Brooks Regional Airport.

“He is feeling just fine, but he is setting the example,” said Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel, who along with Branick and judges from Orange, Jasper and Newton counties, head an emergency management team behind the drive-thru. “He feels like he has a possible exposure to COVID, and he has decided to self-quarantine. Judge [Kenneth] Weeks in Newton County has done the same. So, that’s two county judges who have decided to self-isolate for whatever reason, and I support them in that effort. They are trying to set the example.”

Many have taken to Facebook to wish Branick and his wife Sherrie well in the three days since the judge posted that the two spent four hours in a local emergency room. Jeff Branick wrote in the Sunday morning post that Sherrie had a fever and dry cough but tested negative for influenza and strep. The judge then made the decision to self-quarantine after issuing another amended emergency order that afternoon.

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Davilyn Walston, public affairs officer for the emergency management team, said Sherrie Branick was not experiencing any acute symptoms and added Jeff Branick was requested to bring her to the ER for testing since he deals with a number of people. The results were not back as of Tuesday.

“If her results come back positive, he will be tested, but he’s going to self-quarantine until those results come back,” Walston said.

Port Arthur Health Director Judith Smith explains the nasopharyngeal swab test as Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie listens Monday at the testing site in Nederland. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 3-23-20

Drive-thru opens; NP test described

The drive-thru, located just outside Jerry Ware Terminal at the airport, officially opened Tuesday morning and operates from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Those with concerns of coronavirus should contact a call center at 409-550-2536 and will be screened over the phone.

If referred to the drive-thru, each patient will receive an identification number that must be presented to the drive-thru upon arrival at a given appointment time. Those who arrive without the number will be turned away, drive-thru officials warn.

The drive-thru consists of three stations: a checkpoint, a triage where a photo ID will be requested and questions about coronavirus symptoms will be asked, and a testing station if the patient is triaged there.

“We will be doing a nasopharyngeal test, so when they actually come, they will have the swab inserted into the nostril halfway in between the entrance of the nose and the ear,” Port Arthur Health Department Director Judith Smith said.

“We’ll actually apply a little pressure, enough to get many of the mucus of the nose. After that, we will place it into a media for transport. The actual test does not hurt, but it may be just a little bit uncomfortable. We want the patients to know what type of procedure will go forth as they come up.”

From left, Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie and Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Michael White listen to comments by Orange County Judge John Gothia on Monday at Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Nederland.

Addressing concerns of spreading COVID-19

As of Monday, the Beaumont Public Health Department had confirmed six cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, and Port Arthur had none.

But concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19 abounded after Gulf Coast Health Center confirmed one of its “providers,” a Beaumont resident, had the virus. The employee, who worked at Gulf Coast’s Memorial Boulevard location, recently traveled out of state, and Gulf Coast closed the location temporarily as a result.

Gulf Coast advised the 18 patients who saw the provider in the previous week and employees who may have been in contact with the provider to self-quarantine for two weeks.

“If we continue to be vigilant, do what’s necessary, maybe try to dispel all these myths that are coming from these different areas and [commit to] social distancing, not gatherings of more than 10, whether it’s funerals or Bar Mitzvahs — some worshiping centers are trying to have more than 10 persons — it didn’t say what certain square footage, just 10 persons — if we would do those things, we would probably lessen those chances of being infected,” Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said.

Carol Riley, a Beaumont Police public information officer who issues releases on behalf of the Beaumont Public Health Department, cautioned that public health officials must adhere to strict confidentiality laws as they conduct investigations into possible coronavirus cases.

“The health and safety codes are what we follow,” she said. “We’ve been posting those and trying to explain to people there are things set in place to protect confidentiality, HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] laws, things like that, but we are also concerned with people who may have been exposed. Our public health departments are tasked with running the investigation. They go in, they do the questioning, they do the investigation, and they find out who they’ve been around, who has a chance of been highly susceptible to such an exposure situation, and those people are notified by the health departments. Those protocols have to remain in place.

“We don’t want to turn this into a vigilante research-type of situation. When we start giving out much information, then our health departments are in trouble for violating those confidentiality rules that are laws.”

Website established

The Sabine-Neches Chiefs’ Association has established a website that contains updated information regarding coronavirus and other civic services for Jefferson, Hardin and Orange Counties: www.setinfo.org.

For Port Arthur COVID-19 information, click on the Jefferson County seal at the homepage and click on the City of Port Arthur Health Department button.


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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