Details emerge about Port Arthur’s 1st coronavirus case including travel, quarantine

Published 12:03 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

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The first confirmed coronavirus case in Port Arthur was travel-related, the director of the Port Arthur Health Department said Friday.

Judith Smith did not give details about where the person traveled and declined to confirm the gender of the unidentified patient, who was only described as between the ages of 40 and 50.

The PAHD announced the confirmation Thursday. Patients are typically unidentified, per health confidentiality laws.

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The patient, however, was tested at the drive-thru clinic established by a six-county Southeast Texas Regional Emergency Operations Center just outside the Jack Brooks Regional Airport terminal in Nederland.

“This person has been in quarantine since the travel, but the person has been asked to remain quarantined 14 days after the confirmation,” Smith said.

The PAHD is still conducting an epidemiology investigation into the case, Smith said.

PAHD employs an epidemiologist who is reaching out to those who may have come in close contact with the person.

“Once we establish a contact list, our responsibility is to make sure the people who are infected with coronavirus are quarantined 14 days, checking temperatures 14 days and having them call us or we call them as to how they’re doing regarding the temperatures,” Smith said.

Councilman ‘offended’

While the city of Port Arthur issued the confirmation from PAHD, Councilman Cal Jones indicated he was not happy how he learned about the confirmed case.

“I’m offended that I learned third person that somebody got infected,” Jones said. “I heard about it from the street. I should have known about it in person by someone from the health department.”

Jones was curious to know what area of Port Arthur the patient is from and where the person visited recently.

“Was it a he or she?” he said. “If that person was at McDonald’s, you don’t want to go to McDonald’s. If that person was at Walmart, you don’t want to go to Walmart.”

Local restaurants as of Friday morning have closed their dining room areas and operate drive-thru or takeout services. Jefferson County citizens were limited to one person per family shopping at essential stores to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Given the confirmed patient is younger than the 65-or-older age range at which persons are considered at risk for COVID-19, Smith believes awareness that the novel virus can impact anyone is heightened.

“We have a generation that maybe didn’t take it serious,” she said. “Now, we’re seeing it on TV, and we’re seeing it in other communities.”

COVID-19 testing

Testing for coronavirus is basically for people who are symptomatic, Smith said.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) may contact a nurse-staffed call center 409-550-2536 and will be screened before being given an identification number and appointment time to visit the drive-thru service, or call a private care provider.

Those looking for information about COVID-19 are asked to not contact the call center but can call 211, option 6, or visit

Test kits, however, are still not available at the PAHD’s downtown clinic, as many of its nurses have been dedicated to the drive-thru efforts, Smith said.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” Smith said. “We shut down most of the services there so our nurses could be here. This is where our focus is.”

Smith said the PAHD’s sexually transmitted disease clinic is only servicing patients who are contacts to an STD case. Those patients can call 409-983-8826 for any needed services.

The Women, Infants and Children clinic is operating a WIC-mobile behind the health center as well. To reach WIC, call 409-983-8875.


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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