Brad Robichaux: COVID-19 checkpoints are the new normal

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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Monday was the day the outbreak became more real to me.

As much as the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on just about everything else, I’d only experienced somewhat minor changes in circumstances in my own life.

Media representatives are considered essential, so the work to keep folks informed about this constantly evolving pandemic continues. With the suspension of all sports, however, there aren’t many sports to write about. I switched gears to help out in news and my day is starting a little earlier now, but otherwise my routine felt more or less the same.

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Another, bigger change confronted me on Monday. The Texas state government issued a new order saying all travelers from Louisiana would be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon entering Texas. Checkpoints would be established at the state line along major highways, and travelers would be required to say where they were going to self-isolate. Some exemptions for essential travelers apply, and they’ll have to show letters issued by the Texas government to prove their essential status.

I happen to live in Louisiana, and I drive here to work.

Suddenly, the usually wide-open border between our two states, where the only markers are the big welcome signs and the welcoming visitor centers, has become a carefully controlled checkpoint. For the first time someone is going to ask me “Papers, please,” every time I drive into work.

Suddenly, I feel like an outsider, a stranger coming in carrying with him no malice or ill will but an invisible, hypothetical aura of danger that must be checked.

This is the new normal.

I’m can’t say this is unexpected. I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen since the first announcements of quarantines and social distancing orders were made.

I’ve also made peace with it. I’m thankful that I still feel fine and healthy. I’m especially thankful that none of the people I know are dealing with the virus yet. There are plenty of people for whom the outbreak has been much more disrupting, shut inside their homes because of the stay-at-home orders, trying to keep calm and busy. There are folks losing jobs and losing livelihoods.

There are others, at least 120,000 and climbing nationwide on Sunday, for whom the virus is as real as it gets. There were 35 confirmed cases in Calcasieu Parish on Sunday, 16 in Jefferson County. One person in Calcasieu has lost his or her life.

I also can’t say that I don’t expect more changes to be coming. I don’t know when they’ll happen or in what fashion, but whatever needs to happen should be done for the sake of fighting to keep people healthy.

If I have to pass through a checkpoint to get to work, so be it. The continued health and safety of everyone around me is much more important than a mild inconvenience.

We have to do what needs to be done.

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at