Port Arthur extends ‘Stay at home’ order; disaster declaration explained

Published 2:07 pm Friday, April 3, 2020

The city of Port Arthur extended its “Stay at Home, Stay Safe” emergency order Friday and modified it to be consistent with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that lists religious services as essential.

Both orders are set to expire April 30.

The order, however, is not the same as the declaration of local disaster that the city council will extend every seven days as required by state law. The declaration, which was first approved March 17, will be extended every Tuesday until the coronavirus pandemic ends.

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“The declaration of local disaster is a formal document where the city of Port Arthur acknowledges this is a disaster and begins the exercise of the state-required emergency plan,” City Attorney Val Tizeno said. “That is found in Section 418 of the Texas Government Code. Every city and county has to do that. We are now putting forth our emergency plan.”

Port Arthur and Jefferson County established “Stay at Home, Stay Safe” orders on March 27, which stresses to residents to stay at home unless going to the grocery or performing other tasks deemed essential and restricted access to playground equipment, health and fitness centers and other establishments.

“Because this is a public health pandemic, us along with other cities and counties are issuing a stay-at-home order,” Tizeno said. “On all of them, you have to approve it through the governing body.”

Abbott’s order calls for religious services to be conducted through video or audio conferencing. If they cannot, visitors to these services are asked to maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more apart and practice good hygiene to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Under the governor’s order, failure to comply could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail time of up to 180 days. Port Arthur’s order calls for a fine of up to $2,000, counting each day of violation as a separate offense.

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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