No COVID-19 testing planned in Port Arthur; Commissioner calls misinformation a “cluster”

Published 1:10 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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Mayor Thurman Bartie announced on Thursday that Port Arthur residents would be able to get tested for COVID-19 locally on Friday and Monday.

That, apparently, is not taking place.

On Friday at approximately 12:30 p.m., Bartie said he had not been informed on the reasons for the cancellation.

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“I only did what I was told was going to happen,” he said. “I hope it happens Monday, but I can’t tell you why it’s not happening. I did this on information I received from the director of health in Jefferson County. Maybe it is something that didn’t happen, but I don’t know why.”

Bartie said he hopes and prays Port Arthur can get the answers to test individuals in the city, because “we need those tests.”

The Port Arthur Public Health Department said questions and concerns regarding the testing site should be directed to the county health department.

A call to the Jefferson County Health Department was not immediately returned.

Bartie had said on Thursday that testing would be available from 9 a.m. to noon Friday and Monday in the parking lot of the Jefferson County Sub-Courthouse, located at Waco Avenue and Fourth Street in Port Arthur.

During his Thursday remarks, Bartie said testing availability came from a discussion between him, Jefferson County Health Director Dr. Cecil Walkes and County Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal.

Sinegal, on Friday, told The Port Arthur News that discussion did not take place with him.

Sinegal said he met with Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred and they discussed a mobile testing unit that could be used to help with testing.

“Some type of way, the mayor without myself or Alfred, thought we were going to test some people,” Sinegal said. “Well, myself and Alfred were on the phone half the night [Thursday] trying to figure out where that came from. We found out the Port Arthur Health Department wasn’t involved in it. We knew it was going to be a cluster. We knew it was going to be chaotic out there.

“So I called Alfred this morning to get his advice. By that time, he was going to shut down and people were getting irate. The people were cordial but frustrated that they got the wrong information. It didn’t come through Commissioner Alfred or myself. We were already working to ask about more testing, but we don’t think there has been enough people tested in Jefferson County to see how bad it is.”
Sinegal said those experiencing symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath or fever are asked to call 409-550-2536 for an appointment to be tested for COVID-19.

If approved for testing, the closest site is the Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Nederland.

The call center is closed each night from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. If you call during this time, you will be directed to leave a message with a name and phone number. If you feel like it’s an emergency, call 911 immediately.

As of right now, officials said there is no testing planned Monday in Port Arthur.