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Port Neches Police Department remains staffed during COVID-19 case spike

PORT NECHES — Despite having four officers out on quarantine with COVID-19, Port Neches Police Department remains staffed.

The department has 21 sworn officers with 14 in patrol — two of which are extras for vacation relief. Two additional officers can be pulled from other assignments, thus making up for the four that are out, Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said.

The public will not notice a reduced staffing level because there is enough staff to fill the vacant spots. And if the illness spreads further, than overtime would come into play — but for now, it’s working.

Lemoine said they have done monitoring of their own activity as far as contact tracing. Yet, even then, you don’t know who will become ill as there are a lot of variables and some are asymptomatic, he said.

“We are doing the best we can as far as isolating where it happened and since we know it was this shift, it’s been mitigated,” Lemoine said.

Port Neches Mayor Glenn Johnson credits Lemoine for his work to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the department.

“He is right on top of that for us,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the city has followed safety protocol during the pandemic, adding the “safety of citizens and staff is absolutely first priority.”

The spread of COVID-19

The illness at the department began six weeks ago when an officer told Lemoine he or she did not feel well. The officer had fever the next day, went to the doctor and was negative for strep throat and the flu — a week later learning they were negative for COVID-19.

This officer, Officer A, returned to work with the negative diagnosis and had only felt bad the one day or night, Lemoine said, adding he doesn’t know if Officer A had a false negative test or the test wasn’t administered correctly.

A week or so later Officer B told Lemoine he felt bad and had fever. This officer’s test came back positive and his or her quarantine ended Monday. He is now without symptoms but needs to wait on a second test result.

A third officer, Officer C, felt OK at work but two or so hours afterward at home called Lemoine to say he or she had fever and was told to stay home and go to the doctor. Two days later the officer had a positive test result.

Officer D had had some fever but otherwise felt fine and did all the normal activities he or she would do at home, such as cutting grass. The officer was tested and it came back positive.

And of the four officers, one was tested at the doctor’s office, one at an airport testing site and two at an urgent care.

Disinfecting

Port Neches-Groves Independent School District has been lending a hand in disinfecting with the use of a spray disinfectant.

Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier said the disinfectant is a good product in that it goes everywhere, under desks, around chairs and more.

“We also do this in the district and the city asked us about it,” Gauthier said. “The city has always been so good to us, especially the police, fire and city workers.”

The district began using the system during a flu season saying it cuts down on germs.

The district sends a worker over to the police department on a regular basis where they clean the station and spray the vehicles.

The police chief said his department has protocol they follow for safety — officers are checked for fever several times during shifts, and social distancing is practiced. In addition, the police station has been disinfected and continues to be, patrol vehicles are cleaned at the beginning of the shift, after contact with the public and at the end of the shift.

The lobby at the station has Plexiglas, and the clerks behind the glass clean these throughout the day.

Lemoine said he has been tested twice with one negative result and is awaiting the results of a second test.