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I.C. MURRELL — Coronavirus cost jobs, but business can still go on

Port Arthur is not the first town to stand on the verge of an economic boon, but it’s one of many that’s seen its share of heydays.

The idea of any company, let alone a city, losing 200 jobs is scary. It’s been heartbreaking what the past three months of coronavirus madness has done to the economy locally and nationally. It was exactly what I feared — along with those needlessly suffering from the disease.

Motiva Enterprises will go on and still be a source of commerce for Port Arthur and surrounding communities. Still, the fact that precautions over a virus has led to a downturn in the industry resulting in the company having to cut 200 jobs by September is alarming.

It should be reiterated that not all the cuts will come from Port Arthur operations. Some will come from its Houston headquarters.

Mayor Thurman Bartie has said as that the cuts won’t adversely affect the city. Since it’s believed that fewer than 200 employees even live in the city, he makes a great point. (Motiva didn’t confirm numbers regarding residence.)

“Looking at it through another window, this is, I think, a by-product or something as a result of the pandemic that has affected our nation,” Bartie said. “Because of that, we see the surge in an increase [of coronavirus cases] in Jefferson County and in the city of Port Arthur. That’s why we need to remain very vigilant and people need to practice everything as far as social distancing recommendations and wearing a mask, not gathering in large houses of worship or grocery stores. All of this will cause greater impact on us while upper government officials are allowing the state to open up the economic stability of the state. We have the human element being adversely affected that will affect the economics.”

One way or another, it has. We just don’t know if restarting business is the culprit for a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases.

When we first faced COVID-19, business slowed and some had the virus. People were hurting for employment and we were also warned a second wave of cases was looming.

Now that business ramps up, others have the virus, and jobs are as precious as they were during the cautionary stages.

Is the second curve all the fault of a moving economy? Can we not determine if a factor in the rise of cases is due to an increase in available testing — which public officials rightfully lobbied hard for — and the percentage of those positive against those who have tested is actually decreasing?

I’m sure we can, but business sitting idle is hardly popular.

“If we look at the city of Port Arthur, it’s not a plus for us to move so swiftly in these reopenings, so to speak, and adversely affect our human existence,” Bartie said. “The economy is going to be affected because of the pandemic. If we would do what is necessary so we could come out of this entire dilemma we’re in and start a new normal and restart our lives and economy together, I think we’ll come out well together.”

Health and safety are always the top priority, but it’s apparent that waiting to restart business is very costly to business itself.

For anyone who’s in danger of being laid off, I’m not sure anything can be said to soften the blow. Everyone must now be able to navigate a health crisis with or without employment.

Port Arthur’s economy won’t rest on a loss of a fraction of jobs at one facility out of countless businesses in the city. But without commerce going, another key business may face adversity.

Coronavirus hasn’t stopped for anyone, and we probably can’t stop again for it, just learn to live with it. If we learn to safely, we’ll have the resources to stay healthy and beat this crisis.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com

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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