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County Judge Jeff Branick addresses community following mask order

To the Citizens and Media of Jefferson County:

I recognized when I entered the mandatory mask order that there would be people who would not like it.  What I didn’t expect was the level of pure hatred and profanity laden messages that would make a sailor blush.  That’s okay, it comes with the territory.  What has been most disappointing to me has been the level of insistence by many that my orders are a direct affront to their constitutional rights.  The U.S. Supreme Court, since 1794, after the Whiskey Rebellion, and times since has repeatedly held that these types of orders are allowed in certain circumstances and are, in fact, constitutional.  Those who say otherwise are misinformed or are depending on Natural law, not Constitutional law.  I have not asked people to lay down their arms, surrender their right to free speech or to be subject to having soldiers quartered in their homes, I’ve asked them to suffer the inconvenience of placing a 4×6” piece of material over their mouth and nose when in a business to protect their friends and neighbors.  Individuals who seem to have no problem with a restaurant requiring shoes and a shirt go ballistic over a business asking them to wear a mask.

Eighty years ago, the greatest generation planted victory gardens, collected tin, rubber and steel, had food ration books and endured black outs, all to support the war effort.   Their sacrifices were significantly more weighty than the inconvenience the present order requires.  I want to thank a fellow county judge for reminding me of this.  Today, a small minority is screaming that this is some kind of communist plot to overthrow the nation.   When did it happen that we all became so focused on our rights and not our obligations to our fellow man and woman?  Jesus said “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.  I’m not directing anyone to lay down their life.  Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ”.  I love you, because that is what Christ teaches us to do.

I wear a mask not because I am afraid but because it is one way of showing that I care about my neighbors. There is a lot we don’t know about COVID-19 but all the evidence suggests that wearing a mask helps to prevent the spread of the virus. If wearing a mask prevents one person from dying, then isn’t it worth the minor inconvenience?  If wearing a mask helps us get our country and economy back to normal, then isn’t it our patriotic duty to do so?”  I received this in an email from an Orange County resident.  It is a note he keeps in his pocket which he gives to people who make snide remarks about his wearing a mask in stores.

Based on my conversations with numerous physicians, directives from the president of the Texas Medical Association, the thoughts of the head of the Department of state health services, and many others in the medical field, masks can prevent the spread of the virus.  Might we find out next year after peer reviewed studies that such is not the case?  Can I find a YouTube video from an OSHA inspector that supports the opposite view?  Yes to both questions.  But we are in the midst of the largest spread that we have seen thus far, and to prevent another shutdown of “nonessential” businesses and to keep our hospital system from becoming overwhelmed I am acting on the best available information.  Those “nonessential” businesses have families to feed and mortgages to pay and I want them to be able to do that without having to worry if they are at some point going to have to depend on unemployment benefits, if they are even available to them.  I will lift the order as soon as I possibly can, but in the meantime I pray for your cooperation.

— Jeff Branick

County Judge

Jefferson County Courthouse

1149 Pearl St.

Beaumont, Texas 77701

Phone: (409)835-8466

Fax: (409)839-2311