• 79°

Mayor Bartie: Police officers will enforce mask requirement in Port Arthur

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie called a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce the extension of the city’s “Stay at Home-Work Safe” order, while touting the need to wear masks and stay at home whenever possible.

“With the increase in number of persons effected in our fair city, and who have come up positive with results from COVID-19, it is necessary to extend our ordinance with a Fifth Amended clause to what we consider our prior ‘Stay at Home’ order,” Bartie announced.

On June 26, Gov. Greg Abbott announced an executive order to roll back on Phase III of the reopening plan. Three days earlier, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick signed a Ninth Amended Order requiring commercial entities providing goods and services to implement a Health and Safety policy requiring face coverings for the general public.

Bartie asked the citizens of Port Arthur to comply with the order until further notice.

“Enforcement of this order can and will be enforced by law enforcement agencies duly authorized to do so in the state of Texas,” he said. “I plead for compliance for the sake of our community and it’s health during these unprecedented times.

“The benefits of social distancing, not gathering in large crowds, and facial coverings in public facilities far outweighs the stated inconveniences expressed by certain individuals.”

There is currently one active case under review of a business not enforcing the mandatory mask order.

Law enforcement said it is currently going through the proper channels of investigation. No further information is available at this time.

Port Arthur Health Director Judith Smith discussed the latest trend in positive cases including the higher rate of young adults contracting COVID-19.

“As more testing sites are available, we do expect our numbers to go up, but we do hope with the mask ordinance the more we test, the less cases we’ll see,” she said. “Over the last few days, the age group we are reporting, it’s been quite a bit of 20-25 and 30-35 year olds. Many of these, as we investigate, are asymptomatic individuals that went and got a test done.”

Smith said she is hoping with the extension of the mask mandate to see fewer cases in the upcoming weeks.

“It’s not everything but it’s all we really have,” she said. “We have found that it works. That’s why it’s so important for the community to really follow those guidelines of wearing a mask in public.”

Free walk-up testing will be available at the Bob Bowers Civic Center July 8-9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

Masks or facial coverings are required.

The City of Port Arthur canceled the Fourth of July celebration and wants to remind citizens that the use of fireworks within the city is prohibited.

“As your Mayor, I continue to serve you, the citizens of this community, with straightforward, timely and valuable information for your health and safety during these unprecedented times,” Bartie said. “So please do all you can to decrease your probability and extreme possibility of contracting this virus by being vigilant and prudent with your actions and behaviors.

“If we do this right, this pandemic will end soon but if we continue on the path we forged from May to June, this will be around for another six months or possibly even longer.”

Bartie said the council will reconsider the extension of the mask ordinance at a city council meeting on Tuesday.

The ordinance is likely to be extended by two weeks.

On Wednesday, the Port Arthur Health Department received confirmation of 17 additional Port Arthur residents who tested positive for coronavirus disease. This brought the total to 208 Port Arthur residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing started in the City of Port Arthur.

That followed Tuesday’s confirmation, which indicated 21 news cases were confirmed.