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Judge Branick: Citing quarantine violators “not our desire” with county mandate

Jefferson County officials hope a reminder to those diagnosed with coronavirus to respect the quarantine policy helps stem the latest rise in cases of the novel disease.

The department issued an advisory Wednesday (July 15) that those who test positive for COVID-19 are required to quarantine 14 days from the date the test was administered, pursuant to Texas Health and Safety Code. Those who are infected are asked to follow up with appropriate test and treatments with their physicians according to protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Judge Jeff Branick said Thursday that public health authorities for Jefferson County, Port Arthur and Beaumont are enforcing the policy. An authority who learns that a person assigned to a 14-day quarantine has violated it may write a citation against the person, who will then face a Class B misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine, in county or district court, Branick confirmed.

But he hopes infected citizens wouldn’t take that risk.

“That is not our desire to cite people,” Branick said. “Our desire is for people to exercise good judgment and avoid infecting other people.”

Branick said the reminder was sent after hearing a number of stories of individuals who go out shopping or somewhere outside of their homes while assigned to quarantine, adding such an act is “not a good practice.”

Allison Nathan Getz, the county’s tax assessor-collector who doubles as its public information officer, said she and other officials were informed about infected persons violating quarantine orders.

“You know how social media is,” she said. “Someone posts they’re positive and they’re at H-E-B — that’s what spreads this thing. Going into a backyard function with your family, having a barbecue … if you have COVID, you can’t go. Don’t infect your neighbors.”

As tax assessor-collector, Nathan Getz supervises 16 employees in three offices, and they all are following stricter protocol that requires those potentially exposed to COVID-19 to stay home following their tests until they receive a positive or negative diagnosis. As for regular Jefferson County citizens, whether a person should stay home immediately after a test is up to his or her physician or medical person administering the test, she said.

Getz said officials are simply trying to get those faced with COVID-19 to follow the rules.

“The virus is spreading,” she said. “We’re just trying to get the word out to the general public and reinforce the CDC guidelines, which clearly say from the day you get the positive result, you must stay at home for 14 days. People aren’t doing it.

“Love your neighbor. Whether you believe in the order or not, just do it.”

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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