Call center approving tests with loosened restrictions

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The COVID-19 call center can be reached at (409) 550-2536.

  • Jefferson Couty Judge Jeff Branick speaks on the couty courthouse steps, flanked by Orange County Judge John Gothia (right) and Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel (left). Jasper County Judge Mark Allen stands behind.
    Jefferson Couty Judge Jeff Branick speaks on the couty courthouse steps, flanked by Orange County Judge John Gothia (right) and Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel (left). Jasper County Judge Mark Allen stands behind.
  • Jeff Branick addresses reporters April 20
    Jeff Branick addresses reporters April 20
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Due to confirmed COVID-19 cases among asymptomatic patients, the six-county coalition announced loosened restrictions on those who are given the go-ahead to get tested at either its Silsbee or Jack Brooks Regional Airport locations at a press conference Monday afternoon.    

The announcement came shortly after Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told reporters 114 tests were just completed on employees from two Beaumont Chick-fil-A locations, on College and Dowlen. Those tests were conducted after four employees received positive results. 

Branick did note that calls to the center were decreasing as of Monday, at which point nearly 4,500 total had been received. Of those, just under 2,400 were referred for testing, about 1,500 at the airport location and 680 in Silsbee. 

“There are many individuals within our six-county community who disagree with the orders that have been put in place,” he said, noting calls for more stringent orders and those for returning to life as it was just months ago. Branick admitted his and other orders had “infringed on some fundamental constitutional rights” during this pandemic. He justified such action by insisting they were “driven by a desire to protect public health and Southeast Texas citizens. 

Those “infringements” could soon be rolled back, according to Branick and announcements from Governor Greg Abbott. The latter opened retail businesses for “retail to-go” services this week, while further opening state parks. Retail stores previously deemed “non-essential” will be allowed to reopen and serve consumers with curbside or delivery options.

After assessing residents’ reactions to the April 17 orders, Governor Abbott could open the state’s avenues of commerce and culture to a greater degree with orders offering reprieve April 24 or 30. The judges of the six-county coalition will follow suit with orders for their respective constituencies. Those county orders could be more restrictive than the governor’s, Branick warns.

“We want these businesses to be open as soon as possible,” he said, before joking about how long his hair has gotten with barber shops closed. When hair and nail salons do reopen, Branick said, it could come with orders restricting capacity and mandating measures for sanitation.