Texas begins patrols near Louisiana, but enforcement unclear
ORANGE, Texas (AP) — Texas extending a mandatory self-quarantine to drivers crossing over from neighboring Louisiana, one of the hot spots in the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., began Monday with few clear signs of how the order was being enforced as traffic moved freely across state lines.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order Sunday ratcheted up attempts to isolate travelers coming from areas of the country where coronavirus cases are rising fastest. Abbott said Texas state troopers would increase patrols near the Louisiana border and require drivers who are stopped to fill out forms indicating where they would isolate.
But how troopers would conduct those patrols was unclear on the first day the order went into effect.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement it would not disclose details about enforcement, adding there would be no checkpoint on the Louisiana border at this time. It did not immediately respond to requests about how many drivers had been stopped Monday.
Two Associated Press journalists observed troopers stationed near the state line along Interstate 10 but not pulling over drivers. Among those who crossed over was Anthony Ainesworth of New York City, who said he drove to Texas because the virus crisis in the Big Apple was becoming too much for him.
“I came through Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, you know? I came through all those states, and no roadblocks,” Ainesworth said during a stop at the welcome center in Oranage.
Similar self-quarantine restrictions in Texas are also in place for airline passengers coming from New Orleans, New York and other places with a rising number of cases.
In Austin, DPS agents check the boarding passes of passengers exiting the terminal and require them to complete a form if they’re coming from an affected area, said Mandy McClendon, spokeswoman for Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients and some are short of critical supplies.
The number of people with COVID-19 in Texas has risen to nearly 2,900, the state health department said Monday. The reported fatalities were at 38, up by four from Sunday, while the number of diagnosed cases rose by almost 400. Harris County and Dallas County both had around 500 confirmed cases Monday, according to the state tally.
Two Texas prison inmates filed a class action lawsuit seeking soap, hand sanitizer and social distancing for prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 69- and 73-year-old men who brought the suit allege that conditions at the Wallace Pack Unit, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Houston, violate their constitutional rights by endangering their health and safety. They are suing on behalf of a class of older inmates in poor health.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the agency is working closely with state and federal health officials to protect the health of staff and prisoners, some of whom have tested positive for COVID-19.
Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.