5 things to know about Texas’ coronavirus quarantine edict on Louisiana motorists

AUSTIN — Texas’ state police agency is “increasing its presence” on the ground near entry points from Louisiana to enforce a 10-day-old, coronavirus quarantine order for road travelers arriving from the Bayou State.

Late Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed it’s ramping up enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott’s edict, though it declined to say how many checkpoints there are and where.

“DPS troopers have set up roadway screening stations to gather required forms from road travelers along the border,” the department’s public information office said in a statement. The agency was replying to queries from The Dallas Morning News.

On Sunday, troopers began stopping drivers to enforce Abbott’s March 29 executive order that requires travelers from Louisiana to self-quarantine for 14 days when they enter Texas by road. Earlier, the department said it would not set up checkpoints but rather increase patrols in border counties.

On Wednesday, the department’s public information office said the agency has set up an unspecified number of screening stations “on major roadways in these counties, including interstate highways and other high-volume routes.”

It continued, “Travelers will be asked to complete the travel form required under” Abbott’s executive order.

“It’s important for those entering Texas from Louisiana to be prepared to stop. While the department does not discuss specifics related to its operational plans regarding enforcement, we want the public to be prepared for increased patrols and additional law enforcement presence along the Texas/Louisiana border as we work to enforce the governor’s executive order.”

There’s at least one at a visitor center on Interstate 10 near Orange, about 100 miles east of Houston, according to The Associated Press.

As of late Wednesday, Louisiana had 17,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared with 10.076 in Texas, which is more than six times larger, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Here are five things to know about Texas’ attempt to stop transmission of COVID-19 by road travelers from Louisiana:

1. If a road traveler originates a Texas-bound trip in Alabama, Mississippi or Florida, and drives through Louisiana, does the self-quarantine order apply?

Yes.

“Every person who enters the state of Texas through roadways from Louisiana will be subject to the mandated 14-day self-quarantine,” the department said. “This applies to everyone, except those individuals covered by one of the exemptions — [Abbott’s executive order] does not apply to travel related to commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response and critical infrastructure functions.”

2. Does that apply even to road travelers who don’t stop their vehicle while driving through Louisiana and into Texas?

On Monday night, Abbott spokesman John Wittman said it does.

“Applies to any travelers from Louisiana, period,” he said in a text message. “No matter if just passing through LA.”

On Wednesday, the department confirmed that’s the case.

Road travelers from Louisiana must self-quarantine for 14 days or the length of their stay in Texas, whichever is shorter. Commercial vehicles like long haul trucks are waved past checkpoints, such as this one near Waskom, Texas.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)3. If a road traveler starts out in a state other than Louisiana, and detours around Louisiana — say, through Arkansas — does the Texas self-quarantine order apply?

No. At least, not yet.

“Right now, [Abbott’s order] specifies restrictions related to road travel from Louisiana into Texas; no other state is included under the executive order,” the department said.

4. Could the Texas order be extended to road travelers from states other than Louisiana?

Yes.

The department’s forms almost anticipate that.

“Persons entering the state of Texas through roadways from Louisiana, or from any other state that may be designated, must self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of presence in Texas, whichever is shorter,” they read.

People have to provide details such as date of birth, passport or driver license number, description of vehicle, license plate number and phone number and location where they’ll stay in Texas.

They’re subject to spot checks from DPS troopers.

They also are forbidden “to allow visitors into or out of the designated quarantine location, other than a health department employee, physician, or health care provider, and shall not visit any public spaces,” Abbott’s order says.

5. If I’m caught violating the Texas order, will it be like getting a speeding ticket?

Worse, potentially.

In its response to The News and on its website, the department said, “As a reminder, it is important for those who fall under the self-quarantine mandates outlined in [Abbott’s order] to remember that a violation of the executive order is subject to criminal penalties.”

Violators could face a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail or both.

Texas Officials Begin COVID-19 CheckpointsnnOn Sunday, April 5, 2020, checkpoints and screening of vehicles by the Texas…

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