AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – Texas state troopers set up checkpoints along the Louisiana border Sunday, stepping up enforcement of Governor Greg Abbott’s order for travelers from Louisiana to self-quarantine for 14 days as the state has become the next hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, a fellow Republican, announced Department of Public Safety troopers will man “roadway screening stations” to collect mandatory travel forms from motorists from Louisiana.
There are more than 15 highways along Texas’ border with Louisiana. Interstate 20 connects Shreveport to Dallas and Interstate 10 connects New Orleans to Houston.
Abbott first issued mandatory 14-day self-quarantine orders on March 26, applying to air travelers from New Orleans, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It was expanded three days later to include air travelers from all of Louisiana, California, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami.
Abbott issued another order on March 30, restricting all travelers from Louisiana on roadways to mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.
“Those who fall under the self-quarantine mandates outlined in GA-12 should remember that a violation of the Executive Order is subject to criminal penalties,” Bonnen tweeted. “GA-12 does not apply to travel related to commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response and critical infrastructure functions.”
Violators of the order face up to 180 days in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. Covered people have the option of self-quarantining at a hotel or residence and must inform state troopers of the address, according to the travel form.
“DPS Special Agents will conduct unannounced visits to designated quarantine locations to verify compliance by confirming the physical presence of covered persons,” Abbott’s order states.
The checkpoints come two days after Abbott deemed Texas “fully prepared” for the peak in cases, stating the state’s 19,685 hospital beds should be enough.
Louisiana State Police confirmed the checkpoints and screenings Sunday, tweeting that motorists entering Texas “should use caution and remain alert.”
Louisiana officials have struggled to ramp up testing capacity, blaming delays with testing at commercial laboratories for a stunning 42% spike in cases between the first two days of April.
Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards said Thursday the numbers are “jarring” but that the “logjam is breaking,” with results being reported within days. He added that compliance with his statewide stay-at-home and social distancing orders in urban areas has been “very high.”
Edwards warned rural residents that many more people will die if they do not start taking social distancing seriously, a veiled reference to Tony Spell, pastor of the Life Tabernacle Church in Center. Spell again held services on Sunday in defiance of Edwards’ order banning gatherings of ten people or more, saying people “had nothing to fear.”
“They would rather come to church and worship like free people than live like prisoners in their homes,” Spell said.
Center police arrested Spell on March 31, charging him with six misdemeanors for violating Edwards’ order. Police chief Roger Corcoran said at the time that Spell’s insistence on continuing in-person services is “reckless and irresponsible.”
Louisiana has reported 13,010 cases of Covid-19 and 477 deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Of the 1,803 patients in the hospital, 561 are on ventilators.