On Texas-Louisiana border, vehicle checkpoints put the brakes on coronavirus
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Orange (United States) (AFP)
Texas is usually known for its friendliness but the Lone Star State is making things extra lonely for its neighbors to the east -- requiring visitors from coronavirus-stricken Louisiana to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the state.
Beginning Sunday, state troopers set up checkpoints -- such as the one in Orange, Texas -- along the border with Louisiana to screen all motorists entering the state.
The parking lot of the town's closed visitor center on Highway 10 was taken over by officers who tended to a long line of cars. Across the way picnic tables were roped off with yellow and black police tape.
In the unfolding coronavirus saga, Texas has recorded more than 9,000 cases while Louisiana, which faced a virus nightmare following Mardi Gras festivities, has surpassed 16,000, latest tallies indicate.
Aspiring border crossers must first complete a travel form asking where they intend to quarantine and giving officials the right to check in at the address -- just to make sure they follow through.
"I think all of this is new to everybody, you know, and it's kinda scary," Dale Ryan, a Louisiana school board employee who is not working during the epidemic, told AFP.
She cast a glance at a state trooper, cowboy hat firmly planted on his head, mouth covered with a mask.
As one of the hardest-hit states, Louisiana has suffered 582 deaths while Texas so far has seen only 176. Officials would like to keep that number from climbing.
Form in hand, Ryan still had a two-hour drive ahead of her as she raced to meet up with her husband in the Texas beach city of Galveston: "I've quarantined long enough by myself," she said.
The forms -- golden tickets for entry into the state -- require a holder's name, home address, destination and place where he or she intends to quarantine.
If found not to be abiding by the shelter-in-place mandate, offenders can face criminal prosecution, the document warns.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott put the measure in place on March 29, launching a truly ambitious operation meant to separate residents of two neighboring states.
His state has also stipulated that travelers arriving by plane from COVID-19 hotspots -- such as New York and New Jersey, and the cities of Miami, Chicago and Atlanta, among others -- must quarantine for 14 days.
People traveling from Louisiana for commercial activity, military service, emergency and health response or critical-infrastructure functions are exempt from self-quarantine, however.
Ironically, the region of Louisiana along the Texas border is the least-affected part of the state.
© 2020 AFP