As Gov. Greg Abbott's tightened restrictions on Louisiana went into effect Monday afternoon, vehicles appeared to travel freely across the Louisiana/Texas state line in Cass County, Texas, passing two Texas Department of Public Safety SUVs.
A Gazette staffer observed the point of entry along Texas Highway 77 for 40 minutes midday Monday. Though at least three vehicles with Louisiana plates entered the state — one seemed to be followed by a patrol car from the nearby Atlanta, Texas, Police Department — none was stopped.
Abbott said Sunday that "everyone stopped" at the entry points will be forced to self-isolate. The order requires drivers to fill out a form listing where they will quarantine in Texas. But how aggressively Texas troopers will patrol incoming traffic wasn't immediately clear. On Sunday, no state troopers were seen patrolling Interstate 10 at the state line, although highway electronic signs in both directions warned drivers that "Personal travel from Louisiana must quarantine.'"
As of presstime Monday, more than 4,000 people across Louisiana have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. At least 185 have died.
In Texas, the number of confirmed cases swelled to more than 2,900, with 38 deaths so far.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has affirmed Louisiana has the second-highest COVID-19 death rate per capita among states, and he's warned the New Orleans region is running low on ventilators the hardest-hit patients need.
For most people, the highly contagious disease causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Abbott said there are enough beds across Texas to treat patients, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Dallas' convention center could be set up to house as many as 1,400 people if needed.
It would be the first temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in Texas, and Abbott said the state is looking at options in other cities.
"Our job is to make sure that we're looking one, two, three, four weeks ahead, and make sure that Texas is going to be prepared to meet the needs of your communities if COVID-19 continues to increase," Abbott said.
The Three States community, a popular spot where tourists can stand in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana at once, is about 30 miles south of Texarkana.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.