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Two Houston Shipping Terminals to Reopen Following COVID-19 Exposure

The Port of Houston Authority stopped operations at Bayport and Barbours Cut Shipping Terminals after it learned that one person who worked at both terminals tested positive for COVID-19, the port authority said in a news release. It now plans to reopen late on March 19 for both container terminals, it said. “Port Houston has conducted a joint investigation with the [International Longshoremen's Association] which indicated that [the worker's] exposure to others was fairly limited. Following CDC guidelines, all those that he has been in direct contact with during the 2 days worked at Port Houston facilities are in self-quarantine. Additionally, those who maintained social distancing from the worker, and have low risk, have been advised.”

CBP was working closely with the port authority to “ensure orderly business resumption once a decision is made to reopen the terminals,” CBP said in a CSMS message. During a March 19 conference call before the port authority announced its reopening plans, CBP officials said they would consider using shipment diversion processes if the closure continued a long time.

Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, called the port’s announcement “devastating,” adding that he is unsure what ripple effect it could have on ports throughout the country. “If at every port, one of the thousands of dock workers tests positive, and that means the port is shut down, our whole country is going to be cut off,” Friedmann said in an interview. “No exports. No imports. Period.” The AgTC is reaching out to port directors countrywide to determine their policies for dealing with an infected worker. “That's topic No. 1 on everybody's mind right now,” Friedmann said. “That brings it from policy to actual direct impact.”