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'This COVID-19 is real and it will take you out': Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie talks about his recovery, fight for vaccine hubs

During the pandemic, Mayor Bartie has been among the most outspoken leaders about the dangers of COVID-19. Back from the hospital, his message has not changed.

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — More than a month ago, COVID-19 sidelined Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie. Now he said he has been released from a Houston-area hospital and is back in the fight. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bartie has been among the most outspoken leaders about the dangers of COVID-19. Still battling the virus himself, his message has not changed. 

"This COVID-19 is real, and it will take you out," he said. 

Those are not just cautionary words, but reality for Bartie. He has been sick with coronavirus since December. 

"It attacks your systems — kidneys, ribs system, now my pulmonary system and some other areas [are] dealing with comorbidities that I had prior to attracting it," he said. 

While Bartie continues to recover from the virus, he said he has kept close tabs on the arrival of vaccines and said he understands the frustration about the lack of available doses. 

"Be patient, it is not something that is unique to Jefferson County or unique to Port Arthur, I hear it over here in Harris County," he said. 

Last week, Southeast Texas leaders discussed the possibility of turning Ford Park into a regional vaccination hub. Bartie said if those plans are approved, he would look into providing transportation for residents. 

"We need to act, and I believe if that happens, I would do what I could do along with the councilmen of Port Arthur to make sure that our transportation director provide transportation," he said. 

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Bartie said everyone needs to do their part in slowing the spread. 

"We've seen several deaths in our own community from this," he said. "I wouldn't want to see folks succumb to this because they challenged it."

Bartie said no timeline has been set for when he would return to his duties as Port Arthur's Mayor. He said his biggest concern right now is trying to recover. 

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