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The latest news for Abilene and the surrounding communities.

Courtesy of Hardin Simmons University

The racial reckoning after George Floyd’s death has sparked change across the country including at some high profile universities in the Lone Star State. At Texas A&M this summer, black students shared their stories of racism on campus. A&M leaders responded by committing to a race relations task force, a large scholarship fund to support diversity and a commission to evaluate statues and monuments on campus. Some students are still calling for the school to remove a statue of Sullivan Ross, a confederate general. 

Scott Delony / ACU

The racial reckoning following police killing several unarmed black people this summer has caused some institutions to take a hard look inward. Street murals supporting “Black Lives Matter” have been painted across the U.S. Corporate policy statements have changed. Even the NFL retracted their own stance discouraging players from protesting against police brutality and encouraged members of the league to speak out against racial injustice. 

Courtesy of Elizabeth Behlen

The racial reckoning since George Floyd’s death has made many institutions, individuals, businesses and local governments take a hard look at how they do things. Statues honoring Confederate figures have been removed. Products, like Aunt Jemima, re-branded. 

Higher education is also making changes. Take UT Austin, for example. After calls to address racism on campus, the university announced it would add statues honoring Civil Rights leaders, and rename some public spaces. And that movement extends beyond Texas’s flagship university. 

Dana Glover / KACU

Abilene Christian University is bringing staff back onto campus after most employees have spent more than three months working from home.  The university is on track to welcome students back to campus August 24th.

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, ACU established three working teams focused on different aspects of the university’s response.  Recent positive test results at ACU's clinic have given the university a chance to start practicing contingency plans.

Heather Claborn / KACU

Tape on the floor of the polling center at the Taylor County Plaza shows voters how to keep six feet of distance while waiting in line.  A hand sanitizer dispenser stands just inside the door, and jugs of it sit on tables.  This election, poll workers are offering voters disposable gloves and face masks. 

McMurry Tests In Person Classes With Summer School

Jun 18, 2020
Dana Glover / KACU

 

Since the middle of March, COVID-19’s put universities across the U.S. in some form of shutdown. Universities are now trying to figure out how to reopen campuses safely.  It’s one area where smaller higher ed institutions may have an advantage. McMurry University has been among the first to pilot in-person classes, using summer sessions to figure out what colleges could soon look like.

 

Heather Claborn / KACU

The U.S. police force is in the headlines and under scrutiny, and that’s affecting police departments’ ability to recruit new officers.  Today, as some cities discuss whether to defund or reduce police department budgets, Abilene, Texas is trying to fill a police academy class.  

Heather Claborn / KACU

Several hundred people turned out in a field near Abilene's Martin Luther King Bridge Thursday night to protest the death of George Floyd and to call for a unified local response to the problems that surround racial injustice in America.   

Naoemi Loredo / COVID.325

A photography project on Facebook is documenting the experiences of Abileneans during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It's kind of like Humans of New York with a COVID-19 twist.  Naoemi Loredo and her partner Dante Wehe started the project to help locals process their own feelings about the pandemic, and to document history as it happens.  The pictures capture everything from frustrated business owners who had to shut down for weeks, to skateboarding kids, and essential workers concerned about putting their families at risk.

Courtesy of Coy Chew / Whiskey Girl

 

The Whiskey Girl bar in Abilene opened Monday night, four days before Gov. Greg Abbott’s order allows bars to do so.

Abbott’s Phase Two plan for reopening the state’s economy allows bars to resume operations at 25% capacity on Friday. But that’s not soon enough for Coy Chew, who announced on Facebook Monday that he was unable to wait another week to reopen the Whiskey Girl. Chew said he’ll open his bar daily this week at 4 p.m.

Courtesy of Annette Lerma

Taylor County’s daily reporting on COVID-19 numbers has changed in format and content  several times since March 26th, when officials announced the first local positive test result.  

Last week the number of cases being reported dropped sharply after officials removed more than 90 cases of positive prisoners at the Middleton and French Robertson Units, which are both in Abilene, but officially in Jones County.  That same day, state officials instructed Taylor County health officials to pull dozens of cases identified by serology blood tests as well.

Heather Claborn / KACU

Texas hair salons joined restaurants and movie theaters in reopening on Friday.  They’re opening with safety and cleaning protocols that will affect how much profit those in the industry will make at first. 

Courtesy Tom Watson for U.S. Congress

All levels of government are having to reshuffle the way they do business during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The restrictions on gatherings and in-person contact are especially challenging for those trying to get their foot in the door of government.

Heather Claborn / KACU

 

Some four dozen firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 in Abilene. That’s a big deal in a department that’s already short-staffed, with 189 members. 

Tuesday, the Abilene/Taylor County Public Health District said there were 277 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its jurisdiction. About a quarter of the total – 62 cases – were among the very people who have been fighting against the spread of the coronavirus for the City of Abilene.

Courtesy of Annette Lerma

COVID-19 is spreading among some of the top leaders in the local fight against the virus.  Sunday city officials announced that 36 members of the Abilene Fire Department had received positive results over the previous 72 hours.    Annette Lerma Director of the Abilene/Taylor County Public Health District, is recovering from the coronavirus.  The health district closed its doors last week after several staff members tested positive.  She shares her experience, discusses testing limits, and explains what makes the reporting complicated.

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