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The latest news for Abilene and the surrounding communities.

Abilene Taylor County Public Health District

Taylor County is seeing large numbers of new cases of the coronavirus, sustained high levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new reported deaths many days.  The Abilene Taylor County Public Health District added 44 staff members to help handle the workload of contact tracing.  But when the new positive test results are so high, the people who track those cases have their hands full.   The health distric's lead contact tracer, Julia Agawu says they're calling in extra help from other departments within the health district.  

Dana Glover / KACU

Universities are sending out detailed health and safety protocols for the spring semester. That includes updating COVID-19 dashboards that were suspended at the end of the fall semester for schools in Abilene. McMurry University is also pushing the start of classes back one week and canceling Spring Break. McMurry, like many universities in the region, usually starts the spring semester the second week of January. But over the break university officials decided to move the start back to January 19th.

Haley Remenar / KACU

Protestors left a rally with President Trump Wednesday, and besieged the U.S. Capitol building.  Congress was in the process of certifying the Elector College vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.  KACU’s Heather Claborn spoke last night with U.S. Congressman Jodey Arrington.  He described what it was like inside the House chamber, calling it surreal.  Critics claimed on Twitter that Arrington bears some of the blame because of his rhetoric, but he defends his decision to object to the certification of the Electoral College vote for the 2020 presidential election.

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The Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on documented increases in suicides, substance abuse, and depression, related to COVID-19.  The pandemic has affected every part of life, from health to isolation and job loss.  The families of more than 300,000 Americans are grieving their loss.  

Hendrick Health Systems

The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Abilene today.  The hospital officials who received the initial doses were excited and enthusiastic about opening the deep-chilled package.  Pharmacy Clinical Manager Greg Perry wore special, protective gloves as he pried the doses of Pfizer vaccine out of the dry ice it was packed in.  “You can definitely feel the chill, even with these cryo-gloves.  This is chilly, chilly!”   As he held up the small boxes containing the vials of vaccine, Perry described what they contained, “We have 195 multi-dose vials.

Hendrick Health System

Trauma Service Area D, which includes Taylor County and several surrounding counties, joined seven other TSAs that have triggered reopening rollbacks.  The rollbacks mean the businesses must now operate at only 50% occupancy.  Establishments that make most of their revenue from alcohol sales must close.  And hospitals will limit elective surgeries and other services.  When the state reported that TSA-D hit the seventh straight day of COVID-19 hospitalizations over 15%, Hendrick Health Systems moved its community alert level to Level 6: Emergency. 

Austin Gurchiek / KACU

As vaccine development for COVID-19 continues to move forward, Catholic organizations are providing guidance for church members to discern their next steps.  A new Gallup poll shows that 63% of Americans would get a vaccine if it were available today.  Some are hesitant about the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine.  But others have moral qualms.

Dana Glover / KACU

At Thursday evening’s meeting City Manager Robert Hanna will ask the Abilene City Council to consider some adjustments to the 2021 fiscal year budget.  The city is trying to fill a hole in the budget that was only partially caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In September Abilene’s City Council adopted a surplus budget for the next fiscal year that provided for unknown expenses related to the pandemic.

Abilene Taylor County Public Health District

As Taylor County tracks 2,249 active cases of COVID-19, Abilene and Taylor County officials are urging locals to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.  Local ICU beds are full, and the hospitals are now treating 83 patients for the coronavirus.  Abilene may be seeing hospital capacity stretched to the limit by COVID-19, but some other Texas cities have been completely overrun.  That’s led some cities to try enacting curfews, stay at home orders, and business closures, only to be challenged in court by Governor Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton.  Last week an appeals court ove

KACU and NPR will be updating these numbers throughout the evening. All US Senate and Representative races can be seen by clicking on Texas. Local races are below.

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LOCAL RACES 

Dana Glover / KACU

As we wrap up our coverage of the candidates on the ballot in Taylor County, we are taking a look at the contests for Place 3 and Place 4 in Abilene’s City Council.  One incumbent faces two challengers, while the other is unopposed.

KACU

Anthony Williams was elected in 2016, and is the first Black mayor of Abilene. In this election year he has faced the challenge of leading through a time of increased racial tension, a global health pandemic, as well as surviving his own bout with COVID-19. Williams' campaign is focused on bringing the Abilene community together.  But he has faced harsh criticism from his opponent Cynthia Alvidrez.

 

Find out more about Anthony Williams:

Anthony Williams Facebook Campaign Page 

Big Country Ballot 2020: Cynthia Alvidrez

Oct 28, 2020
Heather Claborn / KACU

Cynthia Alvidrez has thrown her hat into another election ring, this time challenging Anthony Williams to become Abilene’s next Mayor.  She previously ran for a spot on Abilene ISD’s  board in 2018, against longtime board member Danny Wheat. Wheat kept his position.  Last year Alvidrez ran for City Council Place 5, losing to incumbent Kyle McAlister.  This time around Alvidrez has focused her campaign on being a voice for people that get overlooked. 

Find out more about Mayoral Candidate Cynthia Alvidrez:

Courtesy Dr. Dawn Buckingham Campaign

District 24 in the Texas State Senate stretches from Killeen to Abilene.  The district has been represented by a Republican since 1996.  That’s also the last year a race for the seat was actually competitive.  State Senator Dawn Buckingham is a doctor and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee in the state senate.  She's running for a third term.

Find out more about Dr. Dawn Buckingham:

Dr. Dawn Buckingham's Campaign Website

Ballotpedia

DeWayne Crable

Clayton Tucker is the Democrat who’s challenging Republican Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham for the seat in the 24th district.  Tucker is a rancher in Lampassas.  His experience includes environmental research in China, teaching kindergarten in Taiwan, and advocating with former Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower for healthcare for all.  We spoke over Zoom.

Find out more about Clayton Tucker:

Clayton Tucker's Campaign Website

Ballotpedia

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