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The latest news for Abilene and the surrounding communities.

Madison Lewis

As local universities work to support diverse student and employee populations, Black History Month provides an opportunity to showcase progress. KACU’s Dana Glover revisits Hardin-Simmons, McMurry and Abilene Christian Universities to find out what’s been happening since the fall semester push to address racial tension and improve cultural awareness.

Courtesy of Texans for Stan

The 87th session of the Texas legislature will not only have a full slate of emergency items that Governor Greg Abbott wants addressed, it's time to redraw political lines.  KACU's Andrew Norsworthy talked with Rep. Lambert about his new committee assignments; the emergency items, which include broadband availability, a top priority for Lambert, as well as police funding and liability protections for businesses; and the feel of the new session, with a new speaker.  

Courtesy of International Rescue Committee-Abilene

Yesterday we heard from Susanna Lubanga, director of the Abilene office of the International Rescue Committee, about anticipated changes for refugee programs under the new Biden Administration.  Our conversation turns to how local refugee community has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many have come from homes that have experienced health crisies before, so the pandemic and its restrictions were somewhat familiar to them.  Several in Abilene's refugee community were affected early on with the outbreak at Abimar Foods.

West Texas Homeless Network

When COVID-19 first began to spread and affect employment, advocates for the homeless worried that there would be a significant increase in the local homeless population.  But a moratorium on evictions has helped to prevent that.  The pandemic is affecting the annual Point In Time count of the homeless, which is happening in communities across the country today and tomorrow.

courtesy of International Rescue Committee-Abilene

Some of the first actions President Biden took after his inauguration were aimed at reversing the course President Trump had set on immigration.  He halted work on the border wall, lifted a ban on travel from Muslim countries, and restored DACA, a program President Obama initiated.  But refugees are still waiting for action on their behalf.  Refugees apply for entry into the U.S. seeking escape from war, persecution, or personal threats in their home countries.  President Trump had lowered the maximum number of refugees that would be accepted by the U.S.

Conductor's Notes

Jan 22, 2021

Here is a sneak peek of the Abilene Philharmonic's upcoming concert on January 30th, Romantic Strings, at First Baptist Church of Abilene.

More information on this concert and the entire Abilene Philharmonic season can be found at thier website.

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.

Used with permission of Canva

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