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It’s June and in East Texas, global pandemic or not, we all start looking for our first homegrown tomatoes. Those who don’t have home gardens find them at the farmers market. After a year of eating off-season tomatoes from around the hemisphere, biting into a fresh tomato ripened on the vine is like tasting a little bit of heaven.

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Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on Tuesday announcing additional services and activities that can resume under his second wave of reopenings, allowing food courts in shopping malls to reopen immediately and giving the green light for water parks to begin operations with limited capacity starting Friday.Recreational sports programs for adults can restart Sunday, though games and similar competitions may not recommence until June 15. Abbott also permitted driver education programs to resume operations immediately.For food court dining areas that choose to reopen, Abbott is encouraging malls to designate one or more individuals who are responsible for enforcing social distancing and ensuring tables are cleaned and disinfected between uses.His announcement comes nearly a week after he announced his second wave of reopenings designed to kickstart the state’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, child care facilities and bars at limited capacity were given the green light to reopen.The governor began a phased reopening of the economy in late April, letting the state’s stay-at-home order expire and allowing retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to operate at 25% capacity. He then allowed barbershops and salons to reopen May 8 under certain restrictions.Abbott’s proclamation Monday came a day after the total number of coronavirus cases in Texas increased to 55,971, including 1,527 deaths, according to the latest data from the Department of State Health Services. Out of Texas’ 254 counties, 228 are reporting cases.

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The Texas Department of Public Safety announced it will begin reopening driver license offices soon by appointment only and with limited services.

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A stream of cars and trucks streamed into the parking lot  of Cleburne’s Bethel Temple Assembly of God parking lot Friday morning where church officials and members greeted the passengers and loaded boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables into their vehicles.

As we approach Memorial Day, we pause to remember those who paid the ultimate price. This American holiday officially established by Congress in 1971 had its beginnings in the years following the Civil War. Originally, it was known as Decoration Day when women’s groups began to place flowers at the graves of their loved ones.

Last week’s Jacksonville Progress carried a short article about Stage Stores seeking bankruptcy protection. For many, this article was about a clothing store on South Jackson Street, but for many others it is the end of a historic Jacksonville business.

With mass gatherings still discouraged in wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis this year’s Memorial Day celebrations required creative thinking, Past American Legion Auxiliary State President Marty Peters said.

Last week brought National Police Week and, on May 15, National Peace Officers Memorial Day. For members of the Cleburne Police Department the week proved one of gratitude and somber reflection.

Godley ISD is set to celebrate the district’s employees that are retiring, and the celebration will come in the form of a parade.

BULLARD – A Bullard teen who was one of two people seriously injured in a multi-vehicle collision Friday has died, according to local school and police officials.

Last week, Texas announced it would be testing every resident and staff member in nursing homes, which have emerged as hot spots for the new coronavirus. But state-run homes for people with disabilities and state-run psychiatric hospitals — which collectively serve 4,703 vulnerable Texans and employ 18,873 full-time staff — will not receive that same level of state support to test all residents, patients and employees, according to a spokesperson for the agency that oversees the facilities.The facilities at this time are still only testing residents and patients who are symptomatic or have potentially been exposed, despite concerns raised by employees and family members about outbreaks.“Working with local health departments, the Department of State Health Services, and following CDC guidelines, we test every resident/patient who shows possible symptoms of COVID-19 or has potential exposure to COVID-19,” Christine Mann, spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said in an email. “At this time, more individuals at state hospitals and state supported living centers have recovered from COVID-19 than have active infections.”As of Sunday, there were 159 total positive cases among residents and patients, with 98 having recovered, according to new data the agency started releasing on state supported living centers and state hospitals earlier this month. “Fewer than 10” residents and patients have died due to complications related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the state reported.That data does not account for staff members who fall ill, and the state is still not releasing the names of facilities with coronavirus cases, leaving many family members in the dark about their loved ones. Eight of the 23 facilities currently have at least one positive patient or resident, according to the data. Local health authorities in Denton County stand out as the lone agency providing daily updates on the outbreak at the Denton home, reporting 55 cases among residents and 64 among staff, as of Sunday.Similar to nursing homes, residents and patients at state-run homes and psychiatric hospitals live in close quarters and interact closely with the staff who care for them. The 10 state psychiatric hospitals serve Texans with mental health issues. Across the 13 state supported living centers, which house people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, about 43% of the residents are medically fragile. Family members worry about rapid spread there, because depending on the severity of their disabilities, residents may not understand rules about hand-washing or maintaining a safe distance from others.Citing a need to protect the state’s “vulnerable populations,” state officials have clamped down on nursing homes, launching mass testing and reporting new levels of data showing the scope of the virus. Less than a week after Gov. Greg Abbott directed state officials to test all residents and staff in Texas nursing homes, the Texas Department of State Health Services on Friday released, for the first time, the total number of residents who have tested positive: Among the 311 nursing homes with positive cases, 3,011 residents have tested positive and 490 have died. Another 494 residents have recovered, according to the data. The state is still not providing information about how many cases are at individual nursing homes.The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which previously refused to disclose comprehensive data on the number of cases among staff and residents at state supported living centers, is now providing twice-weekly updates on the number of cases at state supported living centers and state hospitals.In April, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers sent Abbott a letter asking for greater transparency in reporting and mandatory testing for everyone in state supported living centers and state hospitals, in addition to nursing homes."While media outlets have rightly focused on the deaths in nursing homes across the country, people with disabilities and older adults face increased risks in all institutional and congregate settings," wrote state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, who authored the letter. "Like nursing homes, there have been similar outbreaks and deaths in our state supported living centers, state hospitals, and group homes. Our state government can and must do more to protect our most vulnerable Texans."

A tornado ripped through the Malakoff area Saturday afternoon, destroying the M Propane building on West Highway 31 and damaging Cedar Lake Nursing Home. No injuries were reported.

Johnson County Sheriff Adam King in recent weeks several times counted his blessings in regards to COVID-19 infection and added that the Johnson County Jail, unlike several other Texas jails and prisons, was fortunate to have had no cases within the jail.  

These days, we often hear things like, “I know my rights” or “I don’t have to take that” or “You can’t do that to me.”

Granger Sanchez greeted with surprise parade

I recognized the name on caller ID. For 20 years, he has stopped and asked to wash my truck or do any other odd job to earn a few dollars. I have always accommodated him. I figure at least he’s trying to do something for the money, rather than simply ask for a handout.

Evictions and debt collection proceedings can resume in Texas next week, the Texas Supreme Court has ordered, after the court temporarily put both on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.Eviction hearings can be held as soon as Tuesday, with orders authorizing evictions allowed starting May 26. That does not apply to certain tenants who are protected through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, including renters in homes covered by federally backed mortgages. Tenants covered under that federal moratorium have protections through Aug. 23. Others may be protected through local orders, like those in place in Austin, Dallas and San Marcos.Similarly, debt collectors can again garnish accounts starting later this month.The state’s highest civil court had put holds on both as Texans contend with the financial toll of the novel coronavirus, which has sent the state's economy toward a recession. More than 1.9 million people have filed unemployment claims with the state in the past two months.Advocates had warned about what might happen when the moratoriums lifted, with some predicting a surge in evictions. Although some Texas cities are offering rental assistance programs, local programs have not met the demand, and there is no equivalent on the state level.Critical protections were disappearing too early, critics said.“In a time of crisis, to have your bank account frozen is a calamity,” said Ann Baddour, director of the fair financial services project for the nonprofit group Texas Appleseed.Christina Rosales, deputy director of the advocacy organization Texas Housers, said she is concerned for the housing safety of low-income Texans and fears a rise in homelessness.“Experts are saying there is no visible end in sight for the COVID-19 crisis. The path ahead is unclear, and for people struggling to make the rent, being subject to an eviction could be jarring,” Rosales said. “Not only that, but the effects of evictions have further downstream effects on all of us. Tenants will have their lives upended as a result of evictions, landlords may have an increase in empty units they can't fill and cities will have a homelessness crisis on their hands.”Rosales added, though, that there is a silver lining in the Supreme Court’s order. Units and buildings that have federally backed mortgages are still protected from evictions through the CARES Act, and the new order requires landlords to state whether their properties are subject to this protection.Heather Way, who directs the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at the University of Texas Law School, said the end of the high court’s eviction moratorium may lead to a patchwork of enforcement across the state. Some cities and counties have put a hold on evictions during the pandemic. In some places, she said, justices of the peace may choose not to proceed with eviction hearings even now; the Supreme Court order says they “may resume,” but does not require it.David Mintz, vice president of government affairs for the Texas Apartment Association, did not immediately return a request for comment.“I’ve already had one veteran calling me in tears, unable to pay because of loss of income due to COVID-19,” said William Ritter, staff attorney with the Veterans Legal Assistance Program of the Texas Legal Services Center. “The property manager said that he was going to be the first one in line at the court on May 19. So I expect to see a lot more of that.”For Ritter, the end of the moratorium is coming too early.“People that have been unemployed are taking weeks to get their payment. Stimulus checks are also taking weeks. More time is needed for folks that are trying to save their homes,” he said.Disclosure: Texas Appleseed and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has announced it will offer an alternative issuance process for Texas learner license holders. The alternatives are offered as driver license offices remain closed to the public in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

BNSF Railroad’s plans to add an adjacent track that may result in the closure of the crossing points of up to three city streets. The decision on which, if any, of the streets to close rests with the city. 

A state appeals court on Thursday upheld a temporary order from a state district judge that could greatly expand the number of voters who qualify for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, rebuffing Attorney General Ken Paxton's effort to have the ruling put on hold while he appeals it.In a 2-1 split along party lines, a panel of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals of Texas said it would let stand state District Judge Tim Sulak's ruling from last month that susceptibility to the coronavirus counts as a disability under state election law, and is a legally valid reason for voters to request an absentee ballot. Paxton has been fighting that ruling, and had argued that his pending appeal meant the lower court’s ruling was not in effect.Federal and state courts are considering legal challenges to the state’s rules for voting by mail as Democrats and voting rights groups ask courts to clarify whether lack of immunity to the coronavirus is a valid reason for people to request an absentee ballot. Under Sulak's order, voters can request a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic by citing the disability qualification allowed in the Texas election code.The ruling comes a day after Paxton tried to leapfrog the ongoing lawsuits by asking to the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in on his interpretation of how voters can qualify for absentee ballots. Paxton has argued that a fear of contracting the coronavirus by voting in person doesn't meet the state's definition of a disability. The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.”But the individual Texas voters, state Democrats and civic organizations that have sued to expand voting by mail argue that a lack of immunity to the virus makes voters eligible under the existing disability definition. Sulak agreed in his ruling."Eligible voters can vote by mail during this pandemic," Chad Dunn, the Texas Democratic Party's general counsel, said in a statement on Thursday. "It is time for a few state officers to stop trying to force people to expose themselves to COVID-19 in order to vote."In response to the appeals court's ruling, a spokesperson for Paxton said his office will "look forward to the Texas Supreme Court resolving this issue."The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a flurry of litigation over the state's rules for voting by mail, with Democrats and nonpartisan organizations pushing for an expansion, arguing voters shouldn't have to risk their health to vote in the upcoming July primary runoff election and the November general election. Texas' Republican leadership has opposed those efforts, arguing for a strict interpretation of the state's existing eligibility qualifications.Paxton has also pointed to the changes the state is making to the voting process during the pandemic. Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott doubled what's typically a short early voting period for the July 14 primary runoff.