Year in Review: April to June

Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn joins civic leaders in a joint press conference to declare a State of Emergency on March 17 in recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 2020

• Beginning April 1, the lights at Antler Stadium were lit each night 8-9 p.m. as a symbolic gesture in support of the community.

• Texas Governor Greg Abbott in April directed the Texas Department of State Health Services to issue guidance allowing restaurants to sell bulk retail products from the restaurants’ supply chain distributors directly to consumers. With inside and outside seated dining cut off for now, the bulk food items could be available for purchase through restaurants offering drive-through, delivery, pickup and curbside service.

• In April the owner and founder of Harbor Freight, Eric Smidt, stepped up to help healthcare professionals in need of Personal Protective Equipment as reports across the nation indicated there was a shortage due to the excessive increase in patients due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, by donating the store’s inventory of PPE.

• Mayor Bill Blackburn announced the City of Kerrville was embracing Governor Greg Abbott’s “Stay at home” executive order; Peterson Health CEO Cory Edmondson reported 84 residents have been tested for COVID-19; and KISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust announced changes to the district’s “Grab&Go” community meal program at a Thursday morning joint press conference April 2.

• The week of April 6 H-E-B, in partnership with Favor Delivery, launched a simple, low-cost solution that gave seniors access to their personal shopper by phone, allowing them to get essential food and supplies delivered to them, while remaining in the comfort and safety of their home.

• Local bankers stepped up in a big way to assist Kerr County business, and during the week of April 6 SBA Payroll Protection Program funds began to find their way to local employers’ bank accounts, less than 14 days from when the “Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” was signed.

• Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn announced the temporary closure of city parks; Peterson Health CEO Cory Edmondson reported 144 patients have been tested locally for COVID-19; Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly said daily traffic is still too high on the streets; KISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust announced a new grading policy will be implemented for students; and Kerrville City Manager Mark McDaniel said budgetary shortfalls due to current crisis are expected, as the Joint Operation Team hosted their weekly press conference April 9.

• A second confirmed case of rabies in a wild animal was confirmed on April 10 in Kerr County. The first case, found in a raccoon, was confirmed March 4.

• Kerr County Commissioners’ regular meeting on April 13 included a now-regular update from the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator William “Dub” Thomas; and a vote to barricade the playground equipment at the two county parks from use by children during the COVID-19 fight.

• One of two agenda items for the April 14 Kerrville city council meeting was a financial update from city staff on the impact of COVID-19, which told council that even as they usually would be planning for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget, they are estimating a $2.25 million shortfall in revenue or about 7.8 percent of budgeted revenue.

• Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn asked for continued patience; Peterson Health CEO estimated the COVID-19 peak for Kerr County to be early May; Kerr Economic Development Corp.’s Gil Salinas says local help for businesses is coming; and Schreiner University President Charlie McCormick announced the university is joining the fight against the coronavirus by sharing computer server space, in the April 16 weekly Joint COVID-19 update from local leaders.

• Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference April 17 where he issued three new Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening the state of Texas while revising hospital capacity and certain social distancing guidelines. Within the orders, select activities and services that pose minimal to no threat of spreading COVID-19 were allowed to reopen using a "Retail-To-Go" model.

• “Tax Day” was moved to July 15 for 2020, a three-month delay from the usual April 15 reporting deadline due to challenges caused by the nation’s battle with COVID-19. Small and mid-size employers can claim two new refundable payroll tax credits to reimburse them, dollar for dollar, for the cost of providing employee leave related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

• An Ingram family lost their home in a massive structure fire April 19. The Ingram Volunteer Fire Department was called to the scene in the 300 block of Old Ingram Loop at 3:46 p.m. and shortly after called for assistance from multiple agencies.

• Walking paths in Kerrville parks remained open and in use with reminders to keep distance, but some of the amenities were closed. This included water fountains, like the one in Elm Creek Park, as well as the park's exercise stations, which require grabbing rails and handles. But the paths were still in use by walkers.

• Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn welcomed guests to the first City Hall Prayer Vigil the afternoon of April 23 by referring to the song “Standing in the need of prayer.”

• For high school seniors there was an added sense of loss in their blank calendars where a host of senior activities and farewells to friends and teachers should be happening. THS Principal Shelby Balser said 317 seniors are scheduled to graduate in the Class of 2020, and she and the staff continue to work with Kerrville ISD officials to try to make even a few of these activities possible under COVID-19.

• Local retail stores opened for the first time in weeks on Friday, April 24, as allowed by Governor Greg Abbott’s “Retail To Go” model. It rapidly changed two days later when Abbott announced his first phase of reopening the economy Monday afternoon. Abbott announced a new executive order that will allow retail businesses, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen to the public on Friday, May 1, as long as they limit capacity and abide by safety protocols outlined in his published report entitled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s report to open Texas.”

• County leaders debated creation of a regional public defender’s office on Monday, April 27; and got an update on the local COVID-19 fight.

• U.S. Congressman Chip Roy made a swing through the Hill Country the week of April 27 to address economic concerns in the COVID virus fight, especially its effects on restaurants and their owners.

• The City of Kerrville’s Parks and recreation department announced that Scott Schreiner Golf Course reopened under the guidance provided by Governor Abbott on essential exercise activities, and with strict measures in place to protect health and safety.

• Kerr County Agricultural Extension Agent Roy Walston left the local Ag Extension office for the last time as the “boss” April 30, to set off to his family ranch and retirement, after 32-plus years guiding young minds into similar work.

May 2020

• Pat Patillo III was sworn into office May 1 as the new 216th District Judge, with his wife Sherri holding the Bible for his oath of office, administered by now-retired 216th District Judge Keith Williams.

• A total of 107 Kerr County citizens received free COVID-19 testing May 2, offered by the State of Texas and facilitated by Texas Army National Guard members.

• A Kerrville man succumbed to his injuries after being struck by a vehicle while he was walking across Sidney Baker on his way to work May 4, according to police.

• As volumes continue to trend down in COVID-19 screenings, starting May 4 Peterson Urgent Care served as the primary site for COVID-19 screenings.

• Suzanne Gschwind, who recently moved to Kerrville, made an amazing recovery from Guillain Barre Syndrome over the past year, from lengthy hospitalization and rehab, to being honored as the winner in a new 5k run at Comanche Trace, supported by all her new friends.

• With a small piece of the Doyle center’s planned renovations complete in the new health clinic exam room, plans moved forward for more upgrades in the neighborhood community center. Using the organization’s “Build Grant,” Robyn Pipkin joined the staff part-time as a family nurse practitioner in family medicine. She also is certified as an emergency nurse.

• Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference May 12 to announce additional business openings as well as allowing for outdoor graduation ceremonies.

• County leaders got their first look at County Judge Robert Kelly’s proposed 2020-21 budget May 11, a spreadsheet of a lean and probably unpopular plan.

• The ninth positive case of COVID-19 was announced May 7, according to Kerr County Emergency Management coordinator William B. Thomas. Five local citizens have recovered after testing positive.

• Five athletes were honored with special recognitions during Our Lady of the Hills’ livestreamed awards ceremonies held May 7 in place of a more traditional event, in light of COVID-19. Seniors Brooke Meismer and Cody Davis were named as the Lady Hawk and Hawk “Athletes of the year” by OLH Athletic Director Chris Ramirez.

• Local hair and nail salons were allowed to open May 8 under Governor Greg Abbott’s updated executive order. Local residents flocked to their favorite stylists.

• Texas Army National Guard members tested 116 local residents for COVID-19 on Friday, May 8.

• The May 11 Joint Operation COVID-19 weekly update saw Peterson Health President and CEO Cory Edmondson announce three more new coronavirus cases, KISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust detail plans for an outdoor Tivy graduation, and Kerrville Fire Department Chief Dannie Smith set out the procedures under Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order for continuing to reopen the local economy.

• Employees, patients and visitors at Peterson Health now have the option to charge their electric vehicles while on the hospital’s campus, thanks to Kerrville Public Utility Board’s newly installed Level 2 EV charging station.

• Senior Alliyah Jasso headlined a total of 10 Lady Antlers on the 26-5A Girls’ All-District Soccer Team that was recently released after selections by district coaches, despite the fact the season was unable to continue once coronavirus protocols were put in place.

• With only a pair of district 26-5A matches left on the docket when COVID-19 wiped out the remainder of the season, league coaches had seen enough to select an all-district boys’ team, and six Antlers earned honors.

• Kerrville City Council got an update on COVID-19 and dealt mostly with zoning matters in their May 12 meeting.

• Almost everything on the May 18 agenda for Kerrville ISD trustees was tied somehow to COVID-19, from graduation plans to changing next year’s calendar.

• Willie Askey of Kerrville served for almost five years in the U.S. Army and spent most of his service years assigned to an engineering unit on Okinawa. He’s now 93 years old, and was among the first residents to move into an apartment in the Freedom’s Path building on the Kerrville VA Medical Center grounds.

• In separate surprise ceremonies conducted May 18, Tivy High School’s Will Johnston and Race Risinger were informed of their valedictorian and salutatorian status, respectively, for the Class of 2020. Tivy administration and staff visited each of the students personally to present their medals and plaques.

• Kerr County officials held a limited Memorial Day Ceremony on the courthouse lawn on Monday, May 25, with public attendance limited to seating for 25 people.

• Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer presented Kerrville resident Jesse B. Bolton with the Clint and Donna Peoples Award Scholarship for Spring of 2020, on behalf of the Sheriffs' Association of Texas. Jesse B is a junior at Pepperdine University, majoring in international relations; and she is the granddaughter of Royale D. Lewis, retired sheriff of Borden County.

• Tivy seniors enjoyed a “drive-in” Baccalaureate ceremony at Tivy High School May 17. Students were invited to park in the parking lot and enjoy music and inspirational messages while listening through a radio station in their cars.

• In a livestreamed awards ceremony, Our Lady of the Hills College Prep High School recognized a number of students for academic achievement, community service, and in other categories. Highest honors were reserved for Daniel Curran and Caeden Moody who were respectively named Valedictorian, and Salutatorian for OLH’s Class of 2020 which graduated 22 seniors.

• After weeks of bare grocery store shelves, local residents saw the return of high-demand items such as toilet paper, water and paper towels the week of May 18.

• Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the required need for social distancing, different polling locations were announced for the July 14 runoff primary election. Voters who opted for in-person voting could do so at either the Hill Country Youth Event Center, or the Ingram Independent School District Business Building.

• Despite social distancing restrictions, an abbreviated program and COVID-19 concerns, U.S. Army Col. Susan Junker (ret.) brought the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday to life through a keynote address delivered to more than 100 attending guests.

• The sounds of youngsters having summer camp fun again echoed along the Guadalupe river, despite the COVID-19 virus, though some opened later or had fewer sessions this year.

• Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn encouraged citizens to seek counseling if needed; Kerrville Fire Department Chief Dannie Smith announced a joint operation to test for virus in nursing homes; KISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust gave details on graduation procedures; and Schreiner University President Dr. Charlie McCormick announced new online programs at the May 21 weekly COVID-19 update.

• After 24 years of roaming the sidelines of Antler Gymnasium, imploring officials for favored calls, and most of all encouraging his teams to represent the epitome that is TFND, Brian Young stepped away as head boys’ basketball coach at Kerrville Tivy.

• As Kerr County residents were under siege by high winds, threatening lightning and torrential rains, Kerrville Public Utility Board crews began a multiple-day effort to restore power to thousands of customers. And just when they thought they were caught up, a new storm arrived, resulting in a total of 365 individual outage locations affecting 23,770 KPUB customers May 24-30.

• The Kerrville Fire Department tested 820 individual residents and staff at local nursing homes; and the Kerrville unemployment rate is reported at 11.3 percent, according to local leaders during the COVID-19 Update the week of May 25.

• Three new cases of COVID-19 were in Kerr County the week of May 25, according to Peterson Health officials, bringing the total to 21, with one case being confirmed as a City of Kerrville employee.

• The Kerrville Public School Foundation honored two outstanding KISD teachers, naming Carissa Warren the “Elementary Teacher of the Year.” The “Secondary Teacher of the Year” award was given to Gregory Marquardt.

• Kerrville City Council considered items on May 26 including a new service agreement with HCTC; Texas Water Development Board funding for a city project; COVID preparedness; and a financial review as affected by the virus closures and pandemic.

• In the face of unique challenges, Tivy High School’s graduating class of 2020 demonstrated relentless grit, determination – and a fight that never dies. Socially distanced friends and family gathered in Tivy’s Antler Stadium at 8 p.m. May 29 for the commencement ceremony, where more than 300 graduates sat on the field six feet apart in caps and gowns.

• Pursuant to Governor Greg Abbott’s update, the Louise Hays Park Interactive Fountain and Carver Park Sprayground were opened May 29.

• Schreiner University announced the creation of “The Texas Center at Schreiner University,” under the direction of Dr. Donald S. Frazier, with an opening planned for the summer.

• All services at Peterson Regional Medical Center and its allied labs and clinics have re-opened; and numbers of patient appointments and visits are rebounding as of the end of May.

June 2020

• Governor Greg Abbott announced the third phase of the State of Texas’ plan to safely open the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase III, effective June 5, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50 percent capacity, with very limited exceptions.

• It was “Gear Up For Free Fishing Day” in Texas on June 6, an event sponsored by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to allow Texans to cast their lines without the need for a fishing license.

• Center Point High School hosted a graduation ceremony at Pirate Stadium, for the first time since 1987, on June 6.

• Susan Sander, longtime nature educator and volunteer here, was honored by Mayor Bill Blackburn and a host of friends in a farewell drive-by parade the week of June 8, as she moved north to be closer to family. Staff at Riverside Nature Center organized the “party” for RNC's founder.

• American University of Antigua College of Medicine announced an agreement with Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. The agreement, approved in June 2020 between AUA and Schreiner University, allows undergraduate students who meet AUA's admissions requirements the opportunity to attend AUA College of Medicine upon graduating college.

• County leaders considered matters of COVID virus; an interlocal agreement with Center Point ISD, and a sponsored name for the exhibit Hall at the Youth Event Center at their June 8 meeting.

• Kerrville City Council members held a meeting June 9, in which the main action item was consideration of new sports field lights at the Kerrville Sports Complex. They also got a report on damages to city facilities from the late May thunder, wind and hailstorms.

• A 34-year-old man reportedly drowned Wednesday, June 10, in the 400 block of Town Creek Road, according to Kerrville Police Department reports. According to Lt. Mary Krebs, KPD officers and members of the Kerrville Fire Department Technical Rescue Team searched for Brian Bode for hours after being called to the area.

• Kerr County Animal Services, which serves as the local rabies authority, announced June 10 a third case of rabies for 2020 in Kerr County.

• Kerr County saw a surge in COVID-19 cases the week of June 15, more than doubling the total number of cases with confirmation of 32 new local coronavirus patients, six of which were reported at the City of Kerrville Water Treatment Plant, bringing the total to 53 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county.

• Kerrville ISD trustees and administrators discussed COVID-19 measures on June 15, plus Bond Issue construction and the fir

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