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Texans urged to get flu shot


Flu season is underway, and health officials are urging Texans to get their vaccinations as soon as possible, since it takes about two weeks for the shot to take effect.

“Because influenza can be a very serious disease, we recommend that all individuals aged 6 months and older get their flu vaccine every year,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, interim commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

 “The flu vaccines for the 2022-2023 flu season have undergone substantial changes since last season, which will allow them to better protect against the flu viruses that are currently circulating,” she said. “So it is important to go get this season’s flu vaccine before flu activity increases even more in Texas.”

People over the age of 65 have a choice of three recommended higher-dose flu vaccines, which are considered more effective for this age group. People can also safely get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time they get the influenza vaccine, Shuford said.

Flu shots are widely available. To find out where, visit Vaccines.gov.


Colorful fall foliage looks unlikely

With much of the state still abnormally dry, or in some stage of drought, trees across the state are struggling with the effects of high temperatures and little rain. That means it is likely this year’s fall foliage won’t be as vivid as usual, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. 

“Many trees put on fewer, smaller leaves this spring or started to change color or prematurely drop their leaves in the summer,” said Karl Flocke, with the forest service. “All of this will most likely lead to fall colors that are less impressive than in years past.”

Deciduous trees drop their leaves in the autumn to conserve energy. However, due to the drought, some trees are already dropping their leaves before the green chlorophyll begins breaking down, which is what results in fall colors. Other trees still have their leaves, but they have already turned dead and brown. 

There are other long-term effects from drought besides a lack of pretty colors, including a higher vulnerability to wood-boring insects. It could take months to determine the ultimate toll from the drought on the state’s trees.


Emergency food benefits again extended

More than $329 million in emergency food benefits are being extended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for October, marking 30 straight months of additional benefits.

All SNAP households will receive a minimum of $95 in emergency allotments, in addition to their regular benefits. About 1.6 million Texas households benefit from the allotments. More than $8.2 billion in emergency benefits have been provided by USA to Texans since April 2020. 

“HHSC is proud to continue helping Texans who need a helping hand to put food on their table,” said Wayne Salter if the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which administers the program.


School safety chief appointed

A new position of state chief of school safety and security has been created following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Former Secret Service agent John P. Scott is filling that post.

“Protecting Texas children and making our schools safer for all are top priorities, and John Scott is uniquely qualified to help lead our efforts ensuring their safety and security in Texas schools,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. “Chief Scott's wealth of experience in security and intelligence and exemplary service to our nation make him the perfect fit as the new Chief of School Safety and Security.”

Scott served in a number of positions in the Secret Service. He will report directly to Mike Morath, Texas commissioner of education.


Uvalde school district suspends entire force

The Uvalde school district has suspended its entire police force and placed two administrators on leave, following withering criticism to law enforcement response to the late May shooting, when an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.

The Texas Standard reported the action came after investigations revealed that officers waited more than an hour before engaging the shooter, as students and teachers pleaded with 911 dispatchers to send help. The shooter ultimately was killed by law enforcement officers.

Family members of the victims camped out at district headquarters for 10 days demanding action, the report said.


COVID-19 cases continue to drop

The Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University reported new cases of COVID-19 in Texas during the past week dropped once again to 14,225, with 104 new deaths. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,359 lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state, down slightly from the previous week.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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