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Emergency Management reports uptick of COVID cases - Update

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COVID Graphic

By Chris Edwards

TYLER COUNTY – Tyler County’s Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe reported “a major uptick in COVID-19 cases” throughout the county.

Jobe said that during the last two weeks, the county has gone from 0-3 active cases per day to more than 35 actives. However, Jobe said his office has had no confirmation as to whether these cases are of the new delta variant of the virus. 

Jobe’s office also began providing updates on active case counts again. As of last Thursday, the county has 91 active, up from the previous week count of 38. Since reporting began last year, Tyler County has had 1,453 confirmed cases of COVID, with 1319 recoveries and 43 deaths.

Jobe said the sort of tests needed for variant type are requested and performed by labs at the state’s request, but it is, he said, safe to assume they are of the Delta variant based on its widespread nature.

Nationwide, the delta variant, which was first identified in India, is rapidly spreading. In an Associated Press report earlier in the week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control, said the country is at a “pivotal point” in the pandemic.

Walensky also reported that the delta COVID variant is one of the most infectious respiratory diseases that scientists have ever seen, and that those infected with it can carry up to 1,000 times more virus in their nasal passages than those who were infected with the initial strain.

Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist with the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, stated in a Texas Tribune story published on Tuesday, that the variant’s symptoms are similar to those of a common cold – headaches, sore throat, runny noses and fever, as opposed to common symptoms of the original COVID-19 strain, which include coughing and loss of smell.

Jetelina said the reason why the variant is more transmissible is due to proteins on the outer “spikes” of the virus. Also, a study cited by Jetelina from Scotland, found that the hospitalization rate for those who contracted the delta variant was about 85% higher than those fighting the alpha variant.

Jobe said the majority of the new cases the county has seen are individuals who have not been vaccinated. “Breakthrough cases of those vaccinated seem to be less than one-tenth of one percent,” he said. According to Jobe, there have been 6,000 of the county’s 21,518 residents vaccinated.

At the statewide level, health officials have expressed concern about stilled vaccination rates. As of Tuesday, about 43% of Texans had been fully vaccinated, which is below the national average rate of 48.8%, according to data from both the Texas Department of State Health Services and the CDC.

Jobe said he has been asked publicly and privately about the delta variant and the county’s number of cases, but also has fielded many questions about masks and lockdowns. “I have started wearing my mask again in public areas, both for me and those I might be around,” he said. “This is a personal choice.”

However, with regard to any statewide mandates, Jobe said he does not think the state or county government will require either, unless the disease “takes a major turn for the worst.”

At the state level, Gov. Greg Abbott banned local pandemic mandates, and said last week that he will not impose another statewide mask mandate.

Jobe did say that for anyone who feels they have been exposed to get tested. “The one request I have is that if you think you have been exposed, and feeling symptomatic, please get tested,” he said. “This could help prevent spreading to those who may not be as healthy as others.”

Vaccine clinics scheduled

Residents have the opportunity to get vaccinated at coming clinics, free of charge. One, which is being conducted by the Jasper Newton County Public Health District, in partnership with The Keniesha Rochelle Beatty Memorial outreach and Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, will have two dates, Saturday, August 14 and again on Saturday, Sept. 11. 

Those clinics will take place at the Mayme R. Canada Brown Community Development and Education Center, located at 80 Cobb Mill Road in Woodville, and will last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both dates. The vaccine is available to anyone over the age of 18 who is not pregnant.

A free vaccine clinic is also scheduled in the city of Chester at the city hall on Wednesday, August 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and again on Sept. 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the second vaccination. This will be an administration of the Moderna brand vaccine, and is conducted by the city, along with the State of Texas Department of Emergency Management, and will be administered by military personnel.

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Hometown pride in the Hall of Fame: Tyler County native Jessie White proves every step can be a teachable moment

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Jessie White at the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week.Jessie White at the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week.By Chris Edwards

Soft-spoken and insightful, Tyler County native Jessie White is the type of man who exudes kindness and intellectual depth. 

“It can happen,” he said. With one simple three-word sentence, White referred to the limitless capacity all humans possess to achieve things toward their betterment. “I’ve never allowed barriers to stop me,” he said.

White, who was just named to the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame “hasn’t changed in 64 years,” according to his wife, Wanda, but beneath his calm, gentle demeanor is one of the greatest coaching minds the southeast Texas region has known. White tends to eschew labels such as “legend,” though, and said it even sometimes angers him when people refer to him in such ways. 

White, who grew up in Warren, has worked for 40 years at West Brook ISD, where he led the Lady Bruins to more than 350 wins throughout the course of his career.

He is now retired from coaching, but is still teaching, and for White, life is chock-full of teachable moments. White, who teaches history classes at West Brook High, tells his students that he has lived through much of what he lectures about. He came of age during the age of segregation and was among the first high school class of Black students to go through Warren High School for all four years of high school, after the district had integrated. 

For White’s induction in the PVILCA Hall of Fame, he was brought in under the category of “Bridging the Gap,” which represents the integration of the two sports and academic competition leagues, the Prairie View Interscholastic League and the University Interscholastic League.

The PVIL represented Black high schools from 1920-70, and the association has worked hard to preserve that history and honor individuals who fought adversity and achieved great things. Much of the history of those Black schools has disappeared with the passage of time, and White said the organization has dedicated itself to preserving that history. 

White shared the “Bridging the Gap” induction honors with 10 others. White said he was “really excited” when he received the news of his induction. “It was insane…and caught me off-guard,” he said. Wanda called the recognition “well-deserved.”

In his acceptance speech, which took place at the ceremony, held in Houston at the Marriott South hotel, White did not run down memory lane to recall his past achievements on the basketball court, but spoke to something “bigger than basketball” – the fulfillment of dreams and acknowledging those who have supported him in his journey, including his family, friends and fraternity brothers.

It was an honor that, heretofore, White said he could only envision in his dreams. White is quick to point out that he is a proud product of Tyler County. “I’m very proud of growing up in Tyler County,” he said. 

He returns to visit relatives as often as he can and said that for a lot of his collegiate career and during his coaching years, he could not find the time to return home, but looks back with fondness on the place where he came of age. “I carry Tyler County with me wherever I go,” he added.

When he graduated from Warren High School in 1976, White was not only a top-notch multi-sport athlete, but a top scholar. He said that he knew from an early age that despite his athletic abilities, he needed to place his chief emphasis on his books. In fact, when he was being scouted to play collegiate basketball, he was still recovering from a knee injury he sustained during his senior year, and doubted he would make it, but he did. 

The injury sidetracked everything, he said, but in spite of it, he received a basketball scholarship to Temple Junior College before transferring to Sam Houston State University, where he would earn his bachelor’s degree with a double-major in sociology and history and a minor in kinesiology. Later on, he earned his master’s degree from Prairie View A&M in educational administration.

In his preparation to become a coach, White learned about coaching sports by working alongside people like the late Alex Durley, Cynthia Doyle Perkins and Dr. Charles Breithaupt, who is currently the Executive Director for UIL.

White said he views athletes as doing a job, and does not feel the need to cheer on someone for scoring a touchdown or sinking a basket.

White said that the integration process was sometimes difficult. He spent his elementary school years at Red Oak Elementary before transferring to Warren ISD when the schools became integrated in 1965-66. Prior to that, Black students went to high school at the Henry T. Scott High School in Woodville, as there was no campus for Black students in Warren.

White said that despite growing up in poverty as part of a large family, he still felt the support of the community, however, it was sometimes on the road as an athlete where he encountered bigotry in his high school days.

He said there was name-calling in some locales, and some coaches even warned Warren coaches not to bring Black athletes onto their campuses.

White said that seeing the extremes of the days of the segregated south to integration and his days as a star athlete could sometimes demonstrate odd scenarios.

He told a story of accidentally going into a gas station restroom as a little boy with a “Whites Only” sign upon the door, which he mistook for his surname, to mean that only he and his family could use the restroom. The gas station proprietor did not look favorably at this action and yelled at young Jessie. Years later, when he was a basketball standout for the Warriors, that same man invited him to his home for dinner.

White said he doubts the man had any idea that he was the same young boy who used the “wrong” restroom, or even remembered the incident, and he did not remind him of it, either.

The sport of basketball took White all over the world, and although he had great success on the court “it wasn’t everything to me,” he said. 

Still, as fierce of a competitor as White is, and has been throughout his life, he still has regrets. He turned one of them into a teachable moment to help encourage his athletes. He said that due to a personal matter between a coach and himself, he quit playing the sport that fueled his legend his junior season as a Bearkat. “I tell kids now to not give up on your dream,” he said. “I wish I would have never done that…quitting is forever.”

White’s induction brought praise from some of his former players, many of whom consider him more than a coach, but a mentor. 

His record for the district he has called home for 40 years speaks volumes of a man who is esteemed in the highest by his generations of students and his colleagues. Aside from his record-breaking tenure of coaching girls’ basketball for the Lady Bruins, White has also coached everything from track and field to volleyball, and he helped lead West Brook’s football team to a state championship as an assistant coach. He accomplished the same feat with the school’s track team. White also was recognized by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches as well as the Texas Girls Coaching Association for his contributions to Texas high school sports.

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence,” said Shaquita Brady, who added the honor was “well-deserved.”

Arie Wilson, who graduated West Brook in 2000, said “Thank you for making such an impact on not only the game, but in my personal life.”

Another former player and student, Liz Landry, who spoke about her mentor quoted him: “It’s what you do when no one’s watching that counts the most.”

White’s influence outside the classroom is evident in his former students, according to Wanda, who said that West Brook alumni who played under White and wind up at the same colleges and universities are recognizable to one another in the way they conduct themselves. She said the students who pick up after themselves and strive to keep their grades up are identifiable products of Coach White’s lessons on and off the court, even if they don’t know one another.

Former student-athlete Katlyn Ferguson Clark said that White expected a “Class-Act from young women,” and said “Thank you for setting the bar so high. I’ve always carried that standard with me and think of [Coach White] often.”

As far as his teaching and coaching philosophy goes, White said he would tell other educators “you do you.” “When I started developing my own way of doing things is when people really started to respect me,” he said. “You also must respect the people you are working with, as well as those you are working against and the officials, as a coach,” he said.

The calm and cool gentleman does not seem like the type to do so, but he admits that at one time he could pull off chair-throwing fits, ala Bobby Knight, but he found that it was not the way for him, nor did it garner respect.

“We’re all still learning lessons. I’m still learning lessons,” he said.

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Groveton offers no-cost student meals

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Groveton ISD logo 0729 250Special to the News-Times

GROVETON — For the 2021-2022 school year, healthy meals will be offered every school day to all students at no cost. 

Typically, a student’s household must meet income eligibility requirements to qualify for free or reduced-price meals; however, the United States Department of Agriculture issued guidance that allows schools to offer meals to all students at no cost for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Each school/site or central office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed upon request.

While no application or eligibility determination process is required for your student to receive free meals this school year, the income eligibility requirement will likely resume in the 2022-2023 school year. 

In accordance with federal civil rights law and USDA civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information should contact the agency (state or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English. 

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) can be found online, at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. 

To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; by fax at (202) 690-7442; or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Authorities seeking burglary suspect

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Jesse Evetts JonesJesse Evetts JonesBy Chris Edwards

TYLER COUNTY – Authorities are on the search for a Colmesneil man who is facing several felony charges, and are asking for the public’s help in finding him.

Jesse Evetts Jones, a 29-year-old man who is known to stay in and around Colmesneil, is currently wanted for four different burglary charges, including one habitation burglary charge, unauthorized use of a vehicle and felony evading. According to a Crime Stoppers bulletin released last week about Jones, he is also known to stay along FM 92, between Tyler and Hardin counties.

Jones is a white male with brown hair and stands six feet tall. His weight is described as being between 180 and 200 lbs., and he has two tattoos: a barbed-wire design on his left bicep and a cross on his left arm.

Anyone who has information about Jones’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office at 409-283-2172, or Crime Stoppers via the website 639TIPS.com, or by calling 936-639-TIPS. 

Any tips and/or calls made to the Crime Stoppers hotline are anonymous, and a tip that leads to an arrest might be eligible for a reward.

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Genealogical documents being digitized at Whitmeyer Library

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Carol Shields, the librarian for the Whitmeyer Genealogical Library at Heritage Village in Woodville, gave a recent presentation to the Tyler County Heritage Society Board of Directors on Monday morning concerning a digital archival service, Family Search, that is in the process of digitizing the library’s family records holdings.  (PHOTO BY CHRIS EDWARDS)Carol Shields, the librarian for the Whitmeyer Genealogical Library at Heritage Village in Woodville, gave a recent presentation to the Tyler County Heritage Society Board of Directors on Monday morning concerning a digital archival service, Family Search, that is in the process of digitizing the library’s family records holdings. (PHOTO BY CHRIS EDWARDS)

WOODVILLE – Currently FamilySearch, a non-profit family history organization dedicated to gathering, preserving, and sharing the world’s records, is in Woodville digitizing the Whitmeyer Library’s genealogical documents. This is a free service to the Whitmeyer Library as well as other organizations.

FamilySearch has sent volunteers and equipment to our library at Heritage Village to do the work. Our Librarian Carol Shields is assisting with identifying family related information in our library. When the project is completed, the digitized data will be made available on FamilySearch’s website, FamilySearch.org/archives. In addition, our Library will receive their free copy of the digitized data to use on our website and to make available for researchers in our Whitmeyer Genealogy Library.

The Whitmeyer Genealogy Library, which is located in the Gift Shop at Heritage Village, is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays, appointment only, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., unless Heritage Village is closed. Call for an appointment, at 409-283-2272, so the librarian is ready to assist you with your search.


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