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Hughes believes judge's order suspending Texas abortion law will be overturned
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State Sen. Bryan Hughes says he believes a federal judge’s order blocking Texas’ new abortion law will be overturned by an appeals court.

On Wednesday evening, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman suspended the law known as Senate Bill 8, which since early September had banned abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks.

Hughes, R-Mineola, is the author of SB 8.

The Texas law leaves enforcement solely up to private citizens, who are entitled to collect $10,000 in damages if they bring successful lawsuits against not just abortion providers who violate the restrictions, but anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion, the Associated Press reported.

Hughes said Pitman’s ruling orders state judges and clerks not to accept lawsuits under SB 8 but does not affect lawsuits in federal courts.

The state has appealed Pitman’s order to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and SB 8 was written in light of that court’s past rulings, Hughes said.

“We believe the 5th Circuit will reverse Judge Pitman’s orders and allow the law to fully take effect,” he said.

He added that while it is unknown how long it will take for the appeals court to make a ruling, Hughes believes it will be fairly quickly.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is known to be one of the most conservative appellate courts in the country, according to the Texas Tribune.

While SB 8 is temporarily blocked, Hughes said that abortion clinics are still treading carefully in the event that Pitman’s ruling is overturned.

That’s because under that scenario, the law states, “if a court temporarily blocks the statute and that court is later reversed, then any abortions that were done during that time are still illegal and can still be claimed under Senate Bill 8,” Hughes said.

The AP reported that at least six Texas clinics resumed abortion services Thursday or were gearing up to offer them again, said Kelly Krause, spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

There were roughly two dozen abortion clinics in Texas before the law took effect Sept. 1.

In his opinion, Pitman wrote that Republican lawmakers had “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” by trying to evade judicial review, according to the AP.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” wrote Pitman, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama. “That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Biden administration, which has said the restrictions were enacted in defiance of the U.S. Constitution, the AP reported.

SB 8 deals with the right to life and a woman’s right to choose, and it was not taken lightly, Hughes said. The issue is the most difficult one dealt with in the Legislature because there are strong feelings attached to it, he added.

Every unborn baby growing in their mother’s womb is deserving of protection, he said.

“Under the heartbeat law, we’re going to protect that baby’s life while we support and love and respect the mother,” Hughes said. “We can do both.”

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PHOTOS: ArtWalk fills downtown Longview streets with activity
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ArtWalk returned Thursday evening to fill downtown Longview streets with creativity.

The event, which is scheduled four times a year, is a free self-guided tour of downtown businesses featuring artists, musicians and other performers, some of whom offer their creations for sale.

Many downtown businesses also were open for attendees.

Also, three new murals on downtown buildings — “Spring Melody,” “Color for Your Ears” and “Longview Flower Power” — were officially dedicated during Thursday’s event.

The next ArtWalk is scheduled Dec. 9.

ArtWalk is operated by Arts!Longview as the signature event for the city’s cultural arts district. For information, go to artwalklongview.com .

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Walk to End Alzheimer's brings back in-person Longview event

Hundreds of people carrying a variety of flowers will walk Saturday to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s will return as an in-person event Saturday. Attendees will gather at the Gregg County Courthouse beginning at 8 a.m. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m., and the walk will begin between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.

“The most important thing about this walk is it allows for our community to come together, especially when we’ve been through a year and a half of isolation,” said Jennifer Bowring, director of development for the Alzheimer’s Association. “A lot of it is our caregivers. This has been a very lonely year and a half. To come together as a community and see there are others experiencing the same journey as them, it really gives people hope.”

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s raises funds that support education efforts and support for families with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as help support research to find a cure for the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is growing more prevalent, Bowring said. She noted that one in three people are expected to become afflicted by the disease and that it impacts more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

“We need to get the education out there because the growth of the disease is become more prevalent,” she said. “It’s becoming a crisis.”

Last year, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s was held virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were invited to walk wherever they were, Bowring said.

This year, the walk will be held in person with safety protocols in place, she explained. Those protocols include contactless registration. Participants are asked to register prior to attending Saturday. That includes registering children who may be walking with parents, she noted.

If people attend who have not pre-registered, Bowring said volunteers will have a QR code they can scan to register on their personal device.

T-shirts, medals and other items will be mailed to participants this year, she said. Sanitation stations, gloves and face masks will be available. People will be asked to social distance 6 feet apart, and there will not be a designated race start, she noted. Instead, people are asked to begin walking whenever they choose to help promote social distancing.

KETK meteorologist Marcus Bagwell will serve as the event’s emcee. Longview High School students will sing the National Anthem, and Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 613 will raise the flag at the courthouse. Local pilates instructor Annabeth Baker will lead a warmup to the walk.

“This event could not have happened without a committee,” Bowring said. “We thank the local volunteers who have helped us with the committee.”

About 200 people are expected to attend, she said. Bowring noted that dogs are welcome if they are on a leash and that people also can bring strollers.

Those who attend will carry flowers with a variety of meaning as they walk. Orange flowers mean a person is supporting the cause. Yellow flowers represent those who are caregivers to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Blue flowers signify those participants who have Alzheimer’s disease. Purple flowers mean a person lost someone to the disease.

“It’s beautiful; the morning of the walk is gorgeous because of all the colors of the flowers,” Bowring said. “Everybody carrying them really understands the meaning, so it is a personal endeavor and mission. We would love to have the community help us find our first white flower, which will represent a survivor of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Those interested can still register to participate by visiting alz.org/walk. Registration is free, but donations are requested to assist the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Slight rise lifts Gregg County's COVID-19 spread level back to 'substantial'
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Gregg County’s drop from “substantial” community spread levels of COVID-19 to “moderate” was short-lived. Thursday’s report from the Northeast Texas Public Health District revealed community spread has increased, returning the county to the highest level tracked.

Thursday’s report showed Gregg County with a community spread level of 38.61, about 10% higher than Monday’s report. Despite the increase, community spread remains more than 70% lower than early September, when it reached 142.92.

Gregg County had joined Henderson and Anderson counties with “moderate” COVID-19 community spread levels Monday after the number continuously decreased for almost two weeks.

The level of community spread is determined by taking the average number of all COVID-19 positive cases from the previous seven days. That number is then divided by the population of the county and multiplied by 100,000. A county reaches “substantial” community spread when its seven-day rolling rate is at or more than 35 cases. Substantial community spread represents “large-scale, uncontrolled community transmission,” according to the health district.

Thursday’s report showed the spread level in Henderson and Anderson counties continues to decrease. Anderson County’s community spread levels decreased by 27% on Thursday, and Henderson also decreased by 22%.

Overall, 156 total new COVID-19 cases were reported in Gregg County on Thursday. NET Health’s twice-weekly report showed 43 new confirmed cases along with 113 probable cases. Total active cases within the county are at 2,756.

According to NET Health, there were 202 East Texans being treated for COVID-19 at Tyler hospitals Thursday, which is about 48% lower than the high of 389, which was set earlier this month just after Labor Day weekend.

One Smith County Jail inmate Thursday had an active diagnosis of COVID-19, according to NET Health. One inmate has died due to COVID-19.

Data gathered in Thursday’s report represents the past 48 hours, from noon Monday to noon Thursday.

On Thursday, there were 447 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state’s 19-county Trauma Region G, about 65 fewer than Monday. Of COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 163 of those are in ICUs and 161 patients are on ventilators. In early September, hospitalizations reached 822, the highest number of single-day COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations in recent weeks have surpassed a peak in January when the single-day number of patients peaked at 684 on Jan. 6.

In Gregg County as of Monday, 56.81% of people 12 and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 49.38% of residents 12 and older had been fully vaccinated, according to the state.

State data shows 87.97% of Texas residents 65 and older had been vaccinated with at least one dose as of Thursday, while 79.52% in that age group had been fully vaccinated.