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Angelina County has four new cases of COVID-19 to increase total to 172

There are 172 cases of COVID-19 in Angelina County as of Thursday afternoon — an increase of four people, according to the Angelina County & Cities Health District website.

Included in that number, 54 have recovered, two have been hospitalized and two are dead. There have been 2,616 tests completed in the county, according to the Angelina County website.

The Texas Department of State Health Services website shows 52 cases in Polk County, 44 in Cherokee County, 11 in Trinity County and 29 in San Augustine County with one death.

Nacogdoches County is reporting 241 cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths, according to the city of Nacogdoches. The latest case is a woman in her 70s related to a long-term care facility.

There have been 180 cases in Shelby County.

The state website reports there are 52,268 cases statewide that have resulted in 1,440 deaths. The agency estimates 30,341 patients have recovered. There have been 800,433 tests administered statewide.

To contact the Angelina County & Cities Health District coronavirus call center, call 630-8500. The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Those who are not in the ACCHD jurisdiction are asked to call the Department of State Health Service’s COVID-19 call center at (877) 570-9779.

Pineywoods students cross virtual stage during hybrid graduation

Pineywoods Community Academy joined the ranks of history makers with its hybrid graduation ceremony recorded over the past few weeks and debuted at 7 p.m. Thursday online.

Students joined with a small group of family members to walk across the stage of the Naranjo Auditorium and accept their diplomas, official graduates of what might be the most unique graduating class in decades.

Valedictorian Jordan Ha said in his speech recorded on Tuesday that he was initially thankful for the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic solely because he didn’t want to write this speech.

“However, in the end, I realized that I would regret this for my entire life if I didn’t have this opportunity to adapt the source material of my life story,” Jordan said.

He thanked his mentor Yvonne Garrison for having the tenacity to tolerate his antics as a “clown character.” He thanked his colleagues Jack Weeks, Isaac Rojas, Logan Navarro, Cesar Torres and Jace Harvey for all of the memories they shared. And he thanked his family for everything they’ve done for him.

Jordan spoke of critical, life altering moments he had during high school that changed him forever, including the death of a friend. He spoke of coming to terms with the person he became through these events and who he hopes to become in the future, recapturing the ability to have fun.

He left his classmates with a final sentiment: “We can’t start over now, and we can’t go back and fix the past. But those experiences and encounters that we have embarked on together are what I firmly believe is the very reason for our growth.”

“The unwritten end of this tale will always come after the chime of the last bell,” he said. “If you want to know how this tale ends, open the doors and see what’s waiting for you on the other side. So, as I decree from a lie that was told in April: Autumn was the season that I met you. Now, Autumn will be here soon. A fall without you.”

Salutatorian Mehriel Gatus spoke about how though this is not the end of a chapter they all anticipated, she is proud of the way her peers and friends have powered through.

She thanked her teachers, friends and family for making the last four years of her life unforgettable.

“As this chapter in our life closes, it is important to remember those who have been there with us through the journey,” Mehriel said. “With the pandemic being an ongoing issue, the support that we have seen from everyone around us has not gone unnoticed. With the community coming together to support each other as we fight against the virus, the energy and love being poured out to the seniors has been amazing.”

The old adage to enjoy the high school years because they would be gone in a blink of an eye is all too relevant considering recent events, Mehriel said. She said she hopes the pandemic will give people a chance to change and appreciate their blessings.

“I’m excited to finally go out to dinner with my family and see the smiling faces of families around us, I’m excited to embrace my friends without the fear of illness, I’m excited to spend time with others and not take it for granted,” she said. “With these charges comes a new appreciation for those around us. We may not have been blessed with our senior walks or the last days of school or a traditional graduation, but we are blessed with a caring community, and with that, I am truly proud to be a part of the class of 2020.”

Bethany Nerren, the No. 3 graduate, said this has been a very different experience, one that was rather intimate for herself and her family. She said she was excited for her graduation because she is the one in the family who likes school.

“I was really excited to be number three,” she said. “Not having the experience walking the stage and your family calling out your name, that’s the biggest part that has affected me.”

However, she said she recognized that nothing could be done about the situation, so she tries not to let it affect her mindset.

“At least I’m not going to trip and fall in front of everyone,” she joked.

Bethany also led the invocation, thanking God for getting them through this year and looking out for them during their grade school careers. She asked for God to continue to protect them and to help them become the people they are supposed to be as they head out in different directions after graduation.

Diana Kolb gave the benediction, thanking God for a country that freely gives its children an education and for the people at PCA who work hard to provide that education. She asked God to empower the students to go out and be light in the world as they encounter new challenges.

Diana said the experience of social isolation was a chance to draw closer to her friends.

“A lot of the seniors have a lot of time to get into the mindset of, ‘Hey, we’re fixing to leave each other,’ where we were just thrown in with it,” Diana said. “Because of that, a lot of my friends have been able to make signs, make desserts, just to try to help lift our spirits because it is really hard with AP testing and all that going on.”

She agreed that the graduation experience was quite personal to be able to walk the stage with her adoptive family, so she was thankful for that difference. She said she is excited to meet up with the class of 2020 in 10 years and see where life had taken everyone.

The Lufkin State Supported Living Center, located on U.S. Highway 69 north, has at least three confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Two identified in fatal Shelby County plane crash

Two Tenaha residents were identified in the fatal plane crash in Shelby County Wednesday afternoon.

The pilot was identified as 73-year-old John D. Scull and the passenger was identified as 81-year-old Carolyn Hooker Scull, according to a press release from Sgt. David Hendry with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

According to the release, details surrounding the cause of the crash are not available at this time.

The preliminary information indicated that at approximately 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, DPS troopers and other first responders located the crash site, just south of the Center Municipal Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified to conduct the investigation.

Any additional inquiries should be directed to the FAA or the NTSB.