5 things for Houstonians to know for Friday, Dec. 31

At left, flames engulf vehicles involved in a deadly crash in Lakewood, Colorado, on April 25, 2019. At right, Rogel Aguilera is seen in a mug shot released by authorities April 26, 2019.

Here are things to know for Friday, Dec. 31:

1. Texas DPS: 1 dead, 3 injured after helicopter crash near Livingston in Polk County

One person is dead after authorities with Texas Department of Public Safety said a helicopter crashed at a field in Polk County.

The crash involving a Bell 206 helicopter occurred deep in the woods at Galloway Lane and Highway 146, southeast of Livingston at around 11:45 a.m. Thursday morning.

One of the three passengers on board, 54-year-old Daniel King of Livingston, died at the scene of the crash, Texas DPS troopers said.

Two other passengers, 26-year-old Braydon King and 23-year-old Brocton King, also from Livingston, were transported to CHI St. Luke’s Hospital in Livingston.

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2. Houston truck driver’s sentence reduced from 110 years to 10 years by Colorado governor for fatal crash

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday commuted the prison term of a truck driver who was sentenced to 110 years following a fatal 2019 accident, reducing the sentence to 10 years.

Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, killed four people on April 25, 2019, after he said his brakes failed the downhill grade on I-70 eastbound outside of Denver. Prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos acted recklessly and made a series of poor decisions before the deadly wreck.

Polis reduced Aguilera-Mederos’ sentencing by 100 years, saying in a letter on Thursday that the life sentence was inappropriate for a “tragic but unintentional act.”

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3. Omicron is surging, but most Texas schools are resuming classes next week

The rapidly spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus has upended the holiday season for many Texans and forced the cancellations of thousands of flights.

It has also prompted school districts in the Northeast and Midwest to take measures like limiting winter sports activities and temporarily returning to remote learning, though that is not the case in Texas, where the state government has prohibited school districts from requiring that teachers and students be vaccinated or wear masks. (Many districts are defying the mask mandate prohibition.) For now, schools are largely sticking to what they already have been doing to control the virus’s spread.

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4. City of Houston’s departments, offices face staffing issues amid COVID surge

As omicron cases continue surging, the city of Houston is reporting several departments and city offices facing staffing issues.

The Houston Emergency Center or HEC, which provides 24/7 emergency 911 services, said the variant had taken a toll on 911 operators.

“A lot of times it’s not necessarily that they’ve tested positive, but we’re waiting on test results,” said the Director of the Houston Emergency Center Robert Mock. “So, [at] any given time, we could have 10 to 15 people out on protocol waiting to see if they’re positive.”

Mock said because of the impact on his department specifically, healthy 911 operators would be working overtime on New Year’s Eve.

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5. Walmart, Sam’s Club pharmacies in Texas now dispensing COVID-19 antiviral medication

Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies announced Thursday that they will begin dispensing the authorized COVID antiviral medication, Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, in Texas.

Select Walmarts and Sam’s Club pharmacies have already started receiving limited supplies of the COVID medication through the U.S. Federal Retail Pharmacy Therapeutics Program.

The medication will only be available with a prescription from a healthcare provider.

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