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Headlines for Friday, April 24, 2020

Amid Protests, Governor Says May 3 Reopening of Kansas Remains in Doubt

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly says her goal is to start reopening the Kansas economy on May 3 but she may not be able to do it because the state is "nowhere near" having the supplies needed for adequate coronavirus testing. Kelly's comments Thursday came after hundreds of people protested around the Statehouse against a stay-at-home order from the governor set to expire May 3. Kelly said a key issue in lifting restrictions is being able to test enough to identify and contain outbreaks quickly and take steps to contain them locally. Kansas has struggled to get enough supplies from the federal government and private companies.

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Officials: Kansas May Be Near Peak in Coronavirus Deaths

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — State officials said Friday Kansas may be nearing or has already reached its peak in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, leaving the state to focus on the economic fallout of closing businesses to stem the spread. Kansas saw the number of deaths drop Friday from 112 to 111 after an investigation determined that one of the previously counted fatalities was not related to the coronavirus. Positive cases increased by 295 to 2,777, with further increases anticipated, as the state boosts its testing rate, which has been among the lowest nationwide. 

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Kansas Jobless Start Getting Extra $600 Benefit After Delays

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — After weeks of delays, the Kansas Department of Labor has started to process claims for an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits generated from federal coronavirus stimulus packages. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Gov. Laura Kelly said the delay in fulfilling claims was due to an error in the department’s processing system. The system has been beset with problems keeping up with the demand. The number of confirmed cases rose Friday by 295 to 2,777. The number of COVID-19 deaths dropped from 112 to 111 after additional investigation determined that one of the fatalities was not related to the illness.

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Hundreds in Topeka Protest Governor's Stay-at-Home Order

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP / LJW) — Hundreds of people protested Thursday against Governor Laura Kelly’s stay-at-home order for the state, many waving signs on sidewalks while others drove slowly around the Statehouse.  About 150 people stood on the south side of the Statehouse or walked around the building with signs and American flags as at least 200 cars drove slowly around the building. Many of the participants carried signs supporting the reelection of President Donald Trump.  The protesters suggested Kelly has gone too far in imposing restrictions and shutting down the economy. They held or posted signs with slogans such as “Fear is the real virus,” and “Choose Freedom. Reopen America.”  Similar protests have been held across the country, with participants contending stay-at-home orders are damaging the economy and violating their civil rights. Health and government officials argue the orders are the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey showed that Americans remain overwhelmingly in favor of stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Democrat Tops GOP Hopefuls in Kansas US Senate Fundraising

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Republicans looking to protect their majority in the U.S. Senate have been unable to match the fundraising prowess of a party-switching Democratic state lawmaker in normally reliably red Kansas. But how much it matters that state Sen. Barbara Bollier raised $2.35 million during the first three months of 2020, is unclear given that the potential GOP frontrunner to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is prominent conservative Kris Kobach. While the more than $242,000 he raised for the quarter was a little more than a tenth of Bollier’s total, Kobach is well-known as a hard-right immigration policy advocate who served as Kansas secretary of state before losing the Kansas governor’s race in 2018. 

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Gift of the Mask: Cuomo Lauds Retired Kansas Farmer's Gesture

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A retired farmer in Kansas whose wife has one lung shipped one of the couple’s five N-95 masks to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for use by a doctor or a nurse. Cuomo read the entire letter at his daily briefing as an example of courage and generosity in dark times. Cuomo’s eyes misted as he brandished the mask at his daily briefing. Dennis Ruhnke said he was surprised at the public attention.

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Topeka Postpones 3% Pay Cut for Staff Stemming from Virus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials have announced plans to postpone a 3% pay reduction for all city staff to deal with plummeting city tax revenues in the wake of measures to slow the COVID-19 outbreak. The city said in a news release Friday that pay cuts will be reconsidered in June when actual sales tax receipts for March and April will be available. However, the city’s governing body and City Manager Brent Trout are proceeding with a 6% salary reduction. That temporary cut begins with the pay period that starts May 2.

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Kansas Official's Comments on Coronavirus Raise Eyebrows

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A city commissioner in Manhattan, Kansas, is drawing attention after his frustration with the government's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic boiled over at a commission meeting. Commissioner Mark Hatesohl said at a meeting Tuesday that he was nearly to the point of wishing everyone would get the virus so the pandemic could ease and businesses could reopen. On Thursday, Hatesohl clarified that he was not hoping everyone would get the virus. He says he's frustrated by the state and local stay-at-home orders that are devastating businesses. And he believes health officials have overstated the threat of the virus because most people recover.

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Topeka Fire, Police Unions Reject Call for 3% Pay Cut

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Unions representing Topeka's police officers and firefighters have rejected the city's proposal that those city employees accept a temporary 3% pay cut. The Capital-Journal reports those pay cuts were suggested as a way to deal with plummeting city tax revenues in the wake of measures to slow the COVID-19 outbreak. An attorney representing the unions suggested in a letter Wednesday that the city consider alternative measures before pushing a pay cut on first responders. Those measures included using the city's general reserve fund and relying on upcoming police and firefighter retirements for cost-savings. Topeka's mayor and city council members voted Tuesday to cut their own pay by 6%.

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AP Review: Stockpiles of State Medical Supplies Were Sparse, Outdated Before Virus

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (AP) — Before the coronavirus outbreak, many states had only a modest supply of protective medical equipment. An Associated Press review of more than 20 states found that many were still storing items that were left over from an influenza pandemic a decade ago and long since expired. Many states had not freshened their supplies because of a decline in public health funding and a growing dependence on just-in-time delivery in the health care industry. But states have found it difficult to get supplies quickly because of a global competition among areas that have been hit hard by the virus.

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Coronavirus Slows Work on National Biosecurity Lab in Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic will delay the completion of a national biosecurity lab in Manhattan. Project officials say the pandemic has slowed shipping and manufacturing of some construction materials for NBAF, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. And several out-of-state workers cannot get to Manhattan because of travel restrictions across the country. The Manhattan Mercury reports the project is not subject to Governor Laura Kelly's stay-at-home order and project officials had hoped the construction would be completed by December. But the completion could be delayed by 2.5 months, although project officials say the factors in the delay are constantly changing.

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Kansas COVID-19 Cases Climb Past 2,700, Including 111 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — As of 11 am Friday, state health officials reported 2,777 cases of COVID-19 in Kansas, including 111 deaths.  Cases are reported in 76 of the state's 105 counties.  (Get the latest updates from KDHE.) 

TOP SIX COUNTIES for COVID-19 CASES

Wyandotte County = 520
Johnson County = 417
Ford County = 350
Sedgwick County = 323
Seward County = 232
Leavenworth County = 154 

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Kansas GOP Official Urges 2 Candidates to Exit U.S. Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top GOP official is calling on two Republican candidates to drop out of the race for the U.S. Senate. Party chairman Mike Kuckelman wrote to Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle and former Johnson County Commissioner Dave Lindstrom on Thursday to tell them that they lack a viable path to the nomination to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, noting in part their weak fundraising. Kuckelman said in the letters obtained by The Kansas City Star that his request was for the "good of the Party." Neither Wagle nor Lindstrom planned to take the advice.

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Lawrence Bike Shop Salvages Trashed Bicycles for Donation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence bicycle repair shop is earning praise for salvaging and donating dozens of bicycles dumped by a bike-share company at a scrap yard. The Journal-World reports that Lawrence Re-Cyclery used about $2,000 in donations from the community to buy and repair bikes from a 20-foot-tall pile scrapped by Veo, the bike-share company. Re-Cyclery co-owner Kristie Shay says the shop was able to salvage and repair 15 bikes that suffered only minor damage in the dump. But she says many of the Veo bicycles were heavily damaged. The shop was able to glean parts from the heavily damaged bikes to repair a couple dozen bikes from the pile. The repaired bikes are being donated to various shelters and organizations.

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U.S. States Build Stockpiles of Malaria Drug Touted by Trump

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State and local governments across the United States have obtained 30 million doses of a malaria drug touted by President Trump to treat patients with the new coronavirus despite warnings from doctors that more research is needed.  The states acquired the medication as President Donald Trump regularly promoted it from the podium in White House briefings. The Associated Press' reporting shows that 15 of the states are red-leaning states Trump won in 2016, although five of them, including North Carolina and Louisiana, are now led by Democratic governors. 

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Wichita Police Investigating Shooting Death of 30-Year-Old

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are investigating the shooting death of a 30-year-old man. Police say in a news release that the shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Thursday in the city's Delano neighborhood. Arriving officers found Blake Mayers, of Wichita, on the front porch of a home with a gunshot wound to his body. Police say Mayes was taken to a hospital, where he died. Police say an initial investigation revealed a disturbance had occurred at the home involving Mayes and three other people before Mayes was shot. No arrests had been reported by midday Friday.

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Some Missouri Counties Break with Urban Areas over Plans to Reopen

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Leaders of counties on the edge of Missouri’s two metropolitan areas are showing an increasing urge to end business shutdowns necessitated by the coronavirus, breaking with urban leaders who have extended stay-at-home orders for several weeks. The majority of confirmed cases and deaths have occurred in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. Democratic leaders of St. Louis city and county, Kansas City and Jackson County have extended stay-at-home orders until at least mid-May. But amid growing backlash to social distancing restrictions and the economic fallout, Republican leaders of counties adjacent to the urban core are opting to allow businesses to reopen sooner rather than later.

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Woman Charged in Shooting Death of Blue Springs Man

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — A woman has been charged in the shooting death of man at his suburban Kansas City home in Blue Springs. Police there had reported that the body of 65-year-old Wayne Tindell was found Sunday afternoon in his trailer home parked near a Walmart store. A news release Wednesday afternoon from the Jackson County prosecutor's office says 32-year-old Francesca Hernandez, of Kansas City, has been arrested in the case and charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, vehicle theft and a weapons count. Police say Hernandez has denied shooting Tindell, but investigators say she had a handgun and Tindell's cellphone and credit card in her possession when she was arrested.

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Motorist Shot and Wounded by Topeka Police Officer Released from Hospital, Taken to Jail

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a motorist who was shot and wounded by an officer who was being dragged by the suspect's car has been released from the hospital and taken to jail. Police say 19-year-old Dujontez Jaimandre Jerome Owens has been charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, aggravated battery of an officer while fleeing and other counts. Police say the shooting happened Sunday afternoon when a Topeka police officer was dragged by Owens' car when Owens took off being stopped for a traffic violation. The officer suffered minor injuries in the incident and was treated at the scene. The officer, whose name has not been released, is on paid leave during the investigation.

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Wichita Officer Will Not Face Charges in Fatal Shooting

A Wichita police officer who fatally shot a man in January 2019 will not face charges. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Tuesday the officer shot and killed Geoffrey Morris in self-defense. Morris was shot after officers surrounded his car to try and arrest him on outstanding warrants. Bennett said in his report that Morris backed up and hit a law enforcement vehicle then then drove forward toward an officer, who fired because he thought he might be hit by the car. Morris died two days later at a hospital. The officer's name has not been released.

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KU to Distribute Nearly $7.6 Million in CARES Act Funding to Students

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - University of Kansas officials say the school will distribute nearly $7.6 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding directly to students who have significant need and who are facing financial challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The total amount will be split among KU’s campuses, with almost $6.8 million earmarked for students at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, and nearly $806,000 for students at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.  In alignment with Department of Education recommendations that universities prioritize students with the greatest need, Chancellor Doug Girod says KU will distribute the funding in two ways:

  • Recognizing that many students have financial challenges, funds will be set aside for students to access through a short online application. Applications will be quickly reviewed. Applications for assistance must be for housing, food, technology, or health care needs that resulted from the pandemic, as required by the federal act. 
  • KU will distribute direct awards to students receiving Pell grants and who are already defined by the federal government as having exceptional need.

KU expects to receive its federal funding in the coming days. In addition to emailing students directly, information will be shared at the Lawrence and Edwards CARES Act page and the KU Medical Center CARES Act page.

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USDA Holds Virtual Career Expo April 28 for Kansas City Area Jobs

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is holding a virtual job fair for positions in the Kansas City area.  USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have partnered with the University of Missouri to host a joint Virtual Career Expo on April 28. A similar event last year attracted more than 400 attendees. Both agencies relocated most of their operations to the Kansas City region last fall and are continuing to grow their workforces.  ERS and NIFA continue to fill open positions and current listings are on USAJobs.  Vacancies include positions for economists, geographers, accountants, grant specialists, financial specialists, and communications specialists, among others.  ERS anticipates trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America and conducts economic research to inform public and private decision making.  NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. Through an integrated approach, NIFA ensures scientific discoveries make their way into communities, farms, and classrooms.  Interested applicants may register for the Career Expo and sign up for information sessions online. Sessions will be held virtually, beginning at 2 pm with the last session at 4 pm CDT.  Visit USAJobs for current open positions at both agencies.

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Bugged: Earth's Insect Population Shrinks 27% in 30 Years

KENSINGTON, Maryland (AP) — A big picture look at global insect decline shows land bugs are disappearing at a rate of nearly 1% a year. That means the world has lost more than a quarter of its insects in the last 30 years. Thursday's study in the journal Science finds the declines are more nuanced, varied and smaller than other studies. But scientists still call the results alarming and jaw dropping. Insects like bees are needed to pollinate much of our food. Scientists see no single global cause but fault habitat loss and urbanization. There's hope. Freshwater bugs are increasing, likely due to cleaner rivers and streams.

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