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Headlines for Friday, February 19, 2021


Kansas Meatpacking Plant Workers Still Waiting for Vaccine

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas meatpacking workers continue to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine.  The union that represents 7,000 workers in Seward and Ford counties wants the state to make them a more immediate priority. Monica Vargas-Huertas is with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.  "Meatpacking workers have taken one of the hardest hits of the pandemic. They have been in the front lines from Day One," she said.  State officials say Kansas has limited vaccine supplies right now and is prioritizing school workers to get kids back into classrooms.  Meatpacking plants have been a top source of coronavirus outbreaks, though state officials say the situation has improved.  The Kansas News Service reports that in some counties, postal workers, clergy, college faculty and other groups can get vaccines, too.  The union that represents thousands of meatpackers in Seward and Ford counties wants to know when its members will get their turn. Slaughterhouses have been one of the state’s top sources of outbreaks, though state officials say the plants have gotten a lot safer.  Still, state officials say meatpacking workers will be a priority when the federal government sends it sufficient vaccine supplies.


Kansas to Focus on COVID-19 Shots for Teachers, School Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly says Kansas will put a priority on vaccinating teachers and other school staff against COVID-19 so that K-12 students across the state can resume in-person classes as quickly as possible. The Democratic governor's announcement today (WED) came a week after she told leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature that 60% of the state's 286 school districts had started inoculating teachers. The state's public schools have about 72,000 staff members, including 34,000 certified teachers. Kelly said the state will be able to inoculate school staff because it expects the federal government to start next week to ship an additional 25,000 doses of vaccines a week.

Missouri Health Director: No Plan to Move Teachers to Front of Vaccine Line

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's health director says the state has no plans to move teachers higher on the list for COVID-19 vaccinations but will continue focusing on getting shots to older people and those with serious illnesses. Dr. Randall Williams spokes Thursday during Governor Mike Parson’s weekly media briefing. Several states, including neighboring Kansas and Illinois, have already begun vaccinating teachers, deeming school staff as frontline essential workers. But in Missouri, teachers are classified in the state’s Phase 1-B, tier 3. The state is now in Phase 1-B, Tier 2, which includes those 65 and older or with compromised immune systems.


Kansas Records Nearly 290,832 COVID-19 Cases, Including 4,614 Deaths, Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported today (FRI) that there have been 290,832 cases of COVID-19, including 4,614 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.  Johnson and Sedgwick counties continue to have the most cases, with more than 53,000 each.  KDHE will provide its next update on Monday.


Kansas Governor Presents Fix for Vaccine Data Reporting Woes

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has announced plans to fix issues that have led Kansas to underreport the number of people vaccinated for COVID-19. Kelly has said the state's vaccination rate consistently ranks among the lowest in the country because of technical problems with the tracking system. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows Kansas has administered 72% of the 581,975 doses it has received, up from 60.2% a week ago. Kelly says the state is addressing underlying data transfer problems and, starting Monday, providers will be required to report data daily on doses received and administered. Providers with identified reporting issues will face additional requirements.


Judge Rejects Detention Request for Kansas Proud Boys Leader

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge has rejected the government’s request to keep the alleged leader of the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys in custody pending his trial for the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara ruled Friday that William Chrestman could be released on a $10,000 bond to home detention with electronic monitoring. The judge also found that the record shows an overwhelming case on the merits against the defendant, saying the court believes his ultimate conviction is highly probable, with a significant prison sentence to follow.


Ex-Wichita Officer, School Employee Pleads in Child Sex Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer and public school employee pleaded no contest to three charges accusing him of molesting underage boys. Fifty-eight-year-old Alex Robinson was entered the plea Friday. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office said the crimes involved three victims between who were abused in Wichita in 2011 and 2012. Robinson worked for the Wichita police department for 22 years. He was the Wichita Public Schools' safety services supervisor when he was arrested in January 2013. Before Friday's plea, Robinson was facing eight charges. Those charges involved boys aged 11 to 14 and occurred over 12 years, beginning in 2000.


GOP Plan to Curb Jobless Aid During Pandemic Sparks Backlash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators and a powerful Kansas business group are pushing a proposal to make it harder for unemployed workers to get extended benefits. They argue that extra weeks of aid are available even when thousands of jobs remain unfilled. But the proposal before the GOP-controlled Legislature is sparking a backlash amid the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Democrats see it as hurting struggling workers at exactly the wrong time. The Republican chair of the Senate Commerce Committee conceded Friday that it will be difficult to include the measure in broader legislation designed to overhaul the state’s troubled unemployment system.


Family Alleges Botched 911 Call Caused Kansas Woman's Death

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Kansas woman who died after collapsing at her home is suing the Kansas City, Missouri, police and fire departments for wrongful death. The lawsuit alleges the departments took too long to dispatch help when 40-year-old Cathryn McClelland collapsed at her Prairie Village home in July 2019 after suffering a  heart attack. The lawsuit says McClelland's 8-year-old son quickly called 911 and gave the family's address, but it took more than 10 minutes for an ambulance to be dispatched. KCTV reports the lawsuit says the ambulance was delayed because dispatchers did not believe the boy was giving them the correct address.


Owner of Kansas City Barbecue Restaurant Dies

KANSAS CITY, Mo (AP) — L.C. Richardson, owner of the well-known LC's Bar-B-Q restaurant in Kansas City, died this week. Richardson's granddaughter wrote on the restaurant's website that Richardson died at the age of 86. She did not give a cause of death. Richardson founded the restaurant in 1986 near the Truman Sports Complex, and it became a popular spot for diners going to Royals and Chiefs games, and for barbecue fans across the region. The restaurant announced a public viewing will be held on February 27, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Watkins Heritage Chapel in Kansas City. The family plans a private funeral service in Jackson, Mississippi, at a later date. 


Kansas Health Officials: Extreme Weather May Lead to Vaccine Delays

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas health officials warn that nationwide winter storms have delayed the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to the state. Kansas Health Secretary Dr. Lee Norman says the shipments that were expected early this week are now expected to arrive by Friday.  Norman says he doesn’t believe the delays will severely impact the vaccine rollout and thinks the state will be able to catch up.  Despite the delay, Norman says he still expects 90,000 doses from the federal government, nearly doubling last week’s allotment.


Magnitude 4.2 Earthquake in Rural Oklahoma Near Kansas Border

MANCHESTER, Okla. (AP) — An estimated magnitude 4.2 earthquake has been recorded along Oklahoma's border with Kansas. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake was recorded at 7:56 am today (FRI) near Manchester in northern Oklahoma. Grant County Commissioner Max Hess' district includes Manchester. He said no injuries or damage have been reported. The rural area is about 55 miles northwest of where a recent series of earthquakes were recorded.


Bob Dole Diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole has announced that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Dole, who is 97, said in a short statement that he was diagnosed recently and would begin treatment on Monday. He said: "While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own." Dole, a Republican, represented Kansas in Congress for almost 36 years, serving twice as majority leader. He resigned from the Senate in 1996 when he became the Republican presidential nominee. He lost to incumbent President Bill Clinton.


Some Kansas Lawmakers Push for Pandemic Tuition Refund

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - College students who lost class time or were forced into online classes because of the pandemic could have some of their tuition refunded under a measure that lawmakers have been debating.  A Kansas House committee amended the state's higher education budget Wednesday to require that colleges, community colleges and technical schools reimburse students for 50% of the tuition paid every day they spent online instead of in the classroom. The amendment would reimburse at 100% for days that students missed class entirely. The state's Republican-leaning Legislature also has been pushing back against online learning for K-12 schools.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Legalizing Sports Gambling

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas lawmakers are contemplating two, competing plans to legalize sports gambling. A new House proposal would give the state a larger share of the revenue and allow betting at many more places.  A Senate proposal would let casino operators handle sports gambling in-person and through online apps. But the House bill would also allow betting at 1,200 lottery retailers in Kansas. Republican Representative John Barker says betting at places like gas stations would spread the economic benefits around.  “While you’re at the convenience store, you may also buy some gas or milk or bread, which helps the local economy," he said.  Neither bill would fix the state’s budget shortfall, though the revenue from the House plan could be higher. But with estimates at less than $10 million a year, the state would not be flush with cash.


University of Kansas Eliminates 2 Degrees, 1 Department

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says it plans to eliminate two undergraduate programs and an entire department in a cost-cutting move. Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer told the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday 15 undergraduate programs did not meet enrollment requirements. The university plans to discontinue its Humanities department. It also will eliminate degrees in Humanities and Visual Art Education. Six of the remaining underperforming programs will remain, and seven will be merged with other programs. Bichelmeyer said eliminating the Visual Art Education degree will save about $100,000, and ending the Humanities degree will save about $400,000.


End of Rolling Blackouts in Kansas?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Regulators and power company officials say Kansas should see fewer rolling blackouts going forward.  The Southwest Power Pool, which includes Kansas, Missouri, and more than a dozen other states, has downgraded its emergency, saying there is now enough power in the region to satisfy demand.  Kansas Corporation Commissioner Andrew French says the region was able to import electricity from other parts of the country and energy usage during the few days has been lower than expected.  French said electricity resources might still be strained when temperatures drop during the overnight hours.


Missouri's Governor Raises Concerns About Natural Gas Price Gouging

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has directed the state’s attorney general to investigate natural gas price gouging during the bitter cold weather. Speaking during his weekly media briefing on Thursday, Parson said the state will not tolerate “any effort to price-gouge or take advantage of customers.” He encouraged any Missourian with concerns to call the attorney general’s consumer complaint hotline at 1-800-392-8222. Missouri and much of the country have faced extreme cold weather for much of the month. Parson says he worries about the “sticker shock” some residents will face once they get their utility bills.


Kansas Lawmaker Accused of Past Abuse Gets Written Warning

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new Kansas legislator accused of abusive behavior before taking office received a written warning Thursday from a committee that investigated his conduct. A letter from the committee delivered Thursday to Democratic state Rep. Aaron Coleman of Kansas City, Kansas, also directed him to accept a fellow lawmaker as a mentor. The letter told the 20-year-old Coleman that his past conduct was “unfitting” for a lawmaker and that he and the House's top Democrat must choose a mentor. Some Democrats had hoped the House would expel Coleman but Republicans were wary of disciplining a lawmaker over conduct before taking office. Coleman declined comment after receiving the letter.


Missouri State Patrol: 2 Teens Killed in Cass County Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Highway Patrol says two teens have died in a multi-vehicle crash on a rural road in western Missouri. Television station KSHB reports that the crash happened around 5:30 pm Wednesday on Missouri Route 7 in Cass County. The patrol says a car traveling north on the highway crossed the center line and sideswiped a Jeep, causing the car to spin. Investigators say the car was then hit by a southbound semitrailer. Two 18-year-olds in the car, identified as Reyna Oliver and Chloey Schorr, both of Pleasant Hill, died at the scene. Troopers say the drivers of the Jeep and semi were not injured.


Man Arrested in Fatal Shooting at Wichita New Year's Party

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested a man on suspicion of fatally shooting another man during a New Year's party in Wichita. Television station KAKE reports that 22-year-old Deajuan Smith, of Wichita, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree murder in the January 1 death of 26-year-old Nicholas Sims. Police say Sims was at a party attended by about 50 people when he was shot around 4 am January 1. Sims died at the scene. Police said Sims and Smith had argued at the party before taking the argument outside. Police say that's when Smith shot Sims.


Newton Police Sergeant Dies in ATV Crash

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — The Newton Police Department is mourning a sergeant who died in an off-duty ATV crash. Police say Sgt. Levi Minkevitch, of Peabody, died Wednesday in the crash in Harvey County. Police say he tried to jump a ditch into a field but lost control of his ATV, which rolled into the creek. He was pronounced dead at a Newton hospital. The police department said in a statement that Minkevitch, who had been with the department since 2013, was a tremendous officer and a friend to everyone he met.


St. Joseph Man Charged in Abuse and Death of 10-Year-Old Stepson

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A St. Joseph man is charged with murder in the death of a 10-year-old child. Andrew County authorities say Donald Tipton was charged Tuesday with first- and second-degree murder and 11 counts of endangering a child and child abuse or neglect. Prosecuting Attorney Steven Stevenson said in a felony complaint that Tipton struck or strangled the child on November 30. He is also accused of hitting the victim, putting a gun in the child's mouth and not seeking medical treatment. After authorities asked for the public's help to find Tipton, he was arrested Wednesday evening.  The child victim is Tipton's stepson.


Man Charged in 2017 Shooting of 3-Year-Old Kansas City Boy

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - Prosecutors have charged a 28-year-old Kansas City man in the 2017 shooting death of a 3-year-old child. Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced charges Wednesday against Derrick Wren Jr. in the May 2017 death of Marcus Haislip III. Police said the child was shot in his car seat and his father and his uncle were injured when someone shot at the car from near a residence. The Missouri Highway Patrol determined in 2019 that DNA from a Styrofoam cup found at the scene matched Wren. He was charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of first-degree assault.


Sheriff: Kansas Woman Who Wandered Out Likely Died from Cold

DEXTER, Kan. (AP) — A 67-year-old Kansas woman who wandered out of her home during the night was found dead in subzero temperatures. Cowley County Sheriff David Falletti says deputies responding to a call about a missing woman found Linda Patton in front of her Dexter home sometime between 3:30 am and 4 am Tuesday. Falletti said she was wearing only a nightgown and likely died from the cold.  He said he did not know how long she had been outside.


Officials: Woman, 2 Children Found Suffering Severe Neglect

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A horrific story of neglect is unfolding in a Kansas City suburb.  A 30-year-old Blue Springs man is facing charges after officials say they found his girlfriend and their two children suffering from severe neglect. Blue Springs police say they found a 27-year-old woman in a waste-filled bathtub. The two children were described as extremely malnourished and said they had been locked in a closet. The man told investigators he left the woman in the tub while he worked because she has multiple sclerosis.


Kansas City Police: Two Dead, One Injured in Shooting at Town Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say two people died and a third was wounded in a shooting at a town home. Police called the scene Wednesday afternoon on the city's west side found a man and a woman dead and another man injured. Police spokeswoman Donna Drake says a person of interest was taken into custody and no other suspects are being sought. No other information was immediately released.


Police: Man Found Fatally Shot Inside Vehicle in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Homicide detectives in Kansas City are investigating the city's latest killing after police found a man inside a vehicle who had been fatally shot.  Officers were called just after 12 am Wednesday to the Ruskin Heights neighborhood for reports of a shooting and found the man suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the man died at the scene. The victim's name was not immediately released. Police were processing the scene for evidence overnight and have not released information on possible suspects. No arrests have been reported in the case.


Teen Who Shot at Olathe Officers Sentenced to 35.5 Years

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County teenager will serve more than 35.5 years in prison for shooting at Olathe officers in 2019. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe says Christian Batson pleaded no contest Thursday to two counts of attempted first-degree murder and four other charges. Prosecutors say officers were investigating a report that two people were possibly breaking into cars in November 2019. When officers arrived, Batson shot at them but did no officers were injured. He struck a second officer before being subdued. An officer shot the second suspect, Deven Mann, when a gun fell out of his pocket as they struggled. Mann's case is pending.


Park City Man Gets Probation for Post Encouraging Violence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Park City man who was charged with a misdemeanor for sharing a social media post during racial justice protests in Wichita has been placed on diversion. Rashawn Mayes faced a misdemeanor charge after he was accused of sharing media post urging people to cause violence in Wichita suburbs during the protests. He was placed on diversion today (THUR) and told to write an apology letter to Wichita police. Mayes and Michael Boston Jr. were arrested after the Snapchat post. Boston will not be charged in the case.  


Missouri Records Big Increase in Traffic Fatalities in 2020

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri highway officials say last year was the deadliest year on state roads since 2007, despite fewer people driving because of the coronavirus pandemic. Preliminary figures indicate 989 people died in traffic crashes last year, a 12% increase from 2019. That number includes 126 pedestrian deaths — the most ever in Missouri. State officials say unbuckled and speed-related fatalities increased 25%. The National Transportation Board says traffic fatalities increased 4.6% nationwide in the first nine months of 2020. The board said having fewer people on the road encouraged drivers to take more risks, resulting in more crashes.


Bankers Say Economy Improving in Rural Parts of 10 Plains and Western States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is slowly improving in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but employment remains below the level it was at before the coronavirus pandemic began last year. The overall index for the region increased to 53.8 in February from January's 52. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the number of jobs in the region is down roughly 146,000, or 3.3%, from the level it was at before the pandemic began. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Big Win for Wichita State Men's Basketball; Shockers Upset No. 6 Houston 68-63

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Tyson Etienne and Alterique Gilbert each scored 16 points and Dexter Dennis added 12 points and a crucial steal in the final seconds, leading Wichita State to a 68-63 victory over No. 6 Houston. The Shockers moved past Houston and into first place in the conference standings. DeJeon Jarreau led the Cougars with 16 points. Quentin Grimes added 13 points and Justin Gorham  10. Ricky Council added 11 points for Wichita State, which had its first home victory against a top-six opponent since beating No. 2 Louisville on February 25, 1967. The Shockers also snapped a six-game losing streak against Houston.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays. 

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