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Headlines for Friday, July 30, 2021

 

Kansas Governor Requiring Masks for State Workers, State Buildings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly says she’s imposing a mask mandate for Kansas state government workers and visitors to state buildings. Kelly said that she's acting in the wake of a “self-inflicted” surge in new COVID-19 cases fueled by the faster-spreading delta variant. Kelly’s announcement came after a central Kansas school district mandated masks in its building and public health officials in two of the state’s most populous counties recommended that even vaccinated residents wear masks in at least some indoor public spaces. Kelly's order takes effect Monday (August 2) and will apply in 84 of the state's 105 counties and to almost 39,000 state government workers.

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Kansas Governor Recommends Masks for All in K-12 Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is recommending that nearly everyone inside K-12 schools or riding school buses in Kansas be required to wear a mask, and Kansas State University will require masks in its buildings. Kelly’s office on Friday issued updated guidance for K-12 schools in response to a surge in new COVID-19 cases over the past five weeks tied to the more contagious delta variant. Her recommendations and the Kansas State mandate taking effect Monday apply even to people who've been vaccinated. Delta variant cases are doubling every two weeks in Kansas, with 1,653 cases confirmed as of Friday, according to state data.

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Ascension Health Announces Vaccination Mandate for All Employees

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Ascension Health has announced that it will require all employees at its Kansas hospitals to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  Ascension is a St. Louis-based, Catholic health care system with 149 hospitals across the country including facilities in Wichita, Hays, Garden City, Pittsburg and Manhattan. The new rule requires all employees to be vaccinated by November 12. That date coincides with its annual flu vaccine requirement. All employees, even remote workers, are required to be vaccinated as well as vendors and volunteers. Employees can apply for exemptions to the mandate for religious beliefs or medical conditions.  Ascension is among several hospitals and health systems to announce vaccination mandates.

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Wichita State and Other Kansas Universities Consider Mask Mandates

WICHITA,, Kan.- (KNS) - The president of Wichita State University says the new mask mandate likely applies to WSU students and staff.  Wichita State President Rick Muma said that he’s awaiting final confirmation, but he thinks a new mask order from Governor Laura Kelly will include WSU students, employees and visitors. The governor this week ordered that state employees and anyone entering a state facility will be required to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. The mask requirement begins Monday (August 2). Wichita State required masks on campus last school year, but they’re currently only recommended for unvaccinated people. University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod has recommended but not mandated masks. 

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Kansas State Imposing Indoor Mask Mandate over Delta Variant

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University will require everyone to wear masks indoors on university property unless they are alone in their offices, starting Monday. The university announced the new policy Friday because of the spread of the more contagious COVID-19 delta variant. The university also cited new guidance this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a mask mandate that Gov. Laura Kelly has imposed for state employees and visitors to state buildings in most Kansas counties. The mandate will apply on Kansas State’s main campus in Manhattan, its Polytechnic Campus in Salina and its satellite campus in Olathe.

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Kansas City Mayor to Impose Mask Mandate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, says he will follow the latest CDC guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and re-impose a mask mandate for indoor activities. Mayor Quinton Lucas said that, with the COVID-19 Delta variant spreading rapidly in Missouri, Kansas City must do its part to help stop the spread of the highly contagious variant. Lucas said he would soon release more details about his plan.  Missouri had one of the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rates during the past week. Data from Johns Hopkins University researchers indicate that one in every 360 people in Missouri has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that the seven-day average of daily deaths has nearly doubled over the past two weeks.  

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CDC Mask Guidance Met with Hostility by Leading Republicans

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republicans are responding with hostility to new masking guidance from public health officials. It's opening a new front in the cultural war over COVID-19 restrictions just as efforts to try to persuade large swaths of unvaccinated Americans to get the shots appeared to be making headway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors if they live in areas with high rates of virus transmission. Republican governors from Texas to South Dakota slammed the advice as wrong-headed. And on Capitol Hill, clashes between members devolved into insults and screaming matches.

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Delta Variant Fills Kansas Hospital Beds with COVID Patients

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A COVID-19 surge in Kansas fueled by the faster-spreading delta variant is filling up hospitals in some areas. A survey from the Kansas Hospital Association said four times as many patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized this week as were hospitalized in early June. The association said that 116 Kansas hospitals surveyed this week reported having 399 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. For early June, 125 hospitals reported having 99. For about a month, the Salina Regional Medical Center has sometimes has been near full capacity and its chief medical officer says it has struggled to find beds for patients who have needed a higher level of care.

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Shawnee County COVID-19 Command Team to Remain in Place Until October

TOPEKA, Kan.- (CJOnline) – The COVID-19 incident command team in Shawnee County’s will remain months after the team was expected to stand down because of the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the Shawnee County Commission established the team in May with the expectation that it would dissolve August 1. The command team will now remain in place until the end of October. The number of COVID cases in Shawnee County has risen dramatically in recent weeks. On Thursday the commission approved a resolution to keep the command team in place until the fall.

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Will Aid Be Enough to Prevent Kansas Evictions?

MISSION, Kansas (AP) — The expiration of federal tenant protections at the end of July has raised concerns that thousands of Kansas residents will be unable to afford their rent and face eviction. The state has set aside $220 million in federal funding to help with outstanding rents, utility payments and other expenses, but the money has been slow to filter out to those who need it. Advocates say a spike in homelessness could happen soon after the CDC's evictions moratorium ends Saturday because Kansas has one of the country's shortest timeframes to evict tenants. In Wichita, the Salvation Army already is seeing an increase in calls from people asking for shelter.

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Topeka City Council Consider Creating $5 Million Tiny Home Village to Address Homelessness

TOPEKA, Kan. (CJONLINE.com) - A proposal for a $5.7 million “tiny home transitional village” could hold up to 200 beds for the homeless at the former site of Topeka’s tent city.  Each tiny home costs less than $5,000 and could last 20 years, said Barry Feaker, executive director of the Topeka Rescue Mission, when he presented the plan to city council this week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the units would be around 64 square feet, have electricity and a heater and air conditioner. He said it’s too early in the process to estimate when something could be completed — Tuesday was the first time he presented the full plan to city council.  “Think beyond what has previously been done,” Feaker said. “For about 68 years, there has been a homeless shelter in Topeka, it's called the Topeka Rescue Mission. That is fine. It has its purpose — and we are not doing away with it — but we need to expand our thinking.”  The transitional village is one part of the Topeka Rescue Mission’s $8.1 million plan to address chronic homelessness in Topeka.  (Read more) 

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Pandemic Relief Funds Approved for Kansas Entertainment Venues

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ / KPR)  - The federal government has approved more than $40 million in COVID-19 relief for dozens of Kansas live event venues that were shut down during the pandemic. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 90 venue operators in Kansas will receive a combined $46 million through the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program. Congress created the program as part of the American Rescue Plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration oversees the $16 billion program.  Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to nearly half of their gross earned revenue, with a maximum of $10 million for a single award. The program is open to live venue operators and promoters, theatrical producers, movie theaters, performing arts organizations and museums. It allows the funds to be spent on payroll, rent, utilities and certain other expenses.  

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Vaccine Clinic Set for Garth Brooks Concert in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Fans attending the Garth Brooks concert at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City next month will be given a chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Kansas City Chiefs officials say they have worked with the city to organize the clinic during Brooks' concert on August 7. Chiefs president Mark Donovan said Monday that the team plans to take every opportunity to provide vaccinations. He said the team is considering offering vaccines during Chiefs game days this fall but he wasn't sure if that will be possible. A vaccine clinic was held at Arrowhead Stadium last spring.

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Kansas Supreme Court: Man Who Killed Overland Park Woman Not a Sex Offender

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court says a Ottawa man who beat a woman and then left her to die does not have to register as a sex offender. Korrey Raine White Rinke was sentenced in December 2019 to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years for the 2016 death of Julianna Pappas of Overland Park. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender. On Friday, the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and said Rinke did not have to register as a sex offender. The court said prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rinke kidnapped and killed Pappas for sexual gratification.

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UPDATE: Third Former Kansas Jail Employee Arrested in Theft Probe

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a third person has been arrested as part of an investigation into theft of public money at the Cloud County Jail. Nicholas Clanin, of Concordia, a former jail lieutenant, was arrested Friday on possible charges of theft, misuse of public funds, official misconduct, and destroying a written instrument. The KBI says an arrest warrant on a misdemeanor theft charge has been issued for 22-year-old Alexandra Wilcox, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, a former corrections officer at the jail. The jail's former administrator, Amber Lindberg, of Concordia, was arrested Wednesday on several possible counts. Her mother, 62-year-old Joyce Jasper, was also arrested on suspicion of theft.

(–Additional Reporting–) 

Ex-Kansas Jail Employee, Mother Arrested on Theft Charges

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — A former north-central Kansas jail employee and her mother have been arrested, accused by Kansas Bureau of Investigation officials of theft of public money. The KBI said in a news release that agents arrested 40-year-old Amber Lindberg, of Concordia, in Minneapolis, Kansas, on Wednesday morning on suspicion of theft, misuse of public funds, official misconduct and several other counts. Also arrested was Lindberg's mother, 62-year-old Joyce Jasper, on suspicion of theft. Lindberg was the Cloud County Jail administrator in June 2019, when the KBI began its investigation. The KBI did not give other details about the alleged theft, including how much was reportedly stolen, but said more arrests in the case are expected.

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Former Employee of Emporia Tyson Plant Sentenced for Fraud

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A former maintenance manager at the Tyson Foods plant in Emporia has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for defrauding the company out of more than $416,000. David John Ranger was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty in April to one count of wire fraud. He was also ordered to pay $410,000 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release when he finishes his jail term. Prosecutors say Ranger used company cards and created a fictitious company in a scheme to pay personal expenses for nearly seven years.

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Man Charged with Manslaughter, DUI in Fatal Topeka Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man involved in a fatal crash in Topeka over the weekend has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence. The Capital-Journal reports that 39-year-old Cesar Carreto Orozco was charged Tuesday in the early Saturday crash that killed a passenger, 37-year-old Erasmo Ramirez Soto of Topeka. Police say Soto was riding in the sport utility vehicle driven by Carreto Orozco when it left the road and struck a business sign. Soto died at the scene. Carreto Orozco was being held in the Shawnee County Jail on $50,000 bond.

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May Storms in Kansas Cause More than $76 Million in Damage

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Insurance Department has announced that destructive weather during the month of May alone caused more than $76.4 million in damage. The estimate is based on nearly 13,000 insurance claims in 101 Kansas counties. Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt said, "The weather this spring impacted thousands of Kansas businesses, farms and residents." The department reports that so far this calendar year, storm losses have caused more than $99 million in damage. For historical storm loss data and guides on how to prepare for storms, the department encourages residents to visit the agency's website at insurance.kansas.gov.

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Kansas City Black Clergy Group Calls for US Probe of Police

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A group of Black clergy members is joining other civil rights groups in seeking a federal investigation into officer misconduct in the Kansas City police department. Pastor Darron Edwards, leader of Getting to the Heart of the Matter, says the probe is necessary because the police department has not responded to calls from the public for more accountability. On Monday, an umbrella group of civil rights groups said it was also seeking a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the department. Previously, Getting to the Heart of the Matter sought to work with police to build community relationships. Edwards says police have stopped working with the group.

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Teen Who Fatally Shot Mother Sentenced to 2 Years Probation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 17-year-old suburban Wichita boy who shot his mother to death has been sentenced to two years of probation. The teenager, who was never charged as an adult, shot 41-year-old Lisa Trimmell in June 2018 in Andover. He pleaded no contest last month to aggravated battery and criminal use of a weapon. KAKE-TV reports court documents indicate the boy, who was 14 at the time, shot his mother because she was attacking his younger brother. Attorney Dan Monnat said in a previous motion that Trimmell had a history of alcoholism and of abusing her sons.

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Man Charged with Fatal Shooting at Lake of the Ozarks Bar

LAKE OZARK, Mo. (AP) — A 29-year-old Missouri man is charged in the shooting death of another man at a popular Lake of the Ozarks entertainment venue. Prosecutors allege Chad Brewer, of Jefferson City, shot 27-year-old Vonza Watson after a fight May 29 at the Lazy Gators. Brewer faces charges of first-degree murder, delivery of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He is being held without bond. Investigators say Watson was shot during a fight between several people. Investigators say they uncovered video footage that showed Brewer raising his arm and firing a shot. Watson was a rapper and visual artist known as VNZA.

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Kansas Man Charged with Animal Cruelty for Neglecting More than 50 Animals

MILTONVALE (KSNT) — A Kansas man, Kevin Vesterberg, is being charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty after more than 50 animals were found neglected or dead on his property.  Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) is the group that discovered the case, which resulted in the start of an investigation launched by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.  “Our lead investigator was investigating a potential puppy mill in Ottawa County when she came across this horrendous livestock abuse case,” Debbie Miller, the Kansas Director of CAPS, said.  KSNT TV reports that for the CAPS program, the word horrendous is an understatement.  “This is one of the worst cruelty cases she has ever witnessed,” Miller said.  Vesterberg was in charge of taking care of these animals that he used for breeding to make money, according to the lead deputy on the case. When the deputy responded to the property in late May he found the neglected animals.  There was a wide variety of on the property, like sheep, goats and rabbits. The animals that were still alive had everything from empty water troughs to oozing eyes and hooves that were over a foot long. It is unclear how many remains were found and how many animals are still on the property. There hasn’t been much movement on the case since the local county attorney, Richard Buck, charged Vesterberg with the 10 counts.  Vesterberg’s next court date is set for mid-August.

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New Trail Commemorating Nicodemus Settlers to Open

A new trail opening this weekend in Nicodemus will commemorate the settlers who built the last remaining African-American town west of the Mississippi. Organizers say the new trail will provide a way to experience the journey the town’s founders took. When settlers came to Nicodemus in the late 1800s, there were no roads or rail lines that led to where they would build the town. The founders had to walk from the nearest train station in Ellis, 35 miles away. The Ellis Trail follows the footsteps of the Black Kansans who made that trek. Robert Alexander, a descendent of Nicodemus settlers is chairman of the Nicodemus Historical Society which organized the event. He says coming together to remember their journey helps keep their pioneering spirit alive. “The pride that you have of your ancestors taking a leap of faith and enduring the hardships in order to celebrate their freedom,” Alexander said. The Nicodemus Homecoming event will also include a dedication ceremony to open a new National Park Service museum about the town.

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UPDATE: SEC Welcomes Texas, Oklahoma After Boards Accept Invitations

UNDATED (AP) — After the boards of regents for the universities of Texas and Oklahoma voted Friday to accept invitations to the Southeastern Conference, the league announced the Big 12 rivals would start competing in the SEC in the fall of 2025. Texas and Oklahoma are bound to the Big 12 and its other eight members by a media rights agreement through the 2024-25 school year. Texas President Jay Hartzell and athletic director Chris Del Conte met by teleconference with UT system board and members quickly signed off. In Norman, Oklahoma, the board met in person and heard from University President Joe Harroz and AD Joe Castiglione before approving the move.

(-Related-)

Texas Board Votes to Accept Invitation to SEC; OU on Deck

UNDATED (AP) — The board of regents for the University of Texas has voted unanimously to accept an invitation for the Longhorns to join the Southeastern Conference. The move is scheduled for July 1, 2025. Texas and Oklahoma are bound to the Big 12 and its other eight members by a media rights agreement through the 2024-25 school year. Texas University President Jay Hartzell and athletic director Chris Del Conte met by teleconference with the board and they quickly signed off. A similar meeting was being conducted in person in Oklahoma with OU's board of regents.

ESPN Says Big 12 Allegations 'Entirely Without Merit'

UNDATED (AP) — ESPN says Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby's accusations are entirely without merit. The Big 12 sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN, accusing the cable sports giant of encouraging at least one other conference to raid the Big 12 in an effort to hasten the departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference. ESPN executive Burke Magnus says it's not true and there is “nothing to cease and desist.”

Big 12 Accuses ESPN of Trying to 'Destabilize' Conference

UNDATED (AP) — Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby tells The Associated Press that ESPN is pushing other conferences to pick apart the league so Texas and Oklahoma can move to the Southeastern Conference without paying a massive buyout. The Big 12 sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN on Wednesday, demanding it stop “all actions that may harm the Conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference's existing Members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference's Members, possible conference realignment or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment." 

SEC Invites Oklahoma and Texas to Join League -- in 2025

UNDATED (AP) — Southeastern Conference university presidents voted to invite Texas and Oklahoma to join the league and create a 16-team powerhouse on the field and at the bank. The latest step in a move that has potential to help reshape college sports came two days after Texas and Oklahoma requested to join the SEC in 2025. That’s when the schools’ media rights agreement with the Big 12 expires. SEC leaders voted unanimously to extend an invitation, effective July 1, 2025. Now the process goes back to the schools. Texas and Oklahoma both have board of regents meetings schedule for Friday with conference affiliation on the agenda.

Big 12's Texas, Oklahoma Make Official Request to Join Powerhouse SEC

UNDATED (AP) - Texas and Oklahoma made a request Tuesday to join the Southeastern Conference — in 2025 —- with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey saying the league would consider it in the “near future.”  The wheels are in motion for a monumental move in college sports, but the Longhorns and Sooners are not yet free agents. And it's doubtful they want to wait until the contract that binds them to the Big 12 for four more years runs out to bolt to the SEC.  It also might not be in the best interest of the Big 12 to have two lame ducks in the conference much beyond the 2021-22 school year.  “It's similar to a divorce, but it's business relationship where multiple parties realize that they just can't be together anymore,” said Darren Heitner, a sports and entertainment attorney based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “You try to come to a resolution where perhaps nobody feels great about it, but at least there's something where they feel as though they're getting some fair value out of the equation.”  A day after Oklahoma and Texas notified the Big 12 that they would not be extending a grant of media rights agreement past its 2025 expiration date, the schools publicly stated for the first time they want to join the SEC.  Oklahoma and Texas sent a joint letter to Sankey, requesting “invitations for membership to the Southeastern Conference starting on July 1, 2025.”  (Read more)

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Michael Andrew Comes in at 5th Place fifth in Olympic Swimming Event

LAWRENCE, Kan.- (KPR) - Former Lawrence resident Michael Andrew placed fifth in the 200-meter individual medley Thursday night at the Tokyo Olympics with a time of 1:57:31.   Andrew headed into the games with the fastest time in the world this year in the 200-meter event.  He finished fourth in the 100 meter breast stroke earlier in the week with a time of 58.84 seconds. Andrew lived and trained in Lawrence for several years. He now lives in southern California.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and by 1 pm on weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!   

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