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Headlines for Friday, November 13, 2020

 

Kansas COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerates, as Cases Top 115,000; Dozens of Deaths Since Wednesday 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has now recorded more than 115,000 COVID-19 cases, which includes more than 1,200 virus-related deaths.  On Friday, the state health department reported Kansas had identified 115,507 coronavirus cases and 1,256 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is urging all Kansans to wear face masks in public, avoid large crowds and to practice social distancing.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases will be released Monday.

(–Related–) 

Some Churches Stop In-Person Services as Kansas Sets Virus Record

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some churches in Kansas have suspended indoor, in-person worship services and the capital city’s zoo even has tightened its rules as the state set another record for new coronavirus cases. The bishops of the two Episcopal Church dioceses that cover Kansas this week directed their congregations to suspend services and meetings. The United Methodist Church bishop for Kansas and Nebraska also encouraged its churches to suspend in-person services until further notice if they are in counties “identified as being in critical or dangerous statuses.” Kansas averaged a record 2,553 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases a day for the seven days ending Friday.

Coronavirus Cases Surge in Topeka, Shawnee County

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Coronavirus cases are surging in many parts of the state, including Shawnee County.  Health officials say it’s up to residents to contain the virus. The rapid spread of the virus is forcing schools to abandon in-person learning.  It's also overwhelming hospitals. Shawnee County health officer Gianfranco Pezzino says the infection rate in the Capital City is out of control. "The number of cases we are receiving every week is skyrocketing,doubling from one week to the next," Pezzino said.  "The virus is everywhere. We see cases in just about all segments of our population, all age groups," he said.  The only way to stop the surge, Pezzino said, is for people to wear masks, avoid crowds of any size and stay at home as much as possible.  Public health officials can respond to complaints about people not following guidelines but they can do little to enforce them.  Topeka public schools are responding by going back to online instruction only starting Monday. (Reporter: Jim McLean)

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COVID-19 Cases Exploding in Topeka and Shawnee County

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Coronavirus cases are exploding in Topeka and Shawnee County.  Nearly 800 new cases were confirmed earlier this week.  That's more than double last week’s total.  County health officer Gianfranco Pezzino says cases are surging because officials can’t force people to stay home, wear masks and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.  He says voluntary compliance with those emergency safety guidelines is essential. “Because that is the only way we’re going to protect our businesses, our schools, our nursing homes and our high-risk individuals,” he said.  Starting Monday, Topeka public schools will go back to online instruction only. They will remain closed through at least the end of the month.  (Reporter: Jim McLean)

AP version -
 
New Pandemic Restrictions Taking Effect in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) - Public health officials in two of the state's most populous counties have tightened restrictions on gatherings.  And public schools in the capital city have scrapped at least two weeks of in-person classes in favor online learning amid a surge in coronavirus cases.  Starting today (FRI) in Shawnee County, gatherings will be limited to just 10 people.  Starting Monday, the Topeka public school district will suspend *in-person* classes for at least two weeks. In Douglas County, the limit on gatherings is dropping from 45 to just 15 people.  People should check with their own local health departments for  more guidance.  

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KU Health Begins Postponing Elective Surgeries

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) - The KU Health System began postponing some non-emergency surgeries this week in Kansas City, Kansas, to free up bed space. Chief medical officer Steven Stites says people need to mask up immediately, because the crisis won’t just affect COVID-19 patients.  "If you have a heart attack or a stroke, where are you going to go? If you’re in a car accident, you have a big trauma, and you need to go to the hospital, where are you going to go? If the hospital’s overwhelmed with COVID patients, where are you going to go?," he said.  ICUs are full at many hospitals across the region. KU Health System has opened an overflow ICU, but has turned down scores of transfer requests in recent weeks from smaller hospitals in Kansas and neighboring states.

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Rural Kansas Running Out of Beds for COVID-19 Patients

CONCORDIA, Kan. (KNS) - Rural Kansas doctors are struggling to find beds for their patients and have been turning to metro hospitals.  But hospitals in bigger cities are also running out of space.  Dr. Justin Poore is a family physician at a hospital in Concordia, in north-central Kansas. Twice in the past week, Cloud County Health Center has had to send patients to Omaha or Lincoln, Nebraska.  “We called Salina first. Then we called both of the major hospitals in Wichita -- we called Via Christi and Wesley. Manhattan -- Via Christi Manhattan. We called both of the hospitals in Topeka,” he said.  Dr. Poore says Cloud County didn’t see many COVID cases until last month. It’s had 150 cases just since November 1st.  \

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Garden City Implements Mask Mandate

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KNS) - Garden City is getting a mask ordinance.  City leaders approved the measure Wednesday.  It does not apply to Finney County, just the city itself.  People or businesses who do not abide by Garden City's new mask rule will be fined $10 for a first offense.  That fine can increase to $50 for three or more violations.   

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KU Providing Free COVID-19 Testing for People Returning to High-Risk Households

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The University of Kansas is offering additional COVID-19 testing options for certain campus community members who are preparing to head home after the end of in-person classes later this month.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that in-person instruction at KU will end on Tuesday, November 24, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, and students are encouraged to leave campus for the semester at that time.  In an email message to the campus, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said any students, faculty or staff members whose travel plans require a negative test — either mandated by an airline or their final destination — will be able to get tested. Additionally, any students, faculty or staff who are returning to a household with a person who is at high risk for complications from COVID-19 — as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — may receive a test. 

Testing will be available from November 16 to November 22 at KU Parking Lot 91, north of the Spencer Museum of Art. Those who qualify should not get tested, however, if they have previously tested positive for the virus within the past 90 days.  Qualifying individuals may receive a free saliva test by signing up for an appointment at covidtest.ku.edu.

After Thanksgiving, there will be a week for students to study for finals, which will then be conducted remotely, as they were during the spring 2020 semester.  KU’s spring 2021 semester will begin later than normal because of the pandemic, and it is scheduled to start February 1, with no spring break currently planned.

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Missouri Governor Announces New COVID-19 Guidance on Schools

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson has announced new guidance aimed at keeping more kids, teachers and staff in school, even those who have been exposed to the coronavirus.  Currently, anyone in a K-12 setting who is directly exposed must quarantine for 14 days. The new guidance does not require quarantining if both the infected person and the person exposed wore masks. On Thursday, Missouri reported more than 4,600 new virus cases, 16 more deaths and a record 2,300 people in hospitals.  The guidance change was quickly dismissed by leaders of Kansas City and St. Louis, who say schools should continue to require quarantines for anyone exposed.  

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KU Shuts Down Fraternity Following Hazing Investigation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has announced it will shut down the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity chapter on campus at the end of the semester after an investigation found evidence of hazing and drug use. The Lawrence Journal-World reported Friday that university officials informed the chapter in a recent letter that it would be shuttered on November 25. The letter says the earliest the fraternity could rejoin as a student organization would be in the spring of 2026. A copy of the letter released by KU to the Journal-World says that the fraternity was found responsible for harming or endangering members, hazing students as part of initiation and of having an “open culture of illegal drug use.”

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Authorities Investigating After Body Found in Missouri Lake

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities are investigating after two fishermen found a body in a Kansas City-area lake. Jackson County Sheriff's deputies and Kansas City firefighters were called to Longview Lake just after 4 pm Thursday and pulled the body from the water.  Authorities are trying to determine the identity of the person and how the person died. Officials say it is unclear whether the death was accidental or involved foul play. An autopsy has been scheduled.   

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KCK Police: 1 of 2 People Shot in City Park Has Died

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Police say one of two people shot over the weekend in a riverside park in Kansas City, Kansas, has died. The shooting happened just before 1 am Sunday in Kaw Point Park. Officers who arrived on the scene found two men with gunshot wounds. The victims were taken to an area hospital.  Police said Thursday that one of the victims - 23-year-old Juan Perez - died Wednesday from his injuries.  The other man, whose name has not been released, remains in the hospital in serious but stable condition. No arrests have been reported in the case.  

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Kansas City Police Determine Man's Death Was Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City have determined the death of a man over the weekend near Independence Plaza was a homicide. The Kansas City Star reports that officers were called to the area around East 12th Street and Cleveland Avenue around 7 pm Saturday and found a victim with injuries and unresponsive. The man, later identified as 39-year-old Rodolfo Ibarra, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police initially said Ibarra's cause of death was unclear, but investigators later deemed his death a homicide. Police have not released information on Ibarra's cause of death or the type of injuries he sustained. No arrests have been announced.

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Pompeo Leaves for Diplomatic Mission to Europe, Israel

WASHINGTON (AP/KPR) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading overseas on a trip to Europe and the Middle East, to countries where leaders have all congratulated former vice president Joe Biden for his victory in the presidential race.  Pompeo's trip is aimed at shoring up the Trump administration's policies and will include visits to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  This week, Pompeo smiled when he declared that he's prepared for a smooth transition to a second Trump administration, though it was unclear if he was speaking in jest.  Later, he clarified his department is ready for a transition regardless of who is sworn in as president in January.  Pompeo leaves today (FRI) for what may be his diplomatic swan song, traveling to France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

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Judge Rules Former Kansas Teacher Will Face Stalking Charge

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a stalking charge will stand against a former Olathe fourth-grade teacher accused of surreptitiously photographing one of his 10-year-old students. The Kansas City Star reports that a Johnson County judge on Thursday rejected the argument of ex-teacher James Loganbill's attorney that because the girl didn't know she was being photographed, she wouldn't have been fearful of the teacher, invalidating the charge reckless stalking. Police say the girl's classmates reported seeing Loganbill secretly taking photos of her from behind in class and on the playground. Investigators say that under questioning, Loganbill admitted taking the photos because he found the girl sexually attractive.

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Kansas Barn May Become Center Highlighting Underground Railroad

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - History buffs want to turn a Kansas limestone barn into a history center.  The barn was used on the Underground Railroad.  History organizations pitched the idea to the Lawrence City Commission  this week. The barn was built in 1858 and was used to hide people escaping from slavery in Missouri. The city of Lawrence later used the barn as a fire station.  In 2018, the National Park Service officially recognized the site as part of the Underground Railroad in 2018.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that history groups are asking the city to turn the barn into an archival and digital research site.  

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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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