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Headlines for Monday, January 17, 2022


UPDATE: Two Large Kansas School Districts Shuttered as COVID Surges; Some Wichita Schools Close

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Schools in Olathe and Kansas City, Kansas, have canceled classes for two days as COVID-19 cases surge among staff and students in the districts. The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe Public Schools and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday. Olathe Superintendent Brent Yeager said more than 800 school employees — about 20% of Olathe schools' staff — were out sick heading into this week. Yeager says more than 1,500 students had the virus last week. Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools reported it had 200 teaching positions unfilled Friday. Three public and three Catholic elementary schools will be closed in Wichita Tuesday, with two of the Catholic schools also closed Wednesday.

(-Earlier reporting-)

Kansas City, Kansas-Area Schools Shuttered as COVID Cases Surge

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Schools in Olathe and Kansas City, Kansas, have canceled classes this week as COVID-19 cases surge among staff and students in the districts. The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe Public Schools and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday. Olathe Superintendent Brent Yeager said the cancellations were unavoidable as more than 800 school employees — about 20% of all Olathe schools' staff — were out sick heading into this week. Yeager said more than 1,500 students had the virus last week. Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools reported it had 200 teaching positions unfilled Friday. The Kansas City-area school closures follow the closures of several other Kansas districts last week due to the surging virus. Wichita district officials say three elementary schools will be closed on Tuesday. The district warned parents last week that closures were possible.

Hospitals Raise Morgue Capacity Concerns; Schools Close

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Nursing homes are facing COVID-19 outbreaks, schools are closing and hospitals in the Kansas City area are seeing so many deaths that they are raising alarms about morgue capacity. The problems come as Kansas yet again shattered its record for new confirmed and probable cases. The state reported an average of 7,887 new cases a day for the seven days ending Friday -- nearly triple what had been the biggest peak in November 2020. While the omicron variant is less deadly, hospitalizations are approaching the previous high from December 2020, new state data shows.

More Kansas Districts Close, Warn Parents to Prepare

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP/KC Star) — More Kansas districts are closing and warning of potential closure as the COVID-19 outbreak sickens staff. The Eudora districts pulled the plug on classes Friday because of a lack of substitutes and increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. The Kansas City Star reports that several Johnson County school districts also canceled classes Friday, including De Soto and the Bonner Springs/Edwardsville district.  Staffing shortages are so severe that the state announced substitute teachers in Kansas will not be required to have college credit hours in order to teach.


Surge in Virus Hospitalizations in Missouri Makes Transfers More Difficult

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The current surge in virus cases in Missouri driven by the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant is straining hospital capacity and making it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals. Kellie Meehan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she can hear the desperation in doctors’ and nurses’ voices when they call the Mercy transfer center that she oversees. But increasingly she has to turn down their transfer requests. Virus hospitalizations have risen sharply across Missouri in recent weeks to hit 3,526 on Thursday, which is the most recent data available. That’s more than 700 higher than last year’s peak.


COVID Hits Missouri Nursing Homes Again; Staff Hard Hit

ST. LOUIS (AP) — COVID-19 infections are rising in Missouri nursing homes as the highly contagious omicron variant surges. New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows cases among nursing home staff ballooned to 1,261, up from a peak of 981 last fall. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the 895 cases among residents still remain below the peak. And 87% of Missouri nursing homes residents are vaccinated, just two-thirds of nursing home staff are. That's the lowest among states. Nursing homes have dealt with staffing shortages throughout the pandemic, but the latest surge has sent yet-unseen numbers of health care workers home due to illness or exposure.


Missouri Board of Education Keeps 36-Hour Virtual Learning Rule Intact

NORMANDY, Mo. (AP) — Some Missouri schools facing staffing and student absences because of COVID-19 are facing difficult decisions because state law limits virtual instruction to 36 hours per school year. The state loosened the 36-hour rule during the last school year but it is in force again this school year. School districts that close because of high absences and also hit the 36-hour virtual learning limit might have to extend the school year to meet a state requirement to provide 1,044 hours of instruction each year. The State Board of Education heard a presentation Tuesday about the problem but decided to keep the 36-hour limit on virtual learning.


University of Kansas Won't Share Hazing Report with Police

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas suspended two fraternities for hazing earlier this month, but officials don’t plan to share their investigation with police. Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Theta were both suspended from campus for five years because of the incidents university officials found, which included assaults, sleep deprivation, forced workouts, destruction of pledges’ property and retaliation for reporting the behavior to university officials. KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said the students who were hazing victims are free to pursue criminal charges, but university officials don't want to trigger a criminal investigation that victims don't want.


Kansas City Police Investigate City's Third Homicide of 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the death of a man who was found shot inside a vehicle. Kansas City police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said gunshots were reported just before 9:30 pm Saturday in the 1800 block of East 78th Street, which is near Hickman Mills Drive. When officers arrived they found a vehicle sitting in the front yard of a home. They found an unresponsive man who had been shot inside the vehicle. He died at the scene. The victim was not immediately identified. Becchina said investigators believe the man was shot while inside the vehicle before it rolled to a stop in the yard.


Police: 1 Dead After Shooting on Amtrak Train in Missouri

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified the victim of a fatal shooting on an Amtrak train as a 30-year-old man from Independence, Missouri. Police were called around 9:15 pm Friday to the Amtrak station in Independence, where they found that Richie T. Aaron Jr. had been shot while the train had been stopped earlier at the Lee’s Summit station. Sgt. Chris Depue of the Lee’s Summit Police Department says police are looking for the suspect, who was also riding the train and fled in Lee’s Summit. The Kansas City Star reports that police say people on the train did not immediately recognize that a person had been shot.” The train traveled north to Independence where life-saving efforts were attempted before Aaron was pronounced dead.


Police Say They Are Investigating Man's Death as Homicide 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say they are investigating as a homicide the death of a Topeka man. The Topeka Police Department said Saturday in a news release that officers found the body Friday while responding to a call regarding “a past assault with medical response." The man was identified as 39-year-old Mack Lee. The department's homicide unit is now reviewing investigative leads and evidence.


Missouri Boarding School Doctor Pleads Not Guilty to Child Sex Abuse Charges

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A doctor facing 11 child sex abuse counts involving students at a Missouri boarding school pleaded not guilty to three of the charges. Dr. David Smock entered the plea Thursday to three charges filed in Greene County. Smock is the longtime physician for Agape Boarding School, a Christian school based in Stockton. Besides the three charges in Greene County, the Missouri Attorney General’s office has filed eight felony charges against Smock in Cedar County. Smock's attorneys argued Thursday that he should be released from custody while awaiting trial. Greene County Circuit Judge Ron Carrier took the request under advisement.


Dozens Charged in 6-State Shoplifting Ring that Hit Pharmacies

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Authorities have arrested more than two dozen people for allegedly taking part in a multistate shoplifting ring involving more than $10 million in stolen merchandise. U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson in Tulsa and Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor announced state and federal charges last week against 29 defendants, including 25 who have been arrested. Prosecutors say the defendants took part in a crime ring that stole mostly over-the-counter medications from pharmacies and other retailers in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Ringleaders would then arrange for the sale of the items on e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay. The Tulsa Police Department launched the investigation in 2019.


GOP Race for Kansas Attorney General Focuses on Fighting Biden, not Crime

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican primary for Kansas attorney general this year is focused on fighting Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda. The attorney general is often described as the state’s top law enforcement official, but in recent years, state attorneys general have built political brands on filing lawsuits against the other party's administration in Washington. Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach is attempting a comeback after losing the general election for governor in 2018 and a U.S. Senate primary in 2020. He faces Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Kellie Warren and retired veteran federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi. All say they're best positioned to fight Biden.


Kansas Doctor Has License Suspended over Prescription Issues

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state board that oversees doctors has suspended the medical license of a Wichita physician, alleging that he wrote prescriptions for people he hadn’t spoken to or examined. The Wichita Eagle reports that suspension order says that Chad Sharp’s employer had unlicensed employees call people last year and ask if if they were suffering from “chronic ailments.” These calls were recorded and then sent to Sharp, who was paid for each person whose information he reviewed. The order states that he then would prescribe a cream or ointment that was billed to the person’s insurance. 


Former NFL Player Siavii Found Dead in Kansas Federal Prison

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle has been found dead in a Kansas federal prison where he was being held on charges of illegal firearms possession, a prison official said. U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Anna Armijo says 43-year-old Saousoalii Siavii Jr. was found unresponsive at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth Thursday afternoon, The Kansas City Star reported. Siavii was pronounced dead at an area hospital. From American Samoa, the former Oregon lineman was drafted by Kansas City in the second round in 2004 and spent two seasons with the Chiefs. He played for Dallas in 2009 and Seattle in 2010.


Kansas City Chiefs Advance in NFL Playoffs, Defeating Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns, Travis Kelce caught a TD pass and threw another one, and the Chiefs sent Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into his expected retirement with a 42-21 win in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday night. Byron Pringle caught touchdown passes from both Mahomes and Kelce, and Jerick McKinnon and Tyreek Hill also reeled in scoring catches for the Chiefs. Their pursuit of a third straight AFC title now includes a date with the Bills next week. The 39-year-old Roethlisberger finished with two TD passes in his likely career finale. 


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.  This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today! 

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