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Headlines for Saturday, April 18, 2020

 

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Kansas Governor’s Religious-Gathering Limit for Two Churches  

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Two Kansas churches temporarily don’t have to abide by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s limit of 10 or fewer attendees, a federal judge ruled Saturday.  The federal judge sided with the First Baptist Church in Dodge City and Calvary Baptist Church in Junction City, which had argued in a lawsuit that Kelly’s executive order was an unconstitutional limit on the right to exercise religious freedom and went against the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.  A separate hearing for a preliminary injunction, which could put a hold on the entire executive order, is scheduled for Thursday.  Kelly’s intent with the executive order was to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, of which the state has almost 1,800 cases and 80-plus deaths. Church services and funerals were added to the list of restricted gatherings on April 7. The state health department has noted that religious activities have led to a few COVID-19 clusters.  In issuing his temporary restraining order, Judge John Broomes said the churches had sufficiently showed “a live controversy exists” and that Kelly’s lawyers hadn’t accounted for why airports, public transportation and production facilities, among other things, weren’t beholden to the same limitations on the number of people who could gather. The orders, he said, “carve out broad exemptions for a host of secular activities, many of which bear similarities to the sort of personal contact that will occur during in-person religious services.”  (Read more about this story.)

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Kansas Reports Nearly 1,800 COVID-19 Cases; Ford County Becoming Fast-Growing Hot Spot

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - As of 11 am Saturday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 1,790 cases of COVID-19, including 86 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 66 counties.  The hardest hit counties are in the Kansas City and Wichita areas, places with the highest population concentrations.  However, Ford County, in the rural southwest is becoming one of the fastes growing hotspots for COVID-19 cases.  Earlier this week, Ford County had fewer than 20 cases.  It now has 107 cases.  (Get the latest updates from KDHE here.)

Top Five Kansas Counties for COVID-19 Cases

Wyandotte County = 412
Johnson County = 369
Sedgwick County = 232
Leavenworth County = 123
Ford County = 107

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Kansas Lags in COVID-19 Testing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas ranks near the bottom among U.S. states for how many people it’s testing for the novel coronavirus. It also plans to start using 3D printers to manufacture its own swabs as it struggles to get the point that it’s doing enough testing before lifting a stay-at-home order. The struggles have continued with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly under increasing pressure from the Republican-controlled Legislature to lift restrictions hindering economic activity.  But Kelly said Friday that testing people both with and without symptoms is key. Dr. Lee Norman, her top public health administrator, said the state might not be able to loosen restrictions until mid-May.

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Federal Court to Rule on Kansas Limit on Church Services

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to block enforcement of Governor Laura Kelly’s order banning religious gatherings with more than 10 people to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. U.S. District Judge John Broomes said he would rule by Saturday on whether to grant a temporary restraining order after hearing arguments in a telephone conference call with the attorneys. The churches and their pastors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Kelly, arguing that the directive violates their religious and free-speech rights, as well as their right to assembly.

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Spirit AeroSystems to Bring Back 2,100 Furloughed Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A major aircraft parts supplier in Kansas is expected to bring about 2,100 furloughed workers back to work next week as Boeing prepares to resume production of its commercial airplanes. The Wichita Eagle reports that Spirit AeroSystems also is planning resume work for more than 1,700 other workers in Wichita over the next three weeks. Boeing said Thursday it will restart production of its commercial airplanes next week in the Seattle area after operations were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Kansas Changes Prison Health Providers amid Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will soon have a new medical provider in state prisons. Officials announced Friday that they had signed a new contract for medical services amid mounting frustrations with its current provider. The Kansas Department of Corrections said in a news release that it awarded Centurion of Kansas LLC a contract that begins July 1. The announcement comes a week after Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly criticized the health care provided by Tennessee-based Corizon Health.  Kelly said she shared concerns expressed by inmates and staff about the level of care from Corizon.

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Officials say Woman Dies in Kansas House Fire

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a woman has died in a rural northeastern Kansas house fire. Wichita station KSNW says the fire was reported early Thursday morning in Brown County. A family member told the station that the 74-year-old woman and her husband initially escaped the fire, but that the woman went back inside to try to save a dog and did not survive. The Brown County Sheriff’s Office says it's investigating the cause of the fire, but noted that no foul play was suspected. Officials said the man who escaped the fire was hospitalized. Authorities have not released the victims' names.

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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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