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Headlines for Saturday, March 21, 2020

Kansas Sees Second Death from COVID-19 as Cases Rise

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A second COVID-19 death in Kansas has been confirmed, this one in the Kansas City suburb of Johnson County. State health officials revealed the death Saturday in a news release meant to update the number of new coronavirus cases in the state and did not give any details about the person who died. The state's first death from the virus, a Kansas City-area nursing home resident in Wyandotte County, was reported March 12. The state saw its number of confirmed cases in the state rise from more than 40 on Friday to 55 on Saturday.

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UPDATED: Statewide Total of Positive COVID-19 Cases Reaches 55 Saturday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) —  As of Saturday, at least 55 people in Kansas had tested positive for COVID-19, according to state health officials.  Nearly half of that statewide total involves cases in Johnson County.  Cases have been identified in at least 14 of the state's 105 counties The Kansas Department for Health and Environment reports two out-of-state visitors to Kansas also tested positive for COVID-19 but weren’t included in the statewide total.  Health officials say the vast majority of infected people recover and most people have mild or moderate symptoms, but the virus can lead to serious illnesses in some people, particularly older adults and people with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions.  Latest daily updates from KDHE can be found here.

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Health Officials Identify Two More Travel-Related Cases of COVID-19 in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced Saturday two new cases of COVID-19 in Douglas County, bringing the county’s current total to three. The new cases involve a woman in her 30s who recently traveled to the West Coast, and a man also in his 30s who recently traveled to England. Both patients are in isolation.  As part of disease investigation protocol, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health officials are now working to identify others who may have had close contacts with these individuals.  The patients will continue to be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued mandates earlier this week for the quarantine and isolation of travelers who visited places in the United States where the disease is present in large numbers. The first case in Douglas County announced on March 17 was a man in his 20s who had recently traveled to Florida. 

In an effort to stem the outbreak and promote social distancing, Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino has issued orders that include the prohibition of public gatherings of more than 10 people.  In addition, restaurants, dining facilities, bars, taverns, night clubs and movie theaters were ordered to close through April 1. Restaurants can still offer carryout, drive-through and delivery services.

Dr. Marcellino has also strongly recommends that:

  • Daycare centers close while schools are closed.
  • Retirement communities and long-term care centers limit visitors.
  • People avoid large gatherings including sports practices, games and tournaments and unnecessary social gatherings.

Dr. Marcellino has also strongly recommends that people:

  • Avoid non-essential trips and stay home as much as possible.
  • Practice good hygiene ad frequently wash their hands.
  • Avoid touching their face. (Because the virus enters the body through the eyes, nostrils and mouth.)
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue.
  • Practice social distancing: Maintain six feet of space between themselves and other people IF they must go out in public at all.

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The Kansas News Service maintains this resource about the pandemic: Updated Regularly: What Kansans Need to Know About COVID-19 and Coronavirus   

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2 New Coronavirus Deaths Reported in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two more Missourians have died from the coronavirus, and the number of confirmed cases of the illness nearly doubled in one day. St. Louis County officials said Friday that a woman in her 60s who suffered from multiple health problems prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19 died. Officials don't yet know if she had traveled. On the other side of the state, Jackson County officials said a woman in her 80s had died. She had not recently traveled, raising concerns about community spread. The deaths were the second and third in Missouri.

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Kansas Agency Running Low on Test Kits for COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is running “precariously low” on coronavirus testing kits and could be forced to rely on private labs, potentially delaying results.  That's according to Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  Norman said testing wouldn't stop altogether if the agency ran out of kits because it would hold back a few for infected people who've been hospitalized. Four private lab companies are doing testing, though Norman said they typically take longer to report their results than the state's one-day turnaround.  Norman said the state has enough testing kits for about 300 patients.  Officials are testing between 150 and 300 people a day, which suggests the health department could run out of tests this weekend.

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Despite Rumors; Martial Law Not in Effect, Kansas Not on Lockdown

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ / KPR) —  Despite rumors on social media, martial law has not been declared and the state of Kansas is not on lockdown.  The Topeka Capital-Journal quotes the adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard, Lee Tafanelli, who said speculation about the establishment of martial law, adoption of heavy-handed quarantines or imposition of other draconian measures was beyond the “realm of possibility.”  Resources of the Kansas Guard remain dedicated to logistical operations in support of state and local officials, including distribution of medical supplies, he said.  “There’s all kinds of social media saying the National Guard is taking over, they’re on the streets, they’re going to do this or that,” Tafanelli said.

Tafanelli said the Kansas National Guard was dedicated to relieving pressure on local communities in the same way it would after a tornado, flood or other natural disaster. That could mean transporting medical supplies from a clandestine location to hospitals throughout the state, as well as collection and delivery of test samples.  He said the Kansas Guard had 14 airmen and seven soldiers on active duty in Topeka assigned to this crisis. About 6,500 could be called upon to serve, but Tafanelli said the actual number would be much lower.  Some of the servicemen and women provide critical resources to local communities, including law enforcement officers and medical professionals, and it would defeat the purpose to pull them away.  Even in the most extreme scenario, where fear and panic gives way to riots and looting, it is unlikely Kelly would call upon the Kansas Guard to police the streets.  “We would provide support to law enforcement on the administrative side so they can free up more of their officers to deal with those situations,” Tafanelli said.

He urged Kansans to pause for a moment and adhere to recommendations for social distancing and sheltering at home.  “We’re going to get through this,” Tafanelli said, “but the way we get through this the quickest and get back to a normal day-to-day life is if we all can cooperate, if we all make sure we do those things we can do individually to make sure we’re not contributing to the spread of the disease.”

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Kansas Unemployment Claims Increase 600% in Wake of COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (KC Star) — According to the Kansas Labor Department, unemployment claims grew more than 600 percent in one week, as the coronavirus slowed or completely shut down large swaths of the economy.  Quoting Labor Secretary Delía García, who spoke Friday, the Kansas City Star reports that more than 11,300 claims were filed this week.  In Kansas and Missouri, state agency websites were overwhelmed by applications and crashed.

Where someone applies for unemployment depends on where they work, not where they live. 

People who work in Kansas can apply here.
People who work in Missouri can apply here.

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Hallmark Plants in Lawrence, Leavenworth Close Temporarily Due to Virus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) —  Hallmark Cards will temporarily close manufacturing plants in Lawrence and Leavenworth - as well as one in Texas - in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  KSHB TV reports that the Kansas City-based company said Friday it will facility in Lawrence, which makes greeting cards, and its facility in Leavenworth, which makes gift wrap, on Monday, March 23.  The companys says it will also close a plant in Center, Texas, which makes store fixtures and displays.  
Hallmark’s distribution center in Liberty and a production plant in Metamora, Illinois, will remain open with reduced staff. Those facilities also will “continue to implement enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing strategies,” according to a news release from the company.  Employees will receive additional PTO equivalent to two weeks of pay, Hallmark said.  Earlier in the week, Hallmark closed its Crown Center headquarters for 48 hours after an employee was “potentially exposed” to the coronavirus in a social setting.

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Kansas Policy Allows Bars, Restaurants to Sell Alcohol to Go

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas bars, breweries and restaurants with liquor licenses will be temporarily allowed to sell bottled beer and wine to-go during the pandemic. The policy announced in a memo Wednesday by the director of Alcoholic Beverage Control says to-go liquor sales can take place as long as the beverages are opened before leaving the premises and are sealed in a proper to-go bag. The Kansas City Star reported the policy applies to restaurants with liquor licenses, bars, clubs, farm wineries, micro-breweries, micro-distilleries and liquor stores. Kansas rules are temporary and will continue “until further notice.”

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Body Found in Kansas Watershed Identified as that of Missing Atchison Man

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) —  Police say a body found in an Atchison watershed dam in northeastern Kansas is that of a missing Atchison man. MSC Radio News reported that the body was found Friday afternoon. Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson identified the body as that of 47-year-old Joseph Leger Jr., who was reported missing February 19. Investigators say he had not been seen since February 5. Officers were called to the dam just after 2 pm Friday after someone spotted the body in the water. Wilson says the cause of death isn't yet known. An autopsy will be conducted in Kansas City.

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Kansas and Missouri Goodwill Stores & Donation Centers Temporarily Close Due to COVID-19

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Goodwill stores in Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri will close temporarily as the nation tries to limit the spread of COVID-19.  In a news release, MOKAN Goodwill said they would be closing temporarily today (SAT) until further notice.  WDAF TV reports the closure will affect 15 retail stores, including stores in the Kansas City metro, Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, Pittsburg and St. Joseph. The main office at 800 E 18th Street in Kansas City will remain open.  Workforce services will also continue on a limited basis to serve people in need, but all in-person hiring events are postponed. The hiring events will continue online.  Ed Lada, President and CEO of Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas said, “Our enterprise is driven by the resell revenue generated by our stores, which in turn provides resources and opportunities for job counseling, training, placement and coaching for thousands of people with barriers to employment.  This makes our decision to close our stores all the more difficult.”

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Department that Investigates Child Abuse Closes Offices but Still Investigating Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department for Children and Families announced Friday that it will close its offices indefinitely, starting Monday. It said it will continue to investigate child abuse or neglect and process applications for services. It will take applications online and at drop boxes outside its offices.

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Wichita Man Sentenced to Life for Abusing Children

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually and physically abusing children. Eric McFadden was sentenced Wednesday in federal court. A jury found McFadden guilty of multiple charges in February. Federal prosecutors say a 13-year-old boy walked to a police station in April 2018 to report that his mother's boyfriend was abusing his siblings. The boy was the oldest of nine siblings. All were taken into protective custody. Police determined that McFadden sexually abused two girls in the family and beat all of the children with belts and extension cords.

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Kansas Offers Loans to Help Struggling Restaurants, Taverns, Bars and Motels

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — On Friday, the state launched a program to provide short-term, no-interest loans of up to $20,000 each to bars, restaurants, taverns and motels struggling to cover operating expenses because of the pandemic's economic toll.  The program will tap funds the state has set aside to close deals to lure businesses to Kansas to instead make up to $5 million in loans. State Commerce Secretary David Toland said the total amount of loans could grow. The program is designed to supplement federal Small Business Administration loans.  Toland also said the state directed communities that have received $6 million in development grants, typically for sprucing up downtowns or making infrastructure improvements, to use them to assist struggling businesses.

The Kansas Hospitality Industry Relief Emergency Fund website contains details on which businesses are eligible and information on how to apply for the funds.. 

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Kansas Lawmakers Approve Transportation Plan Seen as Economic Stimulus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a new, 10-year transportation program. Many lawmakers see the transportation bill approved Thursday as a much-needed,  $10 billion stimulus to counter the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican-controlled Legislature made promising funding for highway, road and bridge improvements a priority as it tackled measures for addressing the new coronavirus and pushed to finish a $19.9 billion annual budget to keep state government operating after June. Lawmakers planned to finish what they considered their most pressing work before taking an early and unusually long spring break. The transportation plan had broad bipartisan support in both chambers.  (Learn more about this story.)

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Kansas Policy Allows Bars, Restaurants to Sell Alcohol to Go

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas bars, breweries and restaurants with liquor licenses will be temporarily allowed to sell bottled beer and wine to-go during the pandemic. The policy announced in a memo Wednesday by the director of Alcoholic Beverage Control says to-go liquor sales can take place as long as the beverages are opened before leaving the premises and are sealed in a proper to-go bag. The Kansas City Star reported the policy applies to restaurants with liquor licenses, bars, clubs, farm wineries, micro-breweries, micro-distilleries and liquor stores. Kansas rules are temporary and will continue ``until further notice.'' 

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Kansas City-Developed App Plans to Alert You to Potential COVID-19 Exposure

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHS) — A Kansas City-developed app could soon help curve the spread of the novel coronavirus.  KSHS TV reports that "Private Kit: Safe Paths" is an app that tracks its users' location every five minutes. If users test positive for COVID-19, they can voluntarily send their location data to other users in an effort to alert them of a possible exposure.  "At the rate the infection is spreading, we need to work towards flattening the curve, and this is a major part of being able to do that," TripleBlind CEO Riddhiman Das said.  

TripleBlind is helping develop the app along with researchers across the globe, including at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Currently, when an individual tests positive and is placed in self-quarantine, health department officials trace their prior whereabouts to determine who they might have exposed. Officials then monitor those individuals.  "Once you find that person who is positive, we want to look at everybody who has been in close contact with them, sort of that close contact with them. People who have spent more than 10 minutes, within six feet of each other," said Elizabeth Holzschuh, an epidemiologist at Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.  Remembering where a person has been and who they have been in contact with, however, can often be difficult. "Private Kit: Safe Paths" streamlines that contact-tracing process.

"The important part of this is we do not want to expose anyone’s important data," said TripleBlind's Vice President of Product Development Steve Penrod. "When you are comparing data, all that it says is that you have had an exposure. You don’t know where, you don’t know who. All that it tells you is there’s a potential you crossed points."  The app keeps a time-stamped log of a user's location every five minutes. The data is encrypted so users cannot identify one another.  "We needed to figure out a system that did not encroach on people’s privacy," Das said.  The app is still a prototype but is available for download on both the Google Play market and iOS.

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Many Places of Worship in Kansas City Offering Livestreamed Services

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — KMBC TV has compiled a list of religious services that will be live-streamed online this weekend.  Find it here.

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As Offerings Dwindle, Some Churches Fear for Their Future

NEW YORK (AP) — Across the United States, many in-person worship services are being canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, some churches are bracing for a painful drop in weekly contributions and possible cutbacks in their programs and staff.  At Friendship Baptist Church in Baltimore, the pastor says last Sunday's offering was only one-third of normal. A bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America says some of the 190 churches in his New York-area synod are unlikely to survive because of a double financial hit. Their offerings are dwindling, and they are losing income from tenants such as pre-schools which can no longer afford to rent church venues.

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University of Kansas Warns of Coronavirus Scams and Security Threats

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The University of Kansas is warning employees and students about new cyber-threats related to the coronavirus.  The KU IT Security Office has received reports from the federal government as well as nearly 100 reports from members of the KU community that criminals are using the COVID-19 pandemic to send phishing messages, malicious attachments and links to malicious websites. These messages claim to offer COVID-19 infection maps, official notices and other misinformation. Other malicious information may be delivered via text message, WhatsApp, TikTok and other social media platforms.  Attackers know people are frightened, that the situation is continually changing and confusing and that people are hungry for information. This makes everyone more vulnerable to social engineering and cyber-attacks.

     The best source of information on COVID-19 is coronavirus.gov.
     KU’s official COVID-19 website is coronavirus.ku.edu.

Any KU students or employees receiving a suspicious message should not respond, click on links or open any attachments. Instead, such messages should be forwarded to abuse@ku.edu and then deleted immediately.  For more information about cyber-threats and COVID-19, visit the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency website. 

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Nation's Hospitals, Including LMH Health, Put Elective Procedures on Hold During COVID-19 Crisis

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Hospitals across the nation have begun cancelling all elective procedures in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.  Several hospital systems, including LMH Health in Lawrence, had already suspended elective procedures.  Beginning Monday, the Lawrence hospital will put other non-emergency procedures, like screening mammograms, on hold.  LMH says all non-urgent outpatient exams scheduled on or after March 23 will now be postponed.  (Learn more about new procedures and protocols now in place at LMH Health, formerly known as Lawrence Memorial Hospital.) 

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Johnson County Community College Hires New President

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County Community College has hired a new president. The college's board on Thursday hired Andrew Bowne, who is currently senior vice president of Indiana's 18-campus community college system. Bowne will become president in July. The Kansas City Star reports the college's Board of Trustees met remotely and only two people were in the room when Bowne's hiring was announced because of concerns about the coronavirus. Like nearly all colleges in Kansas, Johnson County Community College will move to online-only classes when school resumes after spring break. County health officials announced last week a woman associated with the college tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

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Customers Cheer After Woman Gives Birth at Missouri Walmart

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Customers cheered at a Walmart in Missouri after a woman gave birth to a baby girl in the store's toilet paper aisle. Store manager Jessica Hinkle says the woman told employees Wednesday that her water broke. KYTV reports Hinkle held up a sheet for privacy while a labor nurse who happened to be in the store and firefighters helped the woman deliver her baby. Customers cheered as they were taken away to an ambulance. The birth took place as shoppers nationwide are converging on stores to stockpile toilet paper and other basics amid the coronavirus pandemic. Hinkle says she's told both mom and baby are doing well.

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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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