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Headlines for Saturday, November 20, 2021

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Top Kansas Health Official Resigns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top public health official in Kansas has resigned. Governor Laura Kelly announced Friday that Dr. Lee Norman stepped down as the top administrator at the state Department and Health and Environment and as state health officer. His departure came only days before the Legislature was set to convene a special session Monday to consider proposals for pushing back against federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Norman had been the health department's top administrator since Kelly took office in January 2019. Neither she nor Norman gave reasons for his resignation in statements released by her office but Kelly praised Norman as the most consequential leader in the department’s history.

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Kansas to Phase Out Some Free COVID Tests in 2022

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will start next year to require employers, individuals, and health insurance companies to pay some costs associated with COVID-19 testing. The state Department of Health and Environment announced Friday that it will start phasing out free screening tests for people who aren’t showing COVID-19 symptoms or haven’t potentially been exposed. The agency said it expects the policy to begin in March 2022. The department said it can’t sustain having public health agencies cover the cost of all testing indefinitely. The agency said it initially allocated $141 million in federal funds on testing and lab processing capacity but infections from the delta variant depleted the funds faster than expected.

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White KC Police Officer Convicted in Black Man’s Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has convicted a white Kansas City police officer of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of a Black man in a case in which prosecutors said police planted evidence. Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs issued the verdict Friday against Officer Eric J. DeValkenaere in the death of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb, who was parking a pickup truck in his backyard when he was shot December 3rd, 2019. DeValkenaere said he fired after Lamb pointed a gun at another detective. The judge called it a tragic case with troubling facts, saying police were the initial aggressors and had a duty to retreat. DeValkenaere will remain free on bond until he's sentenced at a later date.

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Federal Judge Blocks Kansas Law on Mailed Ballot Applications

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Kansas to suspend a new law prohibiting out-of-state groups from mailing advance ballot applications. The ruling sides with two national nonprofit groups who contend it disenfranchises voters. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil granted on Friday the preliminary injunction against the law sought by VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center. The law that is the focus of the litigation was one of two voting laws that were passed this year over the veto of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. It also makes it a crime to include the voter’s name, address and other information on advance ballot applications, even if the voter provided the information and requested an advance mail ballot application.

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Lawrence Women Gets Probation for Driving into Protesters

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman who drove into protesters in 2020 will serve six months of probation after reaching a plea deal. Lynda Kitsmiller, also known as Lynda Muncy. pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery. Prosecutors dropped a reckless driving charge as part of the plea deal. Police said Kitsmiller accelerated her vehicle into a group of people protesting police brutality in downtown Lawrence in May 2020. One person suffered minor injuries. A month later, Mary Ellen Rose of Baldwin was accused of driving into a crowd of people in downtown Lawrence. She later pleaded no contest to reckless driving and was fined $100.

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Wichita Man Gets Eight Life Sentences for Assaulting Girls

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old man with a history of sexually abusing children was given eight life sentences after being convicted of sexually assaulting two young girls. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office said Clinton Decaire was sentenced Friday for multiple counts of rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Five of the life sentences will run consecutively, meaning Decaire would have to serve 272 years before being eligible for parole. Prosecutors said Decaire began assaulting the girls in 2019, when they were ages 6 and 8. He was convicted in 2005 of three counts of rape involving a 13-year-old girl and has been a registered sex offender since 2006.

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Wyandotte County Extends Mask Mandate for Public Spaces

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Most Wyandotte County residents will be required to wear masks indoors at public spaces until at least until January 6th. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas voted Thursday night to extend the county's  COVID-19 mask requirements for everyone over age 5, regardless of their vaccination status. The order covers the entire county except Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and school districts. Health data shows only 45.6% of the county's residents are fully vaccinated. The order comes as many surrounding counties have dropped their mask mandates. Jackson, Clay, and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas all have recently withdrawn their mask requirements.

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Computer System Crashes at Friends University

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Administrators, staff and students at Friends University in Wichita have been experimenting in 70s-style communications in the wake of a computer systems crash that happened last week. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash took out the school's Wi-Fi, email, and operations software, leaving students and teachers unable to submit and access assignments online or communicate electronically. A university spokeswoman downplayed the crash but conceded that connection problems lingered Thursday. Vice President of Enrollment Management Deb Stockman said the university was forced to take down the school's network after unusual activity was noticed on the network November 11th. Political science professor Russel Fox says that with no access to email, "people were leaving notes on doors.”

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