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Headlines for Thursday, April 30, 2020

Kansas Exceeds 4200 Cases of COVID-19, Including 129 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) —  As of Thursday morning, Kansas health officials had recorded 4,238 cases of COVID-19, including 129 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 80 of the state's 105 counties.  Get the latest updates here.  

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Prison Infections Up with Early Release Announcement Coming

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Worried relatives are demanding that Kansas Governor Laura Kelly release some prison inmates early to allow for better social distancing amid a coronavirus outbreak at one state facility.  New numbers released Wednesday show 75 staff at the Lansing Correction Facility have tested positive, 18% of the prison's workforce. Fifteen of them have recovered and returned to work. Another 79 inmates have tested positive, and two have died. Three inmates from a work-release facility in Wichita were moved to Lansing after testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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UPDATE: Kansas to Lift Limits Monday on Many Businesses but Not All

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly has announced that she will allow many Kansas businesses to reopen next week if they can maintain social distancing. She also said Thursday that she hopes to lift all state limits on mass gatherings and other restrictions by June 15. Kelly is lifting a statewide stay-at-home order Monday. But her plan won’t allow bars, gyms, theaters, barbershops, hair and nail salons or state-owned casinos to reopen until at least May 18 and local officials will be allowed to impose stricter rules. Meanwhile, the state began testing all inmates at its prison in Lansing because of a growing coronavirus outbreak.

(–earlier reporting–)

Kansas Governor Set to Unveil Her Plan to Reopen Kansas; Speaks at 6:30 Tonight on KPR

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) —  Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she will announce her plan for reopening the state during an address later tonight (THUR).  Kelly will unveil her economic recovery plan at 6:30 pm and Kansas Public Radio plans to carry her address live.  

Kansas Businesses Anxiously Await Governor's Reopening Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Anxious business leaders and lawmakers are awaiting details of Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to reopen the state’s battered economy even as as massive COVID-19 prison outbreak continued to worsen. The Kansas Department of Corrections announced Thursday that it has begun testing all of the more than 1,700 inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility. Eighty-eight inmates who were tested after showing symptoms or being housed with sick inmates have contracted the disease. Meanwhile, about 75% of 240 inmates from one unit, most of whom weren’t showing symptoms, were found to be positive for the disease, though the Corrections Department said the exact number wasn’t available yet. Seventy-nine staff members have also been infected.

Governor to Announce Reopening Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas business leaders and lawmakers are anxiously awaiting details of Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to reopen the state’s battered economy despite the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. Kelly is set to announce her plans at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. In a procedural move, she will start by declaring a new state of emergency through May 14 because the existing one expires Friday and by reissuing all of her old executive orders. But the big news will be how she plans to ease the stay-at-home order, which is scheduled to expire at midnight on Sunday. Kelly has said her plan will maintain limits for mass gatherings and allow individual counties to choose to adopt more restrictive guidelines.

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Missouri Will Reopen Businesses Monday, with Guidelines

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson says businesses and social events across the state will be able to reopen next Monday, with certain social distancing requirements. The governor announced Monday the first phase of the state's reopening will begin May 4. Parson said citizens and businesses must continue to follow social distancing requirements, and local governments may impose stricter guidelines. There will be no limits on crowd sizes at social gatherings if 6 feet of distance can be maintained between individuals. And the governor said some businesses will need to take additional precautions, such as limiting occupancy.  

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Kansas City, St. Louis County Town Move Up Reopening Dates

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s largest city will reopen with significant restrictions next week, as jurisdictions in even the state’s two urban areas begin to move away from stay-at-home orders spurred by the coronavirus. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Wednesday announced that starting May 6, some “nonessential” businesses may resume with limits on crowd sizes and, in some cases, requirements that contact information of those in attendance be recorded. Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s stay-at-home order ends Sunday, but Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County previously announced plans to extend their orders through at least mid-May.

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With Rural Kansas Looking to Reopen, Doctor Remains Nervous

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A family physician in northwest Kansas would like the state to remain under a stay-at-home order even as the governor contemplates how to gradually reopen the economy. Dr. Beth Oller and her husband are doctors in the small town of Stockton, roughly halfway between Denver to the west and Kansas City to the east. And she's been watching for weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has crept closer. Her home of Rooks County confirmed its first case April 5 and now has six. Some residents said they'd like to see the state start reopening next week, when the stay-at-home order is set to expire. 

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Court: Kansas Can't Require Voters to Show Citizenship Proof

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has ruled that a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote is unconstitutional. The ruling Wednesday by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upholds a judge's injunction that had banned its use. The panel found in two consolidated appeals challenging the Kansas statute that the state law violates the Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act. The panel upheld the permanent injunction that U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson had imposed prohibiting enforcement of the requirement. The legal fight has drawn national attention as Republicans pursue voter ID laws aimed at preventing in-person voter fraud.

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Spirit AeroSystems Offers More Voluntary Layoffs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems is offering more voluntary layoffs to its employees in response to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. In an email sent to employees Wednesday, the company said it is offering the layoffs to all union-covered technical and professional employees. The Wichita Eagle reported it wasn't immediately clear how many jobs the company will cut. The final day of work for those taking the layoffs will be no later than May 14. The latest layoffs come after Boeing said Wednesday that it would reduce its workforce by 10% because of a drop in production rates.

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Kansas Couple Who Coughed, Claimed to Have Virus Charged

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas couple who authorities say repeatedly coughed on people at a Walmart and claimed the man had contracted the coronavirus are facing felony charges. Harvey County authorities on Thursday charged 29-year-old Hazel Hamrick and 47-year-old Ernest Williams after an incident at the Newton Walmart on April 6. Hamrick is charged with two counts of criminal threat. Williams faces two counts of aiding and abetting criminal threat. Prosecutors said the couple was trying to cause fear during the incident. Hamrick told The Wichita Eagle that she and Williams didn't consider whether they were frightening people. She says she feels like a “complete fool.”

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Topeka Police Say 2 Separate Fatal Shootings Were Related

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say two fatal shootings earlier this week were related. Police said in a news release Thursday that the first shooting on Tuesday morning led to the death of 37-year-old Mark Edwards. Police say Zennie Vasser Jr. shot Edwards. A witness to that shooting then shot Vasser in self-defense. Vasser's body was discovered later between two houses about a half-block from the where Edwards was shot. Police say the shootings were an isolated incident and they are not looking for anyone else in the case. Further details were not released.

(–Related–)

Topeka Police Investigate Fatal Shooting; ID Victim

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka are investigating the overnight shooting death of man near the city's Freedom Valley Park. Police say in a news release that officers were called to the area around 11:30 pm Tuesday for a 911 call reporting gunshots. Arriving officers found a person suffering from critical injuries who died at the scene. On Wednesday morning, police identified the victim as 37-year-old Mark Edwards, of Topeka.  Police are asking the public for any information on the fatal shooting.

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Missouri Deputy Accused of Sexually Assaulting Inmate

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in suburban Kansas City say a Clay County Jail deputy has been placed on leave after being accused of sexually assaulting a man being held on charges in the jail. The Kansas City Star reports that the inmate was taken to a hospital Saturday after accusing the deputy of rape and later returned to the jail, where he's being held in a restricted area. Clay County Sheriff's spokesman, Captain Will Akin, says an investigation into the allegations has been launched, and the alleged victim will be moved to another jail while he awaits trial on charges of burglary and first-degree sexual abuse. Akin declined to release the accused deputy's name.

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K-State Salary, Athletic Department Cuts to Save $3.5 Million

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor, football coach Chris Klieman and basketball coach Bruce Weber have agreed to salary reductions along with every athletic department employee making more than $100,000 annually. Taylor said in a statement Wednesday that the cuts, made to help deal with a budget crunch brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, will begin with the new fiscal year starting July 1. Klieman and Weber agreed to 13% reductions, employees who make more than $150,000 will have 10% cuts and those making more than $100,000 will have 5% cuts. The salary reductions alone are expected to save Kansas State about $1.5 million. The athletic department as a whole will also cut expenses by 10% for an additional savings of $2 million for the upcoming year.

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(-Revised-)

40 KU Leaders Take 10% Pay Cuts in Wake of Virus-Related Economic Downturn

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KAKE-TV) — The University of Kansas has announced that 40 of its top-paid employees, including its chancellor, will take temporary 10% pay cuts to help cushion the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Wichita station KAKE reports that KU Chancellor Douglas Girod announced the cuts in a letter this week. The letter says he, the chancellor's cabinet, vice provosts, deans and department heads will take the salary reduction for six months. Girod says the cuts will generate *$573,500 in savings for the university and that the money will be redeployed for urgent needs. Also taking the 10% pay cut are head men's basketball coach Bill Self, head football coach Les Miles and Athletic Director Jeff Long.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly overstated the amount of projected savings.

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Crash Kills Longtime Wichita Radio Personality Don Hall

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Longtime Wichita radio host and Wichita State University basketball announcer Don Hall has died in a crash at a busy Wichita intersection. Hall's employer, Entercom Communications, shared the news of his death Wednesday with employees in an email. The 70-year-old Hall was a morning show co-host at KEYN Radio in Wichita, and according to the station, had worked for more than 45 years in radio in Kansas. Police say the crash happened around 4:30 a.m., when a driver ran a red light and hit Hall's vehicle. Hall died at the scene, and police arrested 42-year-old Ray Watkins on suspicion of second-degree murder. Police believe Watkins was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the crash.

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Pork Producer Says It Needs Flexibility on Virus Guidelines

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The world’s largest pork producer has told a judge in Missouri that it's working as quickly as it can to comply with federal guidelines that seek to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But Smithfield Foods says it it needs some flexibility in an industry where people typically work side by side. The comments from a lawyer for Smithfield Foods came as a judge weighed whether to issue an injunction requiring a rural Missouri plant to abide by federal guidelines. Meanwhile, testing found 92 coronavirus cases at another Missouri plant, and Tyson Foods announced the temporary closure of a beef processing plant in Nebraska for deep cleaning after hundreds of people in surrounding communities tested positive for the virus.

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Kansas Native R.D. Hubbard, Horse Racing Breeder and Executive, Dies at 84

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kansas native R.D. Hubbard, who bred, owned and raced thoroughbred and quarter horses and was an influential executive in the racing industry, has died. He was 84. Hubbard died at his home in Palm Desert, California. He had been in declining health. Hubbard was born in Smith Center, Kansas, in 1935. He became chairman of Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California, in the early 1990s. He helped bring the track from near-bankruptcy to profitability. He was also part of a deal with the Raiders and NFL to bring a football stadium to the site, but it fell apart when Raiders owner Al Davis refused to add a second team. 

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KC Uses 5th-Year Option on Mahomes, Works on Long-Term Deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are exercising their fifth-year option on Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, a person familiar with their decision told The Associated Press, though both sides remain optimistic that they will agree on a long-term contract before the start of the season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Chiefs had not announced the move. Teams are allowed to use a fifth-year option on players selected in the first round of the NFL draft. If the Chiefs are unable to sign Mahomes to a long-term deal, he would be due a base salary of $25 million for the 2021 season.

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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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