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Headlines for Thursday, December 31, 2020


Eastern Kansas Braces for Blizzard-Like Conditions to Ring in New Year

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) A Winter Weather Advisory takes effect late tonight (THUR), as blizzard-like conditions move into eastern Kansas.  Snow is expected around midnight and should continue all day Friday, the first day of the new year. Forecasters say by Friday evening, total snow accumulation could range from 4 to 6 inches.  The National Weather Service says heavy mixed precipitation is expected, including ice accumulations of up to one quarter of an inch, mainly over portions of far east central Kansas.  Motorists should anticipate slick roads and hazardous driving conditions.  (Read more.)


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A winter storm is also moving across parts of Texas and Oklahoma and could dump up to 18 inches of snow in places before moving eastward and possibly spawning tornadoes.  The National Weather Service says 12 to 18 inches of snow in southwestern Texas is possible today (THUR).  Forecasts say the storm then will move eastward, creating a threat of tornadoes across Louisiana and southern Mississippi.


Kansas City Area Sees Worst Month Ever for COVID-19 Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — December was the deadliest month of the coronavirus pandemic in the Kansas City area. An average of 11 people died each day from COVID-19. The Kansas City Star says the metropolitan area recorded 342 COVID-19 deaths through Dec. 30. All told, 1,353 metro area residents have died from the virus since the onset of the pandemic. The metro area includes residents in Missouri and Kansas. In Missouri, the virus has claimed 5,519 lives, including 28 new deaths reported today (THUR) by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The state also cited 3,714 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 392,570 since the pandemic began.


CDC Ranks Kansas Last in COVID-19 Shots; Reporting Lag Cited

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal government data says Kansas ranks last among states in its reported COVID-19 vaccination rate. State officials attribute the issue to a lag in reporting by providers of the shots. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12,164 people had received the first of two vaccine doses in Kansas as of Wednesday, or 418 for every 100,000 of its 2.9 million residents. The CDC said Kansas had administered less than 11% of the vaccine doses it had received. A state health department spokeswoman said today (THUR) that the vaccination numbers are not current because not all providers are fully trained on using a computer system for reporting inoculations.


Kansas Surpasses 1 Million COVID-19 Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents have had more than 1 million COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic. The state Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that Kansas had reached the milestone. More than 15,000 tests have been reported this week alone. Governor Laura Kelly in late September announced a “unified” strategy for boosting testing to help the state catch more cases early and more frequently in people without COVID-19 symptoms. The state hired 11 contractors in mid-November, and Kelly said this week that the state had 42 free testing sites. The state health department says about one third of the state’s tests, or more than 330,000, occurred after October.


New Kansas Lawmaker Under Court Order Denied Committee Seats

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top Democrat in the Kansas House is refusing to give an incoming lawmaker any committee assignments over issues that include an anti-stalking court order filed against him after he won his seat. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer’s action this week is a sign that he and fellow Democrats plan to try to oust Representative-elect Aaron Coleman of Kansas City, Kansas, once the Republican-controlled Legislature convenes Jan. 11. The 20-year-old Coleman narrowly ousted a veteran lawmaker in the Democratic primary in August and faced only write-in candidates in November. A woman who ran his primary opponent’s campaign accused him of harassing her. A judge issued a no-contact order on Dec. 4.


Charge Dismissed in Garden City Restaurant Owner's Death

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dismissed a murder charge in the death of a Garden City restaurant owner but the charges could be refiled if new evidence is found. The Finney County attorney's office said it had dropped the charge against 32-year-old Marcus Roady. He was a suspect in the September 2019 death of 69-year-old Charles Ernie Ortiz, owner of the El Conquistador Restaurant. Police found Ortiz lying in the restaurant's parking lot suffering from numerous gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at a Garden City hospital. The Finney County attorney said in a statement that current circumstances dictate dismissal of the charge.


Federal Checks Salvage Otherwise Dreadful 2020 for Farms

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — U.S. farmers are expected to end the year with higher profits than last year and the best net farm income in seven years thanks to the government paying nearly 40% of their income. That's according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest farm income forecast. Farmer challenges in 2020 included the impact of trade disputes, drought and wind damage, and low prices for corn, cotton, wheat, chicken, cattle and hogs. Farm cash receipts are forecast to be the lowest in more than a decade. But farmers are expected to receive $46.5 billion from the U.S. government. That's the largest direct-to-farm payment ever. It lifts net farm income to $119.6 billion. And that's the highest profitability since 2013.


Three Youths Arrested for Topeka Mall Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old and two juveniles have been arrested in connection to a fire at the abandoned White Lakes mall in Topeka. Officials believe yesterday’s fire that heavily damaged the mall was intentionally set. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a tip led to the arrests yesterday. The fire on Tuesday morning at White Lakes Mall caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. The mall opened in the 1960s but it because less popular after a larger mall opened in west Topeka in the 1980s.


Kansas Geological Survey Provides More Info on Wichita Earthquakes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Geological Survey says one of two earthquakes that rumbled Wednesday morning in the Wichita area was the largest in a recent series of quakes.  The 3.9 magnitude earthquake that hit at 5:04 am was also the 32nd strongest quake in Kansas data.  The other earthquake Wednesday was a 2.0 magnitude that took place about 20 minutes after the first.  The epicenter of the first earthquake was near Greenwich. The second quake's epicenter was in Wichita. KGS senior scientist Rick Miller believes the 18 quakes to hit Wichita recently are a natural event that will subside once the suspected fault causing them has released its built-up energy.  


Police Fatally Shoot Man Suspected of Killing Mother-in-Law

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer has fatally shot a man who is suspected of killing his mother-in-law and shooting his wife.  Wichita police say 37-year-old Jason Williams was killed after a confrontation at his mother-in-law's home Wednesday. Police say Williams and his wife were divorcing and that he had been served with a protection from abuse order. After a confrontation that included Williams firing at least 25 shots, he agreed to allow his wife and the children to leave.  But police say Williams, who was armed with two handguns, followed his wife and kids and tried to prevent them from leaving.  This prompted an officer to fire and kill him.  The man's mother-in-law, 52-year-old Michelle Barr, was found dead inside the home.  


December Has Been a Tough Month for Kansas Hospitals

TOPEKA, Kan (KNS) — Hospitals in Kansas have dealt with more COVID-19 inpatients this month than during any other month of the pandemic.  On a typical day last summer, Kansas was reporting anywhere from 100 to 300 people hospitalized with the coronavirus.  Then the virus surged this fall. By November, the daily average was just shy of one thousand hospitalized COVID-19 patients.  This month so far, the daily average is more than 11 hundred, the worst yet.  The virus has killed more than 2,500 Kansans.  


Kansas COVID-19 Caseload Exceeds 222,000; Deaths Top 2,700

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health reports there have been 222,433 cases of COVID-19, including 2,741 deaths, since the pandemic began.  Health officials also reported Wednesday that there have been 6,760 hospitalizations resulting from 104,014 cases.  KDHE typically provides updates on coronavirus case numbers Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Kansas Governor Gets Vaccine; Many GOP Leaders Hold Off on Getting Shots for Now

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has received the first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots.  But some top Republican officials have passed for now because all health care workers and nursing home residents haven't received theirs.  Kelly designated herself and 10 other state officials as eligible to start vaccinations this week in an effort to protect state government's "continuity of operations." Kelly received her shot Wednesday.  But four eligible legislative leaders and GOP Attorney General Derek Schmidt say they will wait. Most of those Republicans say they don't want to jump in line ahead of health care workers, nursing home residents and other vulnerable Kansans.  The eligible Republican legislative leaders who said they would wait include House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, incoming Senate President Ty Masterson and incoming Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn.  Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he would also wait, but GOP Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt is a pharmacist and is getting inoculated.  Kelly's office said State Treasurer-designate Lynn Rogers and Lt. Governor-to-be David Toland will get shots. It's not clear when Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab or Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert will get their vaccines.


U.S. Senator from Missouri to Contest Joe Biden’s Electoral College Win

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican Missouri U.S. senator says he'll object when Congress meets next week to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the election. Senator Josh Hawley says he'll protest the Electoral College certification because “some states, including notably Pennsylvania” didn't follow their election laws. A Biden spokeswoman is dismissing Hawley’s move as “antics” that will have no bearing on Biden being sworn in on January 20. Hawley didn't give specifics or present new evidence in the statement he released announcing his intentions. Hawley's move is likely to force votes in the House and Senate that would delay the certification of Biden’s win, but not change the outcome.


Chlamydia Cases on the Rise in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Cases of chlamydia in Kansas shot up 66% during the past decade.  Chlamydia, or more specifically a chlamydia infection, is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.  The infection is on the rise in Kansas and nationally, a new report from the United Health Foundation says.  Many people who have it don’t have symptoms, so they don’t realize they’re infected. But it’s still dangerous to them and their sex partners - and important to treat.  The infection can damage the reproductive system, for example, making it hard for women to get pregnant.  


Kansas Hunting and Fishing Licenses Sell Well in 2020

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) — More Kansans turned to socially-distanced hobbies like hunting and fishing this year. But that doesn’t mean it was a banner year for outfitters.  Kansans bought nearly 27 thousand licenses that cover both hunting and fishing in 2020. That’s up 16% from a year ago.  Yet Tim Clark, of Red Dog Outfitters in northwest Kansas, still saw a dip in business this year because out-of-state hunters weren’t sold licenses to go after turkeys in the spring.  But Clark isn’t surprised that hunters came back this fall, even as COVID cases rose.  “A lot of the hunting community isn’t as scared of the COVID thing as the non-hunting community. Not that they’re not respectful of it, but it doesn’t cripple them from getting out and doing what they want to do. And it’s probably because we’re playing out in the woods.” The National Shooting Sports Foundation says hunting license sales are up 12% nationwide for 2020.


Gilligan's Island TV Star "from Kansas" Dies at 82; COVID-19 Cite

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dawn Wells, who played the wholesome character of Mary Ann, from Winfield, Kansas, on the hit 1960s TV show Gilligan's Island, has died. Her publicist says Wells died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles of causes related to COVID-19.  She was 82 years old.  Besides TV, film and stage acting credits, her other real-life roles included teacher and motivational speaker.  Born in Reno, Nevada, Wells represented her state in the 1959 Miss America pageant and quickly pivoted to an acting career. Her early TV roles came on shows including "77 Sunset Strip," "Maverick" and "Bonanza." Then came "Gilligan's Island," a goofy, good-natured sitcome that became an unlikely but indelible part of popular culture.


Actress Tina Louise Pays Tribute to Fellow TV Star Dawn Wells

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With the death of Dawn Wells, Tina Louise is now the last surviving member of the cast of "Gilligan's Island.'' Louise, who is 86, says she will always remember Wells' kindness. Louise says she hopes people will remember Wells the way she does -- "always with a smile on her face.''


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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