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Headlines for Thursday, July 30, 2020

Kansas Allocates $254 Million to Slow Pandemic, Boost Economy

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Finance Council has allocated more than $254 million of federal coronavirus relief funds. Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday in a news release the funds will provide aid to Kansans who need it the most, help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate economic recovery. The group’s unanimous approval slated the federal funds for public health, education and economic development proposals as recommended by a task force. The governor's office says this is the second major allocation of the more than $1.03 billion Kansas has received through the federal coronavirus relief fund.


COVID-19 Fatalities May Soon Be on the Rise in Kansas  

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas is seeing signs of a coming rise in coronavirus deaths.  After Kansas closed down large swaths of its economy in late March, the number of people dying each day from COVID-19 fell.  But in mid-July, more coronavirus patients were sick enough to need hospitalization. That suggests a risk that deaths could climb again in August.  At the same time, a higher percentage of coronavirus tests in the state are coming back positive.  With 2,700 new cases in the past week, Kansas has now recorded nearly 27,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.  Health officials blame the virus for causing 349 deaths in the state.   


New Numbers Reveal Nearly 27,000 Have Tested Positive for COVID-19 in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Since the pandemic began, nearly 27,000 Kansans have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  Kansas health officials released the latest numbers Wednesday, revealing 26,870 people have now tested positive.  The vast majority of those cases represent patients who have recovered from COVID-19, but 349 people in Kansas have died.  A new round of data will be released Friday.    

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Two More Kansas Inmates Test Positive for COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Two more inmates in the Kansas prison system have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Department of Corrections says that the men are both at the prison in Ellsworth, where a staff member tested positive earlier this month. Both inmates, one in his 40s, the other in his 50s, are asymptomatic.  On Tuesday, state officials announced that a worker at the women's prison in Topeka had died from COVID-19, bringing the coronavirus death toll in state prisons to four inmates and three correctional workers.  Richard Rose was 74 and had worked for the Kansas Department of Corrections for more than 17 years. He died Saturday. He worked as a maintenance supervisor at the Topeka Correctional Facility, the state’s only women’s prison. Two other Kansas prison employees died of COVID-19 in May. Both were corrections officers at the prison in Lansing -- where more than 900 people once tested positive. That prison was the site of one of the largest outbreaks in the U.S.  Four Lansing prisoners have died from the virus -- the department has not released their names due to privacy regulations. As of last week, there were fewer than 10 active COVID cases in Kansas prisons.


Tyson Foods to Increase Virus Testing in US Meat Plants

UNDATED (AP) — Tyson Foods says it plans to administer thousands of coronavirus tests per week at its U.S. facilities under an expanded effort to protect its workers. The Arkansas-based company will randomly test employees who have no symptoms, as well as those with symptoms. The tests are on top of daily screenings when workers arrive at Tyson’s 140 U.S. production facilities. Meatpacking plants have been particularly susceptible to the coronavirus because of their often crowded conditions. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents many of Tyson’s 120,000 U.S. workers, says other meat processing companies should follow Tyson’s lead.


COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Tested at KU Med & Children's Mercy Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) - A COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and the  pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will be tested locally as part of a clinical trial seeking 30,000 volunteers nationwide.  The vaccine, known as AZD1222, is entering Phase 3 clinical trials after generating an immune response in a study of 1,077 patients, according to preliminary results published in The Lancet last week.  It's one of the first vaccines to move into large-scale clinical trials.  The trials are expected to begin in mid to late August. The University of Kansas Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital will lead the local effort, which calls for the recruitment of 1,500 participants in Kansas and Missouri.  Participants will be randomized – two out of three will get the vaccine and the rest will get a placebo.


Schwab Opposes Trump's Suggestion to Delay November Election

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab says his office opposes President Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the November election. He urged the Kansas delegation to Congress to do the same. More than 300,000 Kansans received advance by mail ballots for this year’s primary elections. The state expects there may be higher use of mail ballots for the general election. Schwab says in a statement that Kansas has implemented measures to ensure the security and safety of the August and November elections. He says “now is not the time to act in fear but to show the world we are courageous.”


Detective: Kansas Congressman Lied About Voting in 2019 Race

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A detective says in an affidavit that Rep. Steve Watkins of Kansas told her he didn't vote in a 2019 Topeka City Council election when evidence showed that he did. The affidavit released Wednesday is the latest development in a criminal case against Watkins, who is charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor alleging that he voted using an incorrect mailing address and that he lied to investigators. Watkins's campaign said the first-term Congressman made a clerical error when he registered his address. The campaign also alleges the charges are aimed at boosting the election chances of State Treasurer Jake LaTurner in next week's GOP primary.


Congressman Decries Mailer Accusing Him of Performing Abortion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A super PAC supporting conservative Kris Kobach's campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat from Kansas has sent out a mailer accusing his chief rival in the Republican primary of performing abortions. The Kansas City Star reports the claim against Rep. Roger Marshall is based on a tweet by a Kansas woman whose social media posts have often accused Marshall of hypocrisy on abortion rights. Marshall is a OB-GYN endorsed by major anti-abortion groups. Marshall’s campaign and Kansans for Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, decried the mailer as a smear. They say the procedure the woman claims she underwent to remove an ectopic pregnancy does not constitute an abortion.


Missouri Tourist Town of Branson to Require Face Coverings

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The popular Missouri tourist town of Branson will require face coverings in most public places in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, despite the objections of many, including comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Smirnoff, who operates a successful theater in Branson, told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday that the mask ordinance would make his adopted home more like his native land, Russia, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Nevertheless, the board voted 4-1 to approve the ordinance, which requires face coverings for people ages 13 and older, with some exceptions. Missouri reopened its economy in mid-June and has seen a big surge in confirmed coronavirus cases this month.


Topeka Man Charged in Fatal June Motorcycle Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old Topeka man has been charged with unintentional but reckless second-degree murder and other counts for a June crash that killed a motorcyclist. The Capital-Journal reports that Tommy Lynn Sherrill Sr. was charged Tuesday in the June 30 crash that led to the death of 26-year-old motorcyclist Dylan Jay Hernandez. Hernandez died July 11 of complications from massive head trauma suffered when his motorcycle collided with a building at Topeka's municipal airport. Prosecutors say an investigation showed a truck was involved in causing the crash and that Sherrill had been driving the truck. Sherrill was arrested July 22 and is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.


Man Sentenced to Prison in 2017 Topeka Triple Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old Topeka man has been sentenced to about 9 years in prison for his role in a triple homicide that left his best friend dead. Shane Andrew Mays was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree attempted murder and aggravated battery. Those charges relate to the deaths of 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt and 38-year-old Nicole Fisher, who died along with 20-year-old Luke Davis in March 2017 over an unproven rape allegation against Leavitt. Mays has said he felt pressured into helping with the murders and his attorneys had argued he was a victim in the case. Four other people have been sentenced in the deaths.


Police: Four Arrested After Man Killed at Wichita Motel

WICHITA, Kan (AP) — Wichita police say four people have been arrested after a shooting at a Wichita motel left one man dead and another seriously injured. Police said in a news release the shooting happened just before 1 a.m. Thursday at the Scotsman Hotel. Arriving officers found 40-year-old William Pottorff, of Wichita, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Police say within minutes, a 23-year-old man arrived at a local hospital in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Police say the shooting occurred after the 23-year-old and several others forced their way into the motel room, and Pottorff and the younger man pulled out guns and began firing.

(–earlier reporting–)

Police: 1 Killed, Another Injured in Wichita Hotel Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  Police say one man has died and another has been seriously injured in a shooting at a Wichita motel during what police suspect was a fight over drugs. Police said in a news release that the shooting happened just before 1 a.m. Thursday at the Scotsman Hotel. Arriving officers found 40-year-old William Pottorff, of Wichita, with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say within minutes, a 23-year-old man arrived at a local hospital in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Police say the shooting occurred after the 23-year-old and several others forced their way into the motel room, and Pottorff and the younger man pulled out guns and began firing.


Man Arrested in Fatal AutoZone Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested an 18-year-old man in the shooting death earlier this week of an employee at an AutoZone store in southeast Wichita. Police said Tuesday that 18-year-old Lamontae Lucas, of Wichita, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in the Sunday night shooting death of 40-year-old Nicholas Blue. Investigators believe Lucas shot Blue in an attempt to rob the store. Police have said that three employees were inside the business at the time of the shooting, but were in other areas of the building and were not injured. Police say officers honed in on Lucas after receiving tips from the public.


Police ID Man Killed in Tractor, Train Collision in Central Kansas

HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed this week in the collision of a tractor and train in central Kansas. Officials say 21-year-old Taylor Koehn, of Halstead, died in the Monday afternoon collision that also caused the train to derail near Halstead in Harvey County. Investigators say Koehn was driving the tractor and was pulling disc equipment when he crossed railroad tracks, causing the collision. Koehn was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.


Fired School Secretary Sues Kansas City Public Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A fired secretary has filed a lawsuit against Kansas City Public Schools.  The secretary was among several employees accused of falsifying attendance data in a bid to help the district regain accreditation.  In a lawsuit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, LaQuyn Collier says that district administrators retaliated against her and in December, fired her, after she told investigators that the practice of faking student attendance records was district-wide and initiated by district leaders at the time.  Her lawsuit claims retaliation, wrongful termination and race and sex discrimination.


Bill Would Ban Greyhound Racing; Group Alleges Live Rabbits Used to Train Dogs in Kansas, Oklahoma

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - Two U.S. representatives have introduced legislation that would ban greyhound racing in the U.S. The bill introduced Wednesday comes after a group that has fought against dog racing said it has videos showing racing greyhounds being trained with live rabbits in at least three Midwestern states, including Kansas.  The group, GREY2K USA, sent videos of the live lure training to officials in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, where it says an animal rights investigator shot the footage earlier this year.  The videos also were sent to Iowa, Arkansas, Florida and West Virginia, states where the group says the dogs were bred, where they raced or where their owners were licensed.


Owner of Wichita's Wind Surge Baseball Team Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) - Lou Schwechheimer, the owner of the Wichita Wind Surge baseball team, has died.  The team said in a news release Wednesday that Schwechheimer died of complications from Covid-19. He was 62.  KMUW Radio reports Schweichheimer moved his minor league team from New Orleans to Wichita in 2019. He was an active presence in the city, overseeing construction of a new stadium along the river for the team’s inaugural season in 2020.  But the season was canceled because of the pandemic.  Schwechheimer also owned minor-league teams in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Port Charlotte, Florida.  


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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