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Headlines for Thursday, March 25, 2021

 

Kansas Highway Patrol Says It Has No Record to Release on Lawmaker's Arrest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Highway Patrol official says it does not have a document it can make public on last week’s arrest of a legislative leader on suspicion of driving under the influence and attempting to flee law enforcement. The patrol's general counsel said Thursday that it is not required to file an offense report with a public front page for alleged DUI incidents. The patrol’s Capitol Police arrested Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop early March 16 on Interstate 70 near downtown Topeka after his SUV was reported traveling the wrong way. The Wichita Republican went to jail but was released when a judge said there was insufficient evidence for his arrest.

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Kansas to Receive Far Fewer Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Doses than Expected 

UNDATED (KNS) – Kansas will get only a fraction of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines it expected next week.  This vaccine has the advantage of inoculating people against the virus with just one dose. Kansas had expected about 100,000 doses to arrive next week. Instead, the state health department said about 16,500 shots will be arriving. Production issues are behind the delay. The larger number of doses is now expected in the second or third week of April. State officials say they still expect to get more than 85,000 of the Pfizer vaccine and 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the coming week.

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Kansas Administers Vaccines to 600,000 More People this Week

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas opened up COVID-19 shots to roughly 600,000 more people this week, including adults with medical risks and essential workers.  At a county fair building in Great Bend, a steady stream of people line up to get shots through their open car windows. Some said they’re looking forward to visiting family, feeling safer at their jobs or eventually not wearing a mask. Greg and Pam Willis drove down from Hoisington to get their shots. They were excited about finishing a trip to Europe that got cut short by the pandemic. “We were there a year ago when it all got shut down. We were on the last flight out of London that day, it was crazy. And I want to go back,” she said.  Barton County's public health director, Karen Winkelman, said she saw the relief in people's faces as officials administered more than 400 vaccine doses during the one day, drive-through vaccination clinic this week.  Winkelman said the clinic has given out between 300 and 1,000 doses almost every week since late January.

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Obituary for Kansas Woman Claims She Died from Reaction to Coronavirus Vaccine

EFFINGHAM, Kan. (KSNT) – An obituary posted online Wednesday night states that a Kansas woman died after a reaction to the coronavirus vaccine.  The first line of Jeanie Evans’ obituary states, “Jeanie M. Evans, 68, of Effingham, Kansas died unexpectedly on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at the Stormont-Vail Hospital from a reaction to the Covid vaccine.”  KSNT reports that Evans received her shot the day before her death in Ozawkie, at the Keystone Early Learning Center.  Once she started experiencing a reaction to the vaccine, Evans was taken by ambulance to Topeka’s Stormont Vail Hospital.  Evans was pronounced dead at the hospital, a day after receiving her first COVID-19 shot.

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Kansas Governor Signs Rewrite of Pandemic Management Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has signed legislation rewriting Kansas laws for managing the coronavirus pandemic and future emergencies even though she believes it could hinder disaster response efforts. The measure Kelly signed Wednesday extends the state of emergency for the pandemic until May 28, instead of letting it expire March 31. Kelly cited the extension in announcing her action. The measure also leaves counties in charge of mask mandates and other restrictions.

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GOP Leaders Promise to Thwart Kansas Governor on Mask Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas are promising to thwart a plan from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly to encourage county officials to maintain mask mandates to help control COVID-19. GOP leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature argue a statewide policy is unnecessary after steep declines in new cases this winter. They announced their potential move after Kelly signed a measure that took effect Thursday that gives legislative leaders the power to rescind a governor’s orders during an emergency. Kelly announced that on April 1 she will reissue an order requiring people to wear face coverings in indoor businesses and public spaces. County commissions would have to vote to opt out.

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Sedgwick County Rescinds Mask Mandate

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) — For the first time since July, wearing a face mask in public is no longer required in Sedgwick County. County commissioners voted 3-to-2 to end the current public health order. The decision was made in response to an anticipated new state law that will open the county to lawsuits over how it manages the pandemic. With no county mandates in place, businesses and venues are allowed to determine their own policies. Sedgwick County is currently preparing to move into Phase 5 in its vaccination program implementation, which will allow all adults to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine.

(-Related-)
 

St. Joseph, Columbia Ease Coronavirus Restrictions

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - Face masks are no longer required in St. Joseph and Columbia, Missouri.  With COVID-19 cases on the decline and vaccinations on the rise, those two mid-sized Missouri cities are now easing restrictions.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the city's mayor, Bill McMurray, ended the city's mask requirement.  The easing of pandemic restrictions in both St. Joe and Columbia come as newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations have dropped sharply and, as more people have been vaccinated.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Tops 300,000 Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Wednesday that there have been 300,927 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,881 deaths since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 802 cases and 31 deaths since Monday. Johnson County continues to report the highest number of cases, with more than 55,800.  Another update will be released Friday afternoon. 

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Plan to Limit Turbines Riles Growing Kansas Wind Industry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative committee’s leader lit a political prairie fire with a proposal that critics say would end investments in wind energy. State Senate Utilities Committee Chairman Mike Thompson said Wednesday that he is trying to protect landowners who fear that a proliferation of large turbines in their rural areas will drop property values and lessen their quality of life. The Shawnee Republican is pursuing a bill that would impose statewide regulations on wind turbines. His proposal has split fellow Republicans and inspired a strong backlash from both environmentalists and economic development officials who see wind energy as a jobs creator. Wind farms provide 41% if the state's electricity.

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Derby Man Gets Probation for Impersonating Police Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man has been sentenced to a year of probation for what prosecutors say was his repeated impersonation of a law enforcement officer over a 15-month period. The Wichita Eagle reports that 34-year-old Kory Michael Farmer, of Derby, was sentenced after pleading guilty last week in Sedgwick County District Court to one count of misdemeanor false impersonation. Court documents say Farmer was caught impersonating a law enforcement officer multiple times between August 2019 and November 2020, in which witnesses reported he operated a pickup truck outfitted with lights and sirens and weaved recklessly through traffic. But he wasn't arrested until November 16 when he engaged in a confrontation with two detectives driving an unmarked sheriff’s car. 

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Ex-Deputy Charged with Child Sex Crimes Returns to Kansas

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A former Sedgwick County Sheriff's deputy who fled to Turkey after being accused of child-sex crimes made his first court appearance after being returned to Kansas. Derick Chandler was charged after an investigation by Wellington police. Authorities say he fled to Turkey during the investigation. He was extradited from Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday. During his court appearance Thursday, a judge ordered Chandler held on $1 million bond. Authorities have said the charges relate to abuse of one victim over several months.

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States Sue to Undo Biden's Actions on U.S. Oil & Gas Lease Sales

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana and a dozen other states are suing the Biden administration to end a suspension of oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. Louisiana's Republican Attorney General, Jeff Landry, announced the federal lawsuit Wednesday. The suit also seeks a court order that the government go ahead with two offshore lease sales that had been set for this year. One in the Gulf of Mexico had been set for March 17 until the administration canceled it. Another had been planned this year for Alaska's Cook Inlet. Other plaintiff states include: Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Utah and West Virginia.  

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GOP Missouri Attorney General Schmitt Running for U.S. Senate

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says he’s making a bid to replace Roy Blunt in the Senate. His announcement Wednesday sets up a Republican primary against disgraced former Governor Eric Greitens. In a written release, Schmitt pushed his conservative credentials and railed against “the radical left.” Voters elected him as state treasurer in 2016. He was appointed attorney general after Missouri Senator Josh Hawley left the seat to join the U.S. Senate. Voters gave Schmitt another term in 2020. Greitens rose quickly to become governor before scandal forced him out of office just a year and a half into his tenure.

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4 Arrested in Shooting Death of 18-Year-Old Dodge City Man

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City police say a man whose body was found during the weekend was killed by a single shot to the head. Four people have been arrested in the death of 18-year-old Zacarias Giannino, of Dodge City. His body was found Sunday but police believe he was killed on January 28. Police Chief Drew Francis says 19-year-old Tyree Jackson and 31-year-old Lakendria Lewis, were booked into the Ford County Jail on possible charges of first-degree murder. Two juveniles also were arrested. Francis says Giannino's body was outside in a secluded area and cold temperatures since his shooting preserved the remains.

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Wichita Police Officer Injured While Pursuing a Stolen Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police officials say an officer was injured in a crash during a pursuit of a stolen car. Police spokesman Trevor Macy says the officer who was injured in the chase early Thursday was treated and released from a Wichita hospital. The suspect also was treated and released into custody. Macy says the chase began after officers tried to stop the car in south Wichita. He says the suspect eventually turned and collided with the patrol car, causing it to hit a home. The suspect tried to flee but was arrested. The investigation is continuing.

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K-State Signs Athletic Director to Extension with Raise

UNDATED (AP) — Kansas State University and its athletic director, Gene Taylor, have agreed to a contract extension. It includes a significant jump in base salary to $925,000 per year through June 2027. The 63-year-old Taylor was nearing the end of a five-year deal he signed in 2017. That contract paid him $450,000 the first year with $50,000 increases each of the next four. He had agreed to a 13% paycut last year to help with budget problems caused by the pandemic.

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Oklahoma Men's Basketball Coach Lon Kruger Retires After 35-Year Career

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — University of Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger has announced his retirement. Kruger led two teams to Final Fours — Oklahoma in 2016 and Florida in 1994. Kruger is the only coach to lead five different programs to NCAA Tournament wins: Oklahoma, Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV. He led the Sooners to a 195-128 record over 10 years and reached seven of the past eight NCAA tournaments. In his final season at Oklahoma, the Sooners went 16-11 and ended with a loss to top-seeded Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament earlier this week.

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