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Headlines for Thursday, October 22, 2020


Kansas Governor: COVID-19 Cases on the Rise in Rural Areas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says the recent rise in coronavirus cases has started to worry the state’s hospitals. Kelly says two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 cases are now outside of the Kansas City and Wichita metro areas -- most notably in Norton County, in northwestern Kansas. It has seen one of the biggest spikes in cases this month in the U.S.  Kelly also announced that Kansas has set aside $35 million in CARES Act funding for an eviction protection program.  Landlords and tenants must apply jointly and can receive up to $5,000 dollars per household to help cover missed rent payments.


Governor Kelly Again Urges Statewide Mask Mandate for Kansas

MISSION, Kan. (KNS / AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is again calling for a statewide mask mandate as coronavirus infections climb in rural parts of the state that don’t require face coverings. Kelly said Wednesday that two-thirds of the state’s confirmed cases now are outside the Wichita and Kansas City regions. Over the summer, the governor issued an order requiring Kansas residents to wear masks, but more than 90 counties chose to opt out. Kelly says she plans to discuss with legislative leaders on working toward a bipartisan requirement with more teeth. The state health department says Kansas had 1,488 new confirmed coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2% that brought the total number of infections for the pandemic to 74,456. Kansas has had 952 deaths related to the virus.


Kansas Coronavirus Positivity Rate Climbs Above 20%

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' coronavirus positivity rate has topped 20%, even as one GOP lawmaker pushed back against Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's call for a statewide mask mandate. Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said today (THUR) that a "one-size-fits-all COVID solution doesn't work for our diverse state." More than 90 of the state's 105 counties have opted out of the mask order. Kelly said Wednesday that she will speak with House and Senate leaders to develop a bipartisan mask requirement with more teeth. According to The COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Kansas rose from 15.04% on October 7 to 20.64% on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the state's top public health official, Dr. Lee Norman, blamed the state's worsening numbers on residents' refusal to consistently follow public health guidelines for mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding large public gatherings.  But many lawmakers are resistant to imposing statewide restrictions, wanting the decisions left up to local officials. Kelly said during a news conference that there would be legislative challenges but that the research was clear: masks work.


Kansas Closing in on 75,000 COVID-19 Cases, with 952 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - State health officials say Kansas has recorded nearly 75,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that the state had 74,456 cases, including 952 deaths. That's an increase of 80 deaths from Monday's report. The KDHE COVID-19 online statistics summary indicates that this increase in deaths can be attributed, at least in part, to an ongoing reconciliation of death certificates, and that 55 of the deaths are attributed to this review.  Another update will be released Friday.


Kansas Vaccination Plan Prioritizes Health Care Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A draft plan shows that health care workers and long-term care residents will be among those who will get the coronavirus vaccine first in Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that the state's 45-page plan was filed in the past week with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other groups that will be prioritized for the initial rounds of vaccinations include people with underlying medical conditions, people 65 and older and essential workers. State officials then will use advisory committees to help determine who should receive the vaccine next. The plan indicates that the state is taking input from groups representing individuals with disabilities, people of color, children and other demographics.


Hospitalizations Still Rising in Missouri, Prompting Worries

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A leading coronavirus expert in St. Louis is warning that hospital workers are “over-worked and demoralized” after months of battling the coronavirus, and the worst may be yet to come. Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says hospitalizations are getting higher and intensive care unit beds are filling up at a time when the flu season is about to create even more strain on the health care system. The St. Louis region is actually in better shape than the rest of the state. Health department data shows hospitalizations are at or near record levels in virtually every region except St. Louis.


Missouri Governor Calls Lawmakers Back to Work on Coronavirus Aid

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson is calling state lawmakers back to work to give his administration the authority to dole out additional federal coronavirus aid funding. Parson announced the special session yesterday (WED). It is slated to begin November 5. That's two days after the November 3 gubernatorial election. Parson says the session is needed to allow the state to hand out federal money for school food programs, job training and homelessness prevention. Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade says the special session is a political stunt before the election. She questions whether it's even necessary.


Kansas Cuts Number of Children in Foster Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The number of children in the Kansas foster care system has dropped by more than 10% since the summer of 2019.  Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard told Kansas lawmakers this week that there were about 7600 children in foster care at the end of June, 2019.  By the end of last month, that number dropped to 6800. Howard said the agency had also cut by half the number of times children were moved between foster homes. Others involved in the foster system told legislators that parents of kids with special needs and mental health issues need more money and training and that young adults transitioning out of the foster system need more help learning to live on their own.


Police: 1 Killed in Shooting Near Youth Football Game

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating a shooting that left one man dead outside a Wichita sports stadium where a youth football game was being played. Wichita police say the shooting happened around 10 pm Wednesday inside the Stryker Sports Complex near a parking lot, but outside the stadium where the game was being played. Officers called to the scene for a report of a disturbance heard several gunshots and saw people leaving the scene. Police say a man injured in the shooting was taken to a hospital, where he died. His name has not been released. Police Captain Kevin Kochendorfer says more than 500 people were at the scene at the time of the shooting, making for a chaotic scene.


Ex-CEO of Blue Bell Creameries Charged in Deadly Listeria Case

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Authorities say the former president of Blue Bell Creameries has been charged with wire fraud for allegedly trying to cover up a 2015 listeria outbreak linked to the company’s ice cream that killed three people in Kansas and sickened several others. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that a federal grand jury in Austin, Texas, returned a seven-count indictment charging Kruse with six counts of wire fraud and other charges.  This comes a little more than three months after a judge dismissed previous charges against Kruse because prosecutors didn't present them to a grand jury. Kruse's lawyer says the charges are unfounded and that he'll argue they were brought after the statute of limitations had expired.


Kansas City Police ID Man Found Fatally Shot in Parking Lot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City have identified a man who was found fatally shot in a fast-food restaurant parking lot on the south side of the city. Police said in a news release that officers called to the McDonald's parking lot Monday found 35-year-old Rickey Arrington inside a vehicle with gunshot wounds. Arrington was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police had not announced an arrest by Wednesday morning, but say detectives have identified a person of interest in this case.


Police: Man Found Shot to Death in Kansas City Alley

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri, say a woman leaving work early Wednesday morning found the body of a man who had been shot to death in an alley. Police say the man's body was in a dark, secluded alleyway near Woodland Avenue and The Paseo when spotted by the woman around 7 am.  Police are investigating whether the death was related to a report of gunshots in the same area around 3 am Wednesday.  Police have not have not released the victim's identity or indicated whether they have any suspects in the shooting death.


Kansas Corrections Officer Arrested, Accused of Domestic Battery

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Riley County say a corrections officer has been arrested and placed on leave after being accused of domestic battery.  Officer Ace Thompson, with the Riley County Police Department, was arrested Wednesday night. The arrest came after a 28-year-old woman reported on Monday that Thompson assaulted her. Riley County police said the 33-year-old Thompson, of Manhattan, was booked into the jail on suspicion of domestic battery and criminal restraint. He has been released on $1,500 bond. The department says Thompson has been placed on administrative leave.


Missouri Man Accused of Pointing Gun on I-80 in Nebraska

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska state police have arrested a Kansas City, Missouri, man accused of pointing a gun at another driver on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska. The Nebraska State Patrol says the incident happened in Keith County Tuesday afternoon, when a cattle truck driver reported that a man in a pickup truck had pointed a handgun at him. Troopers stopped the suspected truck a short time later and found a handgun inside the truck. Troopers arrested the driver, 39-year-old Victor Troches Reyes of Kansas City.  Reyes was booked into the Keith County Jail on suspicion of making terroristic threats, carrying a concealed weapon and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.


Voting in Western Kansas County Delayed by Ballot Misprint

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A western Kansas county was forced to suspend in-person, advanced voting for three days after a ballot misprint incorrectly identified a Kansas Senate race as a U.S. Senate contest. Ellis County planned to resume in-person voting today (THUR) with extended hours after corrected ballots arrived on Wednesday. The incorrect ballots labeled the Kansas 40th District Senate race as a U.S. Senate race.  The names of the candidates were correct.  About 4,000 of the incorrect ballots were also sent to mail-in voters. Election officials say the incorrect ballots will be counted. The actual U.S. Senate race between Democrat Barbara Bollier and Republican Roger Marshall was correctly identified on the ballot.


2 Facing Misdemeanors After Vehicles Drove into Protesters

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two people are facing misdemeanor charges after vehicles drove into crowds at two protests in Lawrence earlier this year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the drivers have been issued summons to appear in court for incidents on May 31 and June 29. No one was seriously injured in either encounter, which occurred on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence during protests against police brutality. The driver involved in the May 31 incident is facing misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and battery. The driver involved on June 29 has been issued a summons for misdemeanor reckless driving. 


Prosecutors: Homeless Man Stole 22 Firearms from Kansas Store

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a 54-year-old man made holes in drywall to enter an Overland Park pawn shop and steal 22 firearms. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Darrin Taylor, who was homeless, was indicted Wednesday on one count of theft from a federally-licensed firearms dealer. The weapons were taken in September from the Penguin Pawn & Gun shop in Overland Park. Charging documents say employees reported the thief entered a business next door through a shattered glass window and then made several holes in the drywall between the businesses to get into the pawn shop.


Report: Topeka Officer Should Take De-Escalation Refresher Course

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An independent police auditor says a Topeka police officer who forcefully handcuffed a 14-year-old youth with autism did not violate any police department policies. But the auditor, Edward Collazo, is recommending the officer take a refresher course in de-escalation training. He said the officer might have followed policy but didn't necessarily show good judgment during the encounter with the youth on September 19. The youth's mother said his wrist was fractured when the officer handcuffed him. The encounter occurred after the teenager ran when the officer was trying to get him to put his dog on a leash.


Sheriff’s Office Halts Investigation into Death of Man Missing Since 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office has called off its investigation into the death of a man who was reported missing in 2018. Early this week, police confirmed the body was Gregory McGovern who was last seen in Topeka in June 2018. The bones were found along the Kansas River in April, along with a backpack. Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran said forensic scientists this month match DNA from McGovern's family to identify the body. Cochran said investigators found nothing suspicious with the bones. The sheriff’s office said the remains were found and removed from the area.


Food Concessions Company to Lay Off 550 in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The food concessions provider for Kauffman Stadium and the Kansas City Convention Center has announced it will lay off more than 550 workers at both venues. The Kansas City Star reports that food services contractor Aramark recently notified state regulators of the layoffs, most of which will take place at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. The Royals did play in the stadium this year, but did not allow fans because of the pandemic. The company will lay off 512 hourly employees and eight salaries workers at the stadium, while another 48 hourly workers will have their hours cut. At the convention center, it will lay off 57 employees and cut the hours of 10 others.


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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