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Headlines for Tuesday, April 28, 2020

 

Kansas Has 1st Prison Virus Death; Meatpacking Cases Up

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has reported its first death in a prison coronavirus outbreak and saw the number of positive cases in six meatpacking plants rise to 378 as the state works to reopen its economy. But Dr. Lee Norman, the state's health director, said the good news was that the number of influenza-like illnesses reported in the state was "dropping like a rock." He also noted that most of the infected meat packing workers were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. None have died and, at most, one is hospitalized.

(–related–)

Trump to Sign Order Keeping Meat Processing Plants Open

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on American supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus. The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as a critical industry to ensure that production plants stay open. The order comes after industry leaders warned that consumers could see meat shortages in a matter of days after workers at major facilities tested positive for the virus. A senior White House official outlined the order on condition of anonymity to discuss it before its release. 

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Kansas Now Has Close to 3,500 Cases of COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) —  As of 9 am Tuesday morning, Kansas health officials had recorded 3,491 cases of COVID-19, including 124 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 76 of the state's 105 counties.  Get the latest updates here.  

Top Nine Kansas Counties with Most Cases of COVID-19

Wyandotte County (Kansas City, Kansas) = 583
Ford County (Dodge City) = 544
Johnson County (Overland Park) = 446
Seward County (Liberal) = 422
Sedgwick County (Wichita) = 351
Leavenworth County (Leavenworth) = 183
Finney County (Garden City) = 175
Lyon County (Emporia) = 171
Shawnee County (Topeka) = 106     

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Kansas Reports 4 More Coronavirus Deaths, 163 New Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has recorded four more coronavirus deaths as Gov. Laura Kelly prepares to make an announcement on how to lift the state’s stay-at-home order. The latest deaths reported Tuesday brought the total to 124. State health officials also reported that the number of positive cases increased by 163 to 3,491. Only 29 of the state’s 105 counties haven’t recorded a case. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.

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Nebraska Reports More COVID-19 Cases than Kansas

HASTINGS, Neb. (Hastings Tribune) - On Monday, the state of Nebraska overtook neighboring Kansas in the total number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, that have been confirmed since the infection first was known to be in the two states several weeks ago.  The Hastings Tribune reports that as of Monday evening, Nebraska had confirmed 3,358 cases of the infection, compared to 3,328 in Kansas.  Kansas still has seen more than twice as many fatalities from COVID-19, however, registering 120 deaths compared to 55 in Nebraska.

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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 Governor to Announce Plans This Week for Reopening the State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) —  Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she will announce her plan for reopening the state Thursday afternoon.  The governor said Monday she's been speaking with different industry sectors, health officials and state lawmakers to develop the state's recovery plan.  She expects to release details of her plan Thursday afternoon.  

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Democratic Voter Turnout Increases After Switch to Mail-in Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (The Kansas City Star) — Turnout is on the upswing since the Democratic party in Kansas switched from a presidential caucus to an all-mail primary. The Kansas City Star reports that the party already had processed 138,430 ballots as of Monday evening, with several days of voting left to go. That is compared to a turnout of 39,266 voters in 2016, when caucus goers went for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The party will tabulate votes after it processes the ballots delivered on Saturday, the deadline for accepting them, before assigning 41 delegates.

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Coronavirus Pandemic Draws Players’ Attention Away from Lottery, Fueling 25% Drop in Kansas Ticket Sales

TOPEKA, Kan (TCJ) — The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the coronavirus pandemic exacted a 25% reduction in Kansas Lottery sales in March and vaporized two-thirds of investment by lottery players in the popular Powerball and Super Kansas Cash games.  The 1,700 convenience and grocery retailers in Kansas involved in direct sales of lottery tickets were allowed to operate amid the pandemic, but about 120 closed up or decided not to sell game tickets.  The coronavirus’ bearish influence in March resulted in total lottery sales of $22.3 million in Kansas.  The state’s March 2019 figure was $29.9 million, placing the year-to-year decline at 25.3%. In March, Super Kansas Cash led the nosedive with a 74% reduction in sales. It was followed by Powerball’s slide of 67%.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Lottery suspended gaming operations at the four state-owned casinos on March 17 to comply with Governor Laura Kelly’s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. The directive applied at Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas Crossing in Pittsburg, Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane and Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City.  The shuttered casinos generate $400 million in annual revenue and represent a substantial source of cash for municipal and state governments.

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University Offers Coronavirus Tests; Reopening Plan Unveiled

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has launched coronavirus testing for students, faculty and staff as confirmed cases in Kansas rose by 4.9% on Tuesday to nearly 3,500. Kansas State said Tuesday that it can test up to 270 people a day and is providing testing for students, faculty or staff who show coronavirus symptoms or who have been in contact with an infected person. Meanwhile, Senate President Susan Wagle unveiled a proposal for reopening the state’s economy by allowing most businesses to operate at half capacity. Such decisions rest with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Wagle is a Wichita Republican and frequent Kelly critic. 

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Central Kansas Town Mayor Says Tornado Sirens Unreliable

NICKERSON, Kan. (KSNW-TV) — In the heart of Kansas and tornado country, officials in the town of Nickerson say they're facing the danger of an unreliable tornado siren system. Newly-elected Nickerson Mayor Peggy Ruebke tells Wichita station KSN that the sirens didn't sound when the town last had a tornado threat last year. Ruebke says the county volunteer fire department is in charge of sounding the sirens in town and that they have had some problems and malfunctions with the system. Fixing or replacing the aging siren system could cost thousands of dollars. Ruebke says the city plans to address the issue at its May council meeting.

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Deadline Nears for Atchison Toxic Cloud Victims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A deadline is near for those who believe they were victims of a 2016 toxic gas release over the Kansas town of Atchison. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that federal prosecutor are urging victims to submit written victim statements by Friday. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister says sentencing of Harcros Chemicals, Inc., and MGP Ingredients Inc., is May 27. Both companies pleaded guilty to violating the federal law and each agreed to pay a $1 million fine. In October 2016, two chemicals were mistakenly mixed to form a cloud of chlorine gas over Atchison.

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Kansas Artist Richard Bergen Who Built Statehouse Statue "Ad Astra" Dies at 95

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Richard Bergen, the artist who built the 22-feet bronze statue of a Native American that sits atop the Kansas Statehouse dome, has died. He was 95. His daughter, Lori Bergen, said he died Wednesday at an assisted living facility in Salina of complications from a stroke. Bergen created several other public art pieces through the state, including in Marysville, Salina, Junction City, Wichita and Manhattan. He was named Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 2006. But his most well-known work is the 4,420 pounds Capitol sculpture that depicts a loincloth-clad hunter with his bow drawn and arrow aimed at the North Star.

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Federal Agency Releasing Report on Missouri Duck Boat Deaths

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board is planning to release its findings on the cause of a tourist duck boat accident that killed 17 people on a Missouri lake in July 2018. The board will hold a virtual meeting Tuesday to announce the results of an investigation into the tragedy at Table Rock Lake near Branson. A Ride the Ducks vehicle known as Stretch Duck 7 that operated on land and water sank during a storm, killing 17 of the 31 people on board. The owner of the boat, Ripley Entertainment, has settled 31 lawsuits filed by survivors or relatives of those killed.

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2 Dead in Haysville; Murder-Suicide Suspected

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Police in a suburb of Wichita, Kansas, are investigating the deaths of two people as a possible murder-suicide. KAKE-TV reports that responding officers on Friday found two people dead inside a home in the town of Haysville. Police Chief Jeff Whitfield said it appeared to be a murder-suicide but did not disclose further details. The names of the victims were not immediately released.

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Woman Charged in Deadly Shooting of Her Boyfriend in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE-TV) — A woman has been charged in the deadly shooting of her boyfriend. KAKE-TV reports that 36-year-old Bobbie Williams is charged with second-degree murder in the April 23 death of Blake Mayes. She, along with 51-year-old acquaintance William Moore, also are charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. Both made first appearances Tuesday. Police investigators say the shooting happened after a disturbance occurred between Mayes, Williams and another acquaintance. Police arrested Moore in Wichita and Williams in the Topeka area over the weekend. They are still trying to find the second acquaintance.

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Wichita Police Investigate Shooting Death of 30-Year-Old

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are investigating the shooting death of a 30-year-old man. Police say in a news release that the shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Thursday in the city's Delano neighborhood. Arriving officers found Blake Mayers, of Wichita, on the front porch of a home with a gunshot wound to his body. Police say Mayes was taken to a hospital, where he died. Police say an initial investigation revealed a disturbance had occurred at the home involving Mayes and three other people before Mayes was shot. No arrests had been reported by midday Friday.

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Authorities: 7-Year-Old Kansas Boy Shot in Hunting Accident Improving

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in central Kansas say a 7-year-old boy shot in a weekend hunting accident is improving. Wichita television station KAKE reports that the shooting happened around 5 p.m. Saturday while the boy was turkey hunting with his parents south of Roxbury in McPherson County. Sheriff's Capt. Doug Anderson says another hunter shot the boy, believing he was shooting at a turkey, but was actually shooting at a turkey decoy next to the boy. The boy was shot in the head and flown to a Wichita hospital. Authorities say the boy was expected to be released from intensive care on Monday.

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University of Kansas Announces Pay Cuts Among Top Officials, Coaches and AD

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas is temporarily slashing the pay of high-ranking administrators and athletic staff in anticipation of the coronavirus causing tens of millions of dollars in financial losses. Chancellor Douglas Girod announced Monday that the school will save $853,000 by cutting the salaries of nearly 40 university leaders by 10% for six months. The salaries of men's basketball coach Bill Self, football coach Les Miles, and Athletics Director Jeff Long also will also be slashed by the same percentage, generating $500,000.

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Battered by Floods, U.S. River Communities Try New Remedies

ARNOLD, Mo. (AP) — Some communities in the U.S. heartland are taking a more natural approach to preventing the kinds of floods that have devastated the region in recent years. For more than a century, flood control has relied mostly on man-made structures such as levees and walls to keep rivers in place. As climate change brings more extreme weather, the new idea is to let rivers behave more naturally. It means keeping some waterfront areas vacant or using them as parkland so no great harm is done when the rivers overflow.  In rural areas, officials are considering moving levees farther back to give rivers more room to roam.

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Cerner Corporation Reports 1st Quarter Earnings 

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Cerner Corp. (CERN) on Tuesday reported first-quarter net income of $147.2 million. On a per-share basis, the North Kansas City, Missouri-based company said it had net income of 47 cents. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 71 cents per share. The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 67 cents per share. The health care information technology company posted revenue of $1.41 billion in the period, falling short of Street forecasts. Ten analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1.43 billion. For the current quarter ending in July, Cerner expects its per-share earnings to range from 60 cents to 64 cents. The company said it expects revenue in the range of $1.34 billion to $1.39 billion for the fiscal second quarter. Analysts surveyed by Zacks had expected revenue of $1.43 billion. Cerner expects full-year earnings in the range of $2.78 to $2.90 per share, with revenue ranging from $5.55 billion to $5.7 billion. Cerner shares have declined 2% since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has decreased 11%. In the final minutes of trading on Tuesday, shares hit $71.76, an increase of 11% in the last 12 months.

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Kansas City Chiefs Release Longtime Punter Dustin Colquitt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (USA Today) — The longest-tenured member of the Kansas City Chiefs will not be a part of the team's championship title defense next season.  USA Today reports that punter Dustin Colquitt, who spent 15 seasons with the Chiefs, was released Monday. No player has suited up for more games with the Chiefs (238) than Colquitt.  "I have enjoyed my time in Chiefs Kingdom, all things come to an end, sometimes sooner than you hoped, prayed & pleaded for them to," Colquitt wrote on Instagram. "I’ll miss walking into the building & smelling the coffee, talking to everyone... holding this post for 15 years has been an honor that I never took for granted. Thank you KC."  According to multiple reports, Colquitt's release will save the Chiefs $2 million in salary cap space.

(–additional reporting –)

Chiefs to Release 2-Time Pro Bowl Punter Colquitt After 15 Years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have released two-time Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt. Colquitt's 15-year career with the Chiefs allowed him to set numerous franchise records, including the most games played and most postseason appearances. Colquitt posted a farewell on Instagram late Monday in which he said that “all things come to an end, sometimes sooner than you hoped, prayed and pleaded for them to.” Colquitt stopped short of saying he was retiring. He turns 38 next month.

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Top Missouri Lawmaker Pitches $700 Million in State Budget Cuts

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A top Missouri lawmaker wants to trim $700 million from next year's state budget. Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith on Monday moved to make the cuts to the governor's original $30 billion spending plan. Republican Gov. Mike Parson drafted his budget recommendations before the coronavirus started wreaking havoc on the state's economy. Lawmakers have been off work for weeks over concerns about spreading the virus. But they came back to try to pass a tightened budget before their May 8 deadline. The full House still needs to approve Smith's proposal before the budget can head to the Senate.

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Virus Expected to Reduce Meat Selection and Raise Prices

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Meat isn't going to disappear from supermarkets because of outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers at U.S. slaughterhouses. But as the meat plants struggle to remain open, consumers could face less selection and slightly higher prices. Industry leaders acknowledge that the U.S. food chain has rarely been so stressed and that no one is sure about the future, even as they try to dispel concerns about shortages. On Sunday, the meat processing giant Tyson Foods ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and other newspapers outlining the difficulty of producing meat while keeping more than 100,000 workers safe and shutting some plants.

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U.S. States Build Stockpiles of Malaria Drug Touted by Trump

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State and local governments across the United States have obtained about 30 million doses of a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump to treat patients with the new coronavirus, despite warnings from doctors that more research is needed. The states acquired the medication as Trump regularly promoted it from the podium in White House briefings. Reporting from the Associated Press shows at least 22 states and Washington, D.C., secured shipments of the drug, hydroxychloroquine. Sixteen of those states were won by Trump in 2016. Five of them, including North Carolina and Louisiana, are now led by Democratic governors.

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