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Headlines for Tuesday, July 27, 2021

 

Kansas Health Systems Urge Return to Masks Amid COVID Surge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in two major Kansas health care systems are urging people to resume wearing masks indoors even if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 because of the faster spreading delta variant. The comments Tuesday from administrator-doctors at Stormont Vail Health in northeast Kansas and the University of Kansas Health System came just before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in places where the coronavirus is surging. But Republican U.S. Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas immediately criticized the CDC’s new guidance, suggesting it would cause more people to hesitate to get vaccinated. Kansas has seen new cases spike in recent weeks.

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Kansas Hospitals Report Surge in Delta Variant COVID Cases

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) —Kansas hospitals continue to report higher numbers of COVID-19 patients as the delta variant spreads. Dr. Sam Antonios is chief clinical officer for Ascension Via Christi hospitals. He says workers watching the mushrooming COVID cases feel discouraged. “Our medical staff is just disappointed," he said. “They obviously don't want to have to go back to the same level of severity of illness.” During the past three weeks, Ascension Via Christi’s St. Francis Hospital in Wichita went from 13 COVID-19 patients to 46. Nearly all the people dying now from coronavirus in the U.S. are unvaccinated.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Mandated for VA Hospital Staff in Kansas as Part of National Vaccine Effort

PITTSBURG, Kan. (Morning Sun/Topeka Capital-Journal) - Frontline workers at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in eastern Kansas will be mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of a national requirement in response to the ongoing delta variant spread, the agency announced Monday.  The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that the move is significant, as the VA is one of the largest health systems nationally and has a major presence in Kansas, with hospitals in Topeka, Leavenworth and Wichita, and smaller, community-based operations in more than a dozen other Kansas towns.  Only staff members who most regularly interact with patients will be required to get the shots, including physicians, dentists, registered nurses, physicians assistants and other medical fields covered by Title 38 of the U.S. Code.  Workers will have eight weeks to get vaccinated and the agency said shots will be available at each VA facility nationally to help them comply.

It is unclear what penalties could be faced for those who refuse to comply, although the New York Times reported that holdouts could be dismissed from their position.  Over 2,300 staff members at the eastern Kansas VA hospitals in Topeka and Leavenworth have received shots, although it is unclear how many of them are Title 38 employees. The announcements comes as more than 50 health care and medical groups called for employers to mandate hospital and long-term care workers be vaccinated, with the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics among those making the appeal.  

While many facilities had previously said they would wait until the Food and Drug Administration fully approved the shots to require employees be vaccinated, a decision that likely won't occur until fall, at the earliest. But the rising spread of the delta variant in the region has prompted many to re-evaluate. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Monday reported an increase of 1,488 cases of COVID-19 since Friday, a rise powered in part by the delta variant. Mercy began requiring its hospital workers get the vaccine after a rise of cases in Missouri, where it has a number of facilities. That includes a hospital in Columbus, Kansas, where hospital administrator Angie Saporito said earlier this month that efforts were underway to comply with the requirement.

But others are taking a wait-and-see approach. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, said last week that the system was at 75% vaccination and would be working to increase that, although he noted a mandate could still be on the cards in the future.

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Big Kansas School District Mandating Masks for Youngest Kids

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — One of the largest public school districts in Kansas plans to require elementary students to wear masks this fall. The Kansas City Star reports that Shawnee Mission's school board acted Monday night after a health official in Johnson County warned that the faster-spreading delta variant would lead to widespread COVID-19 among unmasked children. Shawnee Mission joins the public school districts in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, in requiring masks for at least some students, but it is the only district among six in Johnson County to do it. The board's vote Monday night was 6-1 in favor of mandating masks in elementary schools.

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Some Kansas Hospitals Offering Incentives for Employees to Get Vaccinated

LIBERAL, Kan. (KNS) —With the highly contagious delta variant spreading, hospitals continue to urge employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Sandy Cain is the chief nursing officer at Southwest Medical Center in Liberal.  Only about half of the facility’s workers have gotten the vaccine shots so far. The hospital is offering 10 hours paid time off as an incentive for the rest to follow suit. “If the sun is shining when we go outside, we put on sunscreen. So I liken it to that. We just need to manage our risk and get vaccinated," she said.  COVID cases are growing rapidly. In mid-June, Kansas was seeing hundreds of new cases a week. Now, that figure is in the thousands.

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Kansas City-Area Summer Camp Shut Down After COVID Outbreak

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City summer camp has been shut down after eight COVID-19 cases were reported and hospitals were raising alarms about a rise in infected patients. The Kansas City Star reports that the camp, which was put on by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, was held at Clear Creek Elementary School in Shawnee. The county health department said masks were only recommended, not required, and many children didn’t wear them.

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Douglas County Won't Prosecute Violations of New Voter Law

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez says her office will not prosecute cases arising from the state's new voting law. Valdez said in a news release Tuesday the law, which took effect July 1, criminalizes efforts by nonpartisan groups to inform and register voters. Among other things, the law would make it harder for nonpartisan groups, neighbors and candidates to collect and return absentee ballots for voters. The law also makes it a crime to undertake activity that gives the appearance of being an election official. Valdez said the law is too vague and could make normal political activity a felony crime.

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Two Killed After SUV Hits Cow on Western Kansas Highway
 
WINONA, Kan. (WIBW) - Two people from Arizona were killed early Monday after the sport utility vehicle they were riding in hit a cow that was on a western Kansas highway.  WIBW TV reports that the crash happened early Monday morning on U.S. Highway 40, about five miles southwest of Winona in Logan County.  According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, a 2015 Jeep Wrangler was eastbound on the highway when it collided with a black cow that was in the roadway.  The patrol said the driver of the Jeep attempted to brake to miss the cow and ended up swerving, entering the north ditch.  The Jeep then rolled an undetermined number of times before coming to rest on its passenger side facing south.  Both occupants in the Jeep were pronounced dead at the scene.  The patrol identified the fatality victims as 45-year-old Raymond H. Kennedy, of Glendale, Arizona, and 54-year-old Brenda G. Carrasco, of Peoria, Arizona.  Both occupants of the Jeep were wearing their seat belts.

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Civil Rights Groups Seek Federal Probe of Kansas City Police Department

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights groups want a federal investigation of Kansas City, Missouri, police. The Kansas City Star reports that The Urban Council on Monday asked the Justice Department to investigate. Civil rights leaders say there's a problem with police using excessive force and killing Black men. A Kansas City police spokesman says the department is already working with the Department of Justice to report possible civil rights violations or excessive force under a 2015 memorandum of understanding. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says she supports a federal investigation.

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Kansas City Only Missouri School District Reporting that it Teaches "Critical Race Theory"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Missouri Independent) - A survey of over 400 Missouri school districts found only Kansas City Public Schools reported that it uses a curriculum that both teaches lessons about critical race theory and includes the 1619 Project.  The Missouri Independent reports that two other districts say they utilize the 1619 Project in their curriculum.  The results of the survey, administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), come a week after a handful of parents and teachers opposed to critical race theory decried its teaching in schools before a committee of lawmakers — even as the state’s commissioner of education said the academic concept is largely not taught throughout K-12 public schools in Missouri.  The survey was requested by Missouri state Senator Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday about the survey’s findings.  Over the course of two weeks in July, DESE asked school districts two questions: whether their board-approved curriculum includes lesson about critical race theory and whether it includes the 1619 Project by The New York Times, which details the United States’ legacy of slavery.  In total, 425 responses were received, with nearly all schools answering “no.”  A spokeswoman for DESE did not respond to a request for comment on the survey’s findings or how the department plans to use the results.

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Wichita Businessman Accused of Failing to Pay Payroll Taxes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita businessman faces 17 federal counts after prosecutors accused him of failing to turn over more than $200,000 in employee payroll tax withholdings collected over nearly five years to the IRS. The Wichita Eagle reports that Jesus Perez-Aguayo was indicted earlier this month by a grand jury on 17 counts of failure to pay over payroll taxes. Each count carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. Prosecutors say Perez-Aguayo, who also goes by the names Sebastian Chavez and Sebastian Chavez-Campos, collected $211,226 from JLP Construction and JP Remodeling employees from 2015 to 2019 but never turned it over to the IRS. The companies are both painting and construction businesses.

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Couple Accused of Sex and Physical Abuse at Reform School Released from Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri couple facing multiple charges of abuse against girls at a Christian reform school have been released from jail after reporting health issues. A southwest Missouri judge on Friday released Boyd and Stephanie Householder from jail, and placed them on home confinement while awaiting their trial. Their attorney said in a court filing that Boyd Householder has contracted COVID-19, and his wife has a serious blood clot condition. Prosecutors argued the couple has not provided any medical records to confirm their illnesses. The Householders are charged with sexual and physical abuse against girls residing at the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch near Humansville.

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Wichita Man Charged in Kidnapping, Shooting of Toddler

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Wichita man is facing 12 charges after a 2-year-old child was shot during an alleged attack on his girlfriend at Cheney Reservoir. Kamden Campos is accused of convincing his girlfriend to drive to the lake with plans to harm her, and then shot at the car when the woman escaped and drove away. The 2-year-old child was shot but is expected to survive. Campos made his first court appearance Tuesday. The complaint filed in the case says Campos tried to kill his girlfriend with a knife, drown her and light her on fire before shooting at her on July 19. Campos is being held in the Reno County Jail on $2.1 million bond.

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Former Kansas Teacher Charged with Child Sex Crimes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas school teacher has been jailed and charged with child sex crimes. The Wichita Eagle reports 48-year-old Shawn Wingfield was arrested Saturday on two counts of sexual exploitation of a child. A Wichita Northwest High School spokeswoman says Wingfield began working there in 1997. He resigned July 19. Wingfield posted on Facebook last week that he was resigning for his personal health and wellbeing. He's in the Sedgwick County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

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Teen Critically Hurt in "Hill Jumping" Crash in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police said a teen girl was critically injured after the car she was riding in flipped and crashed while “hill jumping” in Kansas City, Missouri. The crash was reported early Sunday morning. Police Capt. Leslie Foreman said the driver was headed north on James A Reed Road at a high speed when the crash happened. Foreman said a 15-year-old passenger in the Toyota Corolla who wasn’t wearing a seat belt was thrown from the car and critically hurt. She was hospitalized after the crash. The 16-year-old driver was treated for injuries that weren’t life threatening. A 19-year-old passenger who had minor injuries refused medical treatment.

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Lawsuit: Professor with ADHD Alleges Discrimination

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University professor with ADHD alleges in a lawsuit that he was discriminated against because of the condition, which can cause inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sanjoy Das, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court. Das alleges in court documents that he requested reasonable work accommodations as allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but was denied. He claimed the denial of accommodations and retaliation he experienced for complaining about discrimination led to a new anxiety disorder diagnosis and work-related stress.

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Maintenance Work Affects 911 Service in Shawnee, Sedgwick Counties

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Maintenance work affected 911 emergency call service in two Kansas counties over the weekend. Sedgwick County officials said Sunday that callers to 911 in the Wichita area heard a recording instead of reaching a live dispatcher overnight Saturday, but it wasn't immediately clear how many calls were affected. Officials said Shawnee County's 911 call center in Topeka was also affected. Sedgwick County said the outage was caused by work AT&T was doing on its phone system that wasn't supposed to cause problems for the emergency call centers. Sedgwick County officials said they discovered the problem after they received a call about the issue on an administrative phone line.

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Wichita-Area Water Park Reopens After Illness Outbreak

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-area splash park that closed after an illness outbreak has been allowed to reopen. Sedgwick County health officials said the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard has exceeded health recommendations and could for reopen this weekend. The splash park closed June 18 after several people became ill with bacterial infections. The approval to reopen comes after the facility made several changes and after testing done on July 21 and an inspection on July 16. Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns told the park in a letter on Friday that the health department is satisfied the park meets all requirements and there is no risk of infection.

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As Drought Cuts Hay Crop, Cattle Ranchers Face Prospect of Culling Herds

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — As the drought worsens across the West, cattle ranchers are among those feeling the pain. Northern Colorado rancher Jim Stanko fears he'll have to sell off half his cattle herd if he can't harvest enough hay to feed them because of the drought. Stanko ranches along Colorado's Yampa River, which is at historically low water levels. To avoid the high cost of animal feed, many ranchers grow hay to nourish their herds through the winter when snow blankets the grass they normally graze. This year, Stanko's hay harvest is even worse than it was during last year's drought.

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Kansas Senator, Governor’s Office React to Possible Big 12 Shakeup

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – If there are changes on the way to the Big 12 Conference, there is no shortage of opinions in Kansas.  “Well, I think this is going to be really tough on both Kansas State and Kansas University, certainly the football programs drive so much of the university,” said Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall. “Certainly, from a financial standpoint, I think some of the minor sports are going to be definitely impacted by this. Football kind of paves the way for everything.”  Senator Marshall says if the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas make a move, Kansas universities have some big decisions.  “So, I don’t see a perfect scenario yet,” said Senator Marshall. “And we need to take our time and do what’s best for our universities.”  KSNW TV reports that the governor's office weighed in on a possible Big 12 change with the following statement:  “Governor Laura Kelly appreciates the Big 12 remaining committed to the continued success both academically and athletically for members of the conference. She and her office are in regular communication with KU, KSU, the Kansas Board of Regents, and the Big 12 Conference to ensure our universities and the state of Kansas will be in the best possible position following the decision from UT and OU.”

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Chiefs QB Mahomes Becomes Part of Sporting KC Club Ownership

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Patrick Mahomes has become part of MLS club Sporting Kansas City's ownership group. The Chiefs quarterback and 2018 NFL MVP had his stake in the soccer team announced Tuesday. Mahomes also is a part owner of baseball's Kansas City Royals and his fiancee, Brittany Matthews, is a co-owner of the women's soccer club Kansas City NWSL. Mahomes led the Chiefs to the 2019 NFL championship and a loss this year in the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and by 1 pm on weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!   

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