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Headlines for Tuesday, March 17, 2020

UPDATE: Kansas Governor Closes K-12 Schools; Many State Workers Told to Stay Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly has closed Kansas's public and private K-12 schools for the rest of the spring semester, moving teaching online throughout the state to try to lessen the spread of the new coronavirus. Her move Tuesday moves teaching online throughout the state to try to lessen the spread of the new coronavirus. Kelly also said that starting Monday, most of the 18,000 state workers under her supervision will be directed to stay at home for two weeks so agencies can plan for having some work from home and place others on paid administrative leave. Some Kansans may get more time to renew their driver's licenses.

(–earlier reporting–)

Governor Closes Kansas K-12 Schools for the Rest of the Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly is closing all K-12 schools through the end of the semester, moving instruction online as the state responds to the coronavirus pandemic.Kelly's Tuesday afternoon announcement comes as several school districts already had extended spring breaks and colleges and universities had moved to online instruction for the rest of the school year. Kansas has at least 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as the pandemic continues to spread in the state, officials said. Earlier Tuesday the House approved a bill to give laid-off workers another 10 weeks of unemployment benefits as employees face virus-related business closures.

The Kansas News Service is maintaining a constantly updated online resource detailing policy announcements concerning the pandemic. Click here for the latest information. 

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UPDATE: Kansas Has 18 Cases; Casinos Close; 3 Universities Online

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is now reporting 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. As the state hustles to control the virus, the House has approved a bill to give laid-off workers another 10 weeks of unemployment benefits. After the measure cleared a committee Tuesday morning, the chamber canceled all of its remaining committee meetings until further notice. Also Tuesday, the Kansas Lottery Commission announced it will close the four state-owned casinos until at least March 30. Gov. Laura Kelly has banned all gatherings of more than 50 people until May 1.

(–earlier reporting–)

COVID-19 Case Total Continues to Climb Statewide 

Kansas is now reporting 17 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Ford County in western Kansas announced its first case Tuesday and Johnson County added two more cases, bringing its total to 10. Wyandotte County had two new cases Tuesday, after one resident died there last week.

New COVID-19 Cases in Kansas Push Statewide Total to 16

DODGE CITY, Kan. (Topeka Capital-Journal / Wichita Eagle) —  Southwest Kansas now has its first case of COVID-19.  According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Ford County has reported its first positive case in a patient over 60.  Two new cases have been identified in Johnson County, bringing the total there to 10.  Franklin, Butler and Wyandotte counties also have recorded cases. The Wichita Eagle reports that two more cases have been identified in Wyandotte County.  The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide has now climbed to at least 16 (as of 12:08 pm Tuesday).  This content from the Topeka Capital-Journal is being provided for free as a public service to readers during the coronavirus crisis.  Please support local journalism by subscribing to CJOnline - or - ... subscribe to the Wichita Eagle.

Southwest Kansas Reports 1st Case of COVID-19; Bringing Statewide Total to 12

DODGE CITY, Kan. (KPR) — Officials say southwest Kansas has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.  The case is in Ford County. The patient, who traveled into Ford County, is being treated and their family is under quarantine, said J.B. Gilbert, county administrator and public information officer. The patient is over the age of 60.  This brings the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Kansas to 12.

Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Reaches 11

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports a total of 11 COVID-19 cases statewide, most of them in Johnson County.  One of the 11 cases involves an elderly Wyandotte County man who died.
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Kansas Bans Gatherings of 50 or More; Kansas City Area Goes Even Further

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state of emergency remains in effect across Kansas and the state has now banned public gatherings of 50 or more people for the next two months. But officials in the Kansas City area on Monday imposed a stricter rule and ordered some businesses to close over the next two weeks in hopes of limiting the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly blocked utilities in her state from cutting off services until mid-April and warned that the coronavirus pandemic may force additional restrictions. But officials in the Kansas City area ordered the closing of restaurants, bars, taverns, clubs and movie theaters Tuesday with the exception of drive-through, pickup and delivery services.

Meanwhile...

President Trump Urges Americans to Follow Virus Guidelines; Urges Americans to Avoid Groups of 10+

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is urging all older Americans to stay home and everyone to avoid crowds and eating out at restaurants for at least the next few weeks as officials forecast a surge in the coronavirus outbreak. For the first time, Trump acknowledged that the pandemic may send the economy into a recession.  He went on to suggest that Americans may be dealing with the virus until "July or August."  The president's warnings came Monday as the White House released sweeping guidelines for the next 15 days. People are advised not to gather in groups of more than 10, and discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided.

Just How Bad is This Virus?

COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover in two weeks. More severe cases, especially those in older adults and people with compromised immune systems, can have up to six weeks’ recovery time.  Extreme cases can be fatal.

What's the Best Way to Avoid It?

*Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Frequently.
*Cover your coughs.
*If you’re an older Kansan or medically fragile, put off any vacations and limit your trips to the grocery store or any other public space.
*Avoid groups of people, especially large groups.
*Stay home if you are sick.  This goes for everyone - young and old.

Where Can I Get Good Information? 

Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and other partners in the Kansas News Service collaboration are pooling resources to provide updated information on coronavirus and COVID-19 in Kansas.  Find it here:  Updated Regularly: What Kansans Need to Know About COVID-19 and Coronavirus    

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U.S. Governors Expand List of Shut Downs Amid Coronavirus Concerns

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A growing number of governors across the U.S. are ordering the temporary closure of certain businesses such as dine-in restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters because of concerns over the coronavirus. Other governors on Monday were still leaving those decisions to local officials or the businesses themselves. That's created a patchwork of precautions nationwide in the absence of the type of national directives that have occurred in some other countries. Some governors expressed a desire Monday for greater direction from the federal government. Others said such decisions are best made by mayors, county officials or school boards who are more closely in touch with their communities.

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Kansas Schools Remain Closed; Some for a Week, Others Until the End of March

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) -- Numerous schools remain closed in Kansas, including those in Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and Emporia.  On Sunday, Governor Laura Kelly recommended that all schools - both public and private --  shut down for at least one week.  Many districts decided to do just that.  Other schools were already scheduled to be closed this week for spring break.  And in some counties, including Douglas, schools had already been ordered to close for TWO weeks by the local health department.  The state health department also called Sunday for people who are traveling outside the U.S. or to several other states to quarantine themselves for two weeks upon their return.  State health officials recommended home quarantines for anyone who recently traveled outside the U.S. or to California, New York or Washington state.

Meanwhile...

Most K-12 Schools, public libraries and movie theaters are now closed across Kansas... or soon will be.

Public universities in Kansas have moved classes online and some schools have canceled spring graduation ceremonies.  The latest to do so is Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.  K-State and Wichita State have decided all classes will be taught online through the end of the school year. 

Classes at the University of Kansas are delayed until March 23, giving students a two-week spring break.  Upon resuming classes, everything will be done online for at least the first week.  And maybe longer.

Other colleges: Washburn won’t hold classes until March 20, and then they will be online. Newman University expanded spring break for two weeks, until March 29. Johnson County Community College will close campus until March 29.  All courses will restart online March 30. Fort Hays State will move its classes online beginning March 23 through the remainder of the semester and students who live on campus will have to leave. Pittsburg State started break a day early and will resume classes indefinitely online beginning March 30.

Access has been restricted to the Kansas Statehouse.  Only those with official state business will be allowed inside (lawmakers, staff, state officials and members of the news media).

Access is being restricted at some hospitals.  Please call ahead for instructions.

Electric companies: Evergy, which serves 950,000 customers in Kansas, will not disconnect residential or business services for an unspecified amount of time due to the “unprecedented challenge" of coronavirus that "may result in customers facing unexpected or unusual financial strain.”

The Kansas Department of Corrections has canceled visitations at all state prisons.

The Kansas Lottery Commission has announced it will close the four state-owned casinos until at least March 30.
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UPDATE: Missouri Records Another Coronavirus Case; Total Rises to 8

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Health officials say Missouri has recorded its eighth case of the coronavirus. Cass County announced late Monday that a patient in Drexel was in self-isolation. No other information was released. Two other cases were announced Monday, one in St. Louis and the other in Greene County. Also Monday, a state appeals court rejected St. Louis County's request to move its April 7 election to a write-in ballot or to the August primaries. However, the three-judge panel of the appeals court said it could reconsider. County election officials are discussing moving all April 7 elections to June 2, citing concern for the health of poll workers and voters.

(–earlier reporting–)

Missouri Records Seventh Case of the Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The first case of coronavirus has been announced in St. Louis, bringing the total number of cases in Missouri up to seven. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Monday that someone in their twenties tested positive for COVID-19.  Krewson says the individual self-isolated. The St. Louis health director says no one else is at risk from contracting the illness from that person. Governor Mike Parson said he expects the state to be able to deploy mobile testing labs across the state in 10 days to two weeks. Parson has encouraged the cancellation of public events with more than 50 people.

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Kansas Lawmakers Rush to Finish Budget, Transportation Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are rushing to draft a plan for funding state government after June and launch a new state transportation program. They also are trying to wrap up a few other loose ends so they can take a long spring break in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature were looking to pass a basic, annual state budget and a program for improving the state's highway system by mid-week. Their goal is to start their annual spring break early and then reconvene April 27 to finish the year's business. They previously planned to work through April 3.

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Missouri Lab Says It Has Developed Test for Coronavirus

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A clinical lab in Missouri says it has developed a test for the novel coronavirus that is more than 99% accurate. KCUR reports that Viracor Eurofins in Lee's Summit claims it is capable of performing more than 1,000 tests per day and returning results the same day. Officials say the test would allow for expanding testing to patients who don't currently meet the eligibility criteria for public laboratory testing established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has given the go-ahead for testing to begin.

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Kansas Senator Pushes House to Pass Foster Report Cards Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal) — A Kansas legislator is urging the House to approve a bill that would require the state to develop annual academic report cards on all children in foster care. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that less than 40% of the state's 7,000 foster children who were seniors last year completed high school. Sen. Molly Baumgardner told House legislators Monday that too many of the state's foster children ended up in correctional facilities when they should be going to college. The Senate has already approved the measure, which mandates for the collection of academic records on each child in foster care.

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Kansas Senate President's Daughter Dies of Cancer

(Kansas News Service) – Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle announced today (TUE) her daughter has died of cancer at the age of 38.  Julia Marie Scott was a physician in Topeka. She is survived by her husband and four children.  The death comes as Wagle is leading the Kansas Senate’s response to the coronavirus … as well as running for a U.S. Senate seat. State senators are debating the budget today (TUE) in anticipation of an early legislative spring break. 

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Anonymous $100,000 Gift to Move Topeka's Tent City Homeless Indoors

TOPEKA, Kan (AP) — An anonymous $100,000 donation might allow all the residents of a tent city for Topeka homeless residents to move to indoor housing if they want it. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the donation was made last week to the non-profit Valeo Behavioral Health Care. Valeo is among several city, state and private organizations that make up Topeka's Homeless Task Force. A representative from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said the donation is enough to fund 28 vouchers for six months. The voucher program comes as tent city residents must vacate the land by March 23.

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Kansas Man Sentenced to 4 Years for Up-the-Skirt Filming

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita State University student has been sentenced to close to five years in prison for taking lewd photos of children and up-the-skirt videos of women. The Sedgwick County prosecutor on Monday announced 30-year-old Wichita resident James Dayvault was sentenced to four years and eight months behind bars. He was found guilty of one count of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of lewd and lascivious behavior, one count of breach of privacy and one count of attempted breach of privacy. An Associated Press call to Dayvault's attorney wasn't immediately returned Monday.  

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Gunfight in Missouri Leaves 5 Dead, Including Police Officer and Gunman

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Police say five people including an officer and a gunman are dead after a shooting at a gas station in Springfield, Missouri. Police Chief Paul Williams said Monday the dead also include three citizens. Williams said police began receiving reports of someone firing shots from a car late Sunday. The car eventually crashed into the Kum & Go and the gunman entered the store and began shooting. Officers Christopher Walsh and Josiah Overton, who arrived at the store first, were shot. The chief says Walsh was killed and Overton suffered non-life threatening injuries. Other officers who entered the store found three people and the gunman dead.

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Johnson County Restoring Natural Prairies in a 10-Year Plan

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County is restoring its natural prairies as part of a 10-year natural resources plan. The county's goal is to preserve and restore the nation's last tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The Kansas News Service reports that Johnson County Parks and Recreation District wants to restore and manage 8,700 acres with efforts across the state, nonprofits and government agencies. Supporters from local groups believe that because prairies are a part of Kansas' cultural heritage, exposing people to something they'd otherwise have to travel to see can help them understand how important natural prairies can be.

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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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