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Headlines for Tuesday, March 2, 2021

 

Kansas Reports More than 294,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 4,743 Deaths, Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Monday that there have been 294,302 cases of COVID-19, including 4,743 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 639 cases and 8 deaths since Friday. Johnson County has the highest number of recorded cases, with more than 54,300.  KDHE will provide another update on Wednesday.

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Kansas Lawmakers Look to Protect Businesses, Debate Vaccines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers moved Tuesday to extend protections for businesses from lawsuits over COVID-19, while a prominent critic of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly said the state’s vaccine distribution has improved in recent weeks. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would give businesses an extra year of protection, until March 31, 2022, from lawsuits from customers or employees who contract COVID-19 if those businesses were “in substantial compliance” with public health orders. The measure goes next to the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate President Ty Masterson said lawmakers are getting fewer complaints about access to vaccines now than a few weeks ago, but, “You can only go up from the bottom.”

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Thousands of Meatpacking Workers to Be Vaccinated This Week

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Meatpacking workers across the country have started receiving coronavirus vaccines and thousands more will have a chance to get their shots this week, offering some peace of mind in an industry that was ravaged by COVID-19 a year ago. Officials with the United Food and Commercial Workers union say interest in the vaccine is high among workers after the industry took a heavy toll from the virus. The major meatpacking companies — JBS, Cargill, Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods — say a number of states plan to begin vaccinating meat plant workers this week, including Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado. 

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States Easing Virus Restrictions Despite Experts' Warnings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — With the U.S. vaccination drive picking up speed and a third formula on the way, states eager to reopen for business are easing coronavirus restrictions despite warnings from health experts that the outbreak is far from over and that moving too quickly could prolong the misery.  The push to reopen comes as nearly 20% of the nation’s adults have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 10% have been fully inoculated. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urgently warning state officials and ordinary Americans not to let their guard down.

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Missouri Expects Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations to Start Wednesday

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri vaccinators are expected to receive the first 50,000 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday, and the state’s health director says the shots can start as soon as the doses arrive. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday. Nearly 4 million doses of the one-shot vaccine are now being shipped across the U.S. Some states expect to begin injections Tuesday, but Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox said Monday that the first doses in Missouri are expected a day later.

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Tensions over Vaccine Equity Pit Rural Against Urban America

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Questions about how a limited supply of vaccine should be distributed have now found a new focus in rural America. As the unprecedented campaign to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans continues, those in some rural areas say they are getting slighted in favor of urban centers. At the same time, city dwellers in some states are traveling hours to score the vaccine in tiny towns and remote villages, sparking conflicts that play on the existing partisan divides worsened by the pandemic.

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Kansas Ponders Open Churches, Abortion Limits in Pandemics

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative legislators are pushing to prevent the state from limiting religious gatherings or keeping abortion providers open during emergencies that prompt restrictions on businesses. GOP lawmakers still smarted Monday over actions Democratic Governor Laura Kelly took early in the coronavirus pandemic, but they were split over how far they want to limit the power of state and local officials during future pandemics. The Senate was set to debate a bill that includes the language on church gatherings and abortion providers. The House Judiciary Committee excluded those provisions from its narrower bill. Both measures rewrite the state's emergency management laws.

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Former Congressman Steve Watkins Enters Diversion over Voter Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Representative Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered into a diversion program to avoid a criminal trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term, was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS Inc. store as his residence on a state voter registration form. He was also accused of lying to a detective who investigated the case. Watkins said in a statement Tuesday that he did not intend to deceive anyone. He acknowledged telling the detective he didn't vote in the Topeka City Council election, which was not true. Watkins lost the 2020 primary to the man who now holds the Kansas 2nd District seat in Congress, Republican Jake LaTurner.

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No Charges in Police Shooting of Black Man in Kansas City

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police officer who shot and killed a Black man last year will not be charged. The Jackson County prosecutor announced Monday that investigations into the death of 47-year-old Donnie Sanders did not find enough evidence to support charges against the officer, whose name has not been released. Sanders was shot in March 2020 after the officer began following him for alleged traffic violations. The officer confronted Sanders when he got out of his vehicle in an alley. The officer told investigators that he believed Sanders was pointing a gun at him. Investigators determined Sanders did not have a gun.

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Chief Says Shooting of 3 Kansas Police Officers Was Not a Trap

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Law enforcement officials say it appears a shooting that injured three Wichita police officers over the weekend was not a premeditated trap. Wichita Chief Gordon Ramsay said Monday that a shotgun without a target guard was left in the pocket of a recliner with several other items. Some type of bump caused the gun to go off, hitting three officers in the legs while they were searching the house on Saturday. Officers arrested 46-year-old James Hathorn and 43-year-old Tiffany Vulgamore, both of Wichita, who were staying in the house. Two officers have been treated and released and the third is expected to be released Monday.

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Kansas City Police Investigate 3 Separate Homicides Sunday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three separate homicides were reported in Kansas City Sunday morning. Kansas City Police Department spokesman Capt. Dave Jackson said the homicides don't appear to be related. The third homicide was discovered around 10 am when officers responded to a shooting at an apartment building near Gillham Road and Armour Boulevard. About five hours earlier, a cutting was reported at a different apartment complex near the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. Jackson said that victim was taken to a hospital where that person died. Around 4 am, one person was shot and killed and another person was wounded in a shooting in downtown Kansas City.

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Lawyer Wants "Most Serious Charges" Against Ex-Chiefs Coach

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An attorney for the family of a 5-year-old girl critically injured in a crash involving former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid says the girl suffered a devastating brain injury that has left her unable to speak or walk. Attorney Tom Porto said Tuesday in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" that the family of 5-year-old Ariel Young wants to see "the most serious charges and the most serious sentence that Britt could ever receive." The girl has been hospitalized since the February 4 crash in which Reid's truck slammed into two cars on the side of the road. Police have said Reid told investigators he had "two or three drinks" along with prescribed Adderall before the crash. No charges have been filed.

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UPDATE: Police: Driver Arrested in Deadly Crash in North Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a driver believed to have caused a deadly two-car crash in northeastern Wichita has been arrested. Police arrested 28-year-old Luis Ramos-Tafolla on suspicion of vehicular homicide, drunken driving, reckless driving and other counts in the early Monday crash that killed 60-year-old Jessie Lee Johnson. Investigators say Ramos-Tafolla was driving a Dodge Charger on Interstate 135 when he rear-ended Johnson's car, then vaulted over the side of the raised interstate and fell to the ground below. Johnson died at the scene, and two passengers in his car — a 62-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman — were hospitalized with serious injuries. Ramos-Tafolla was treated for minor injuries.

(Earlier reporting...)

Police Say 1 Dead in 2-Vehicle Crash in North Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say one person has died and three others were injured in a two-vehicle crash in northeastern Wichita that shut down a stretch of Interstate 135 for several hours. Television station KSNW reports that the crash happened around 2:30 am Monday at I-135 and 13th Street. Investigators determined that one car rear-ended another, sending that car over a guardrail of the elevated interstate to the ground below. Police say a person in the car that remained on the interstate died and two others were injured. Police said the driver of that vehicle sent over the side of the interstate is being treated at a hospital.

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Sedgwick County Deputy Arrested in Contraband Probe

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter says a 35-year-old deputy who works in the county jail has been arrested during an investigation into contraband brought into the jail. Easter says the investigation into began last week after officials got a tip that the deputy was bringing contraband into the jail. During that investigation, detectives discovered David Cameron also was involved in an incident involving neglect of an inmate. On Monday, detectives seized a phone, marijuana, tobacco, a lighter and K-2, a suspected synthetic drug, from inmates in one jail pod. Cameron, who has been with the sheriff’s office since June 2019, was suspended without pay during the investigation.

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Student Editor Sues over Directive Muting Kansas Newspaper

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The student newspaper editor at Haskell Indian Nations University filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging the university and its president violated the First Amendment rights of the students by retaliating against them for engaging in protected speech and journalistic activities. The lawsuit stems from a directive that Haskell’s president, Ronald Graham, sent in October to Jared Nally, editor of The Indian Leader, instructing him not to contact any government agency for information while representing the paper or “attack” any student, faculty member or staff in copy.

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Kansas House Gives First Approval to College Athlete Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have given first-round approval to a bill that would allow college athletes to profit from their name, image, or likeness. The legislation given initial approval by the House Monday is backed by both University of Kansas and Kansas State University athletic directors who say passing it will ensure the state's universities won’t be at a recruiting disadvantage with institutions in states that have similar laws, such as California and Florida. The bill would allow college athletes to make money from endorsement deals and allow them to hire licensed agents and attorneys.

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Salina Man Arrested After Father Dies from Being Battered

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 48-year-old Salina man is jailed pending charges in the death of his father. Police said officers went to a Salina home on Saturday after receiving a report of domestic violence. They found 79-year-old Carlton Jones and his 78-year-old wife injured. Police said information at the scene indicated their son, Chad Eric Jones, battered the couple before leaving. Chad Jones was arrested nearby. Carlton Jones died from his injuries on Sunday. Chad Jones was booked into the Saline County Jail, where he faces possible charges of first-degree murder, mistreatment of a dependent adult and domestic battery.

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1 Arrested, Another Suspect Still Sought in Salina Homicide

SALINA, Kan.  (AP) — Salina police have arrested a 34-year-old man who they say assisted a suspect in a fatal homicide but the suspected shooter is still being sought. Police said Monday Clarence Darryl Brown was arrested after an investigation indicated he helped 35-year-old Nelson Gerrod Hull III, who is accused of killing 36-year-old Courtney Ann Hoffman of Salina. She was found shot to death inside a car last Tuesday. An arrest warrant for first-degree murder has been issued for Hull. Brown is facing possible charges of aiding and abetting first-degree murder, criminal solicitation and interference with law enforcement.

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Police ID Three People Who Died After Wichita Car Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the three people who died after a car crash in southwest Wichita. Wichita Police said Sunday that 70-year-old Cheryl Sigle, 72-year-old Dennis Sigle and 25-year-old Isaiah Ragazzone all died after the Friday afternoon crash that happened in the intersection of Interstate 235 and Meridian Avenue. Police spokesman Officer Trevor Macy said Ragazzone's Chevrolet Impala smashed into the Sigles' Buick as they were trying to turn left onto the interstate. The force of the impact caused the Buick's engine to be ejected, and that hit a third vehicle. The occupants of the third vehicle were not hurt.

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Woman Struck, Killed as She Was Crossing Roadway in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a vehicle struck and killed a woman as she was crossing the roadway in Kansas City, Missouri. The accident happened at U.S. 71 Highway and Gregory Boulevard shortly after midnight Saturday. Police Capt. David Jackson said in a news release that the woman was walking across the northbound lanes of the roadway when she was struck by a vehicle which then left northbound. She died at the scene. The vehicle has not been located.

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Legislation Would Let Missourians Keep Unemployment Overpayments

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A pending bill would exempt thousands of Missourians from repaying federal unemployment benefit overpayments. At issue are mistakes by Missouri's Labor Department as it was considering a huge influx of unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency doled out roughly $146 million to 46,000 people who didn't qualify. Governor Mike Parson and his administration now are trying to get that money back from Missourians. The proposed Missouri bill would stop the state from collecting the federal portion of the overpayments. But Missourians who mistakenly received unemployment help would still have to pay back money that the state chipped in.

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Judge: Autistic Man Must Stay in Missouri Welfare Custody

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge says a young man with severe autism must stay in the custody of Missouri’s child welfare agency, despite soon turning 21. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County Judge Kea Bird-Riley also ordered Friday he remain in his current placement in a group home with the services he now receives. The young man turns 21 on Sunday and can’t feed or care for himself. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri says in a lawsuit that he was in imminent danger and could die if he were released from care and ended up on the streets.

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Kansas Bill to Lower Concealed Carry Age Won't Get Committee Vote

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill to lower the legal age to carry concealed firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18 has stalled in a House committee, but a supporter plans to offer the proposal for consideration on the House floor. The bill would require permit holders to complete a background check and undergo gun safety training. Supporters say 18-year-old Kansans can already carry firearms in the open. Opponents say those under 21 are less mature and more prone to risk-taking.  Bills that don't get committee approval typically fail. But Hesston Republican Rep. Stephen Owens said he'd bring it up as an amendment to another gun bill that will get a floor debate.

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Survey: Economy Grows, but Inflation, Shipping Worries Loom

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey shows continued economic improvement in nine Midwest and Plains states, but business leaders expressed concerns about rising inflation and bottlenecks in the supply chain causing delays. The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions for February released Monday came in at a strong 69.6 from January's 67.3. Any score above 50 on the survey's indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. But Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said more than eight out of 10 supply managers reported supply bottlenecks and delays of up to five months. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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Underground Water Supply Dwindling in Central and Western Kansas

JOHNSON CITY,, Kan. (KNS) — The amount of water beneath central and western Kansas decreased in the last year after three years of slight gain. Average groundwater levels in western and central Kansas are down by nearly a foot compared to last year. That means water is being used more quickly than it’s being replenished.  Rain and snow totals were 25% to 50% below average last year in parts of western Kansas, and when there’s little precipitation, farmers pump more water from the ground to irrigate crops. The Kansas Geological Survey combines measurements from 14 hundred wells to create a database that informs the state’s water management decisions. Since the program began 25 years ago, average water levels have dropped about 12 feet. 

About 90% of the monitored wells are drilled into the High Plains aquifer.  The High Plains aquifer is a network of water-bearing rock that extends into eight states. In Kansas, the aquifer comprises three components - the Ogallala aquifer, the Great Bend Prairie aquifer, and the Equus Beds. Of these, the Ogallala aquifer underlies most of western Kansas and consists mainly of the Ogallala Formation, a geologic unit that formed from sediment eroded off the uplifting Rocky Mountains.

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