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Headlines for Tuesday, May 19, 2020

 

Kansas Health Officials Worry Large Gatherings on Memorial Day Weekend Will Spread Virus

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —  Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman says an outbreak of COVID-19 has been connected to large gatherings this month at Lake Perry, near Topeka.  Norman says he's now worried about a potential spike in cases following the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.  The holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer typically draws large groups of people to Kansas lakes.  Shawnee County health officials say 10 people who participated in the recent parties at Lake Perry are infected with COVID-19. Another 20 are quarantined.  That has Norman concerned that some Kansans aren’t taking the threat of the virus seriously enough ahead of the big holiday weekend.  “I haven’t worried about a weekend this much since Easter weekend because I knew there would be lots of gatherings," Norman said.  Governor Laura Kelly initially planned to raise the limit on gatherings from 10 to 30 people starting this week. But saying the coronavirus was still spreading too rapidly, she decided instead to keep the current limit in place for at least another couple of weeks.

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Mask Use Divides Lawmakers as They Prepare to Convene

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers are divided on the importance of masks as they prepare to convene for the final day of the session, generating concerns that the gathering could fuel a coronavirus outbreak in the Legislature. Republican Rep. Don Hineman, a farmer from Dighton, says some lawmakers have been attending open-up rallies where social distancing and other safety protocols weren’t followed, and that they could be carriers who aren’t yet showing symptoms. He says those lawmakers are also the ones least likely to wear masks in session Thursday, because in some circles it has “become a political issue.”

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Battle over How Quickly Kansas Reopens Becoming Increasingly Bitter

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A battle in Kansas between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature over reopening the economy has grown increasingly bitter. The fight between Gov. Laura Kelly and GOP lawmakers is clouded by election-year politics present and past. Kelly has joined Democratic colleagues in other states facing a GOP backlash amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many Republicans expect to pass a measure to curb the governor’s power in emergencies when the Legislature convenes Thursday for a final day in session this year. Kelly’s biggest legislative critic also is running for the U.S. Senate and some GOP are irked because they still see Kelly's 2018 election as a fluke.

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Kansas Reports More than 8,300 COVID-19 Cases, Including 173 Deaths 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — As of Monday morning, state health officials reported 8,340 cases of COVID-19, including 173 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 84 of the state's 105 counties.  (The latest COVID-19 case numbers for Kansas are released here Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)  

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Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to Meet with President Trump in D.C. Wednesday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly will fly to the nation’s capital this week to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Kelly will visit Washington, D.C., Wednesday.  The governor and Trump will discuss the state's phased reopening plan and its statewide strategy to test for COVID-19.  The two will also discuss how to protect Kansas farmers and America’s food supply chain.  “I look forward to the discussion with President Trump on ways we can continue to work with the federal government on our response and recovery efforts,” Kelly said in a news release.  It’s unclear whether the meeting will be televised or available online.  

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More Businesses Reopen; Fourth Lansing Prison Inmate Dies of COVID-19

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — More businesses are reopening in Kansas, even as the virus claimed another life at the state's largest prison. The businesses allowed to reopen Monday included barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, gyms and fitness centers, although with restrictions. Janey McCarthy, the owner of Blondie's Hair Designs in Topeka, said she was excited to get back to work as were her clients, who have been calling and sending pictures of what their roots and nails look like without professional help. She described the past couple months as "difficult and very stressful."

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Health Officials: Virus Outbreak at Olathe's FedEx Center Now Contained

OLATHE, Kan. (KCUR) — Johnson County health officials say a cluster of COVID-19 cases discovered last week at the FedEx distribution center in Olathe now appears to be contained.  Nine workers tested positive for the disease last week. Since then, nearly 120 other workers, representing just over half the facility’s employees, have been tested and only two additional cases have turned up.  A spokeswoman for the Johnson County health department, said no additional testing was planned because the transmission was effectively contained.  The department is working with FedEx to isolate the workers and trace their contacts.  County health officials called it the first work-related cluster of cases in Johnson County.  

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Suit Filed Against Kansas Nursing Home with 14 Virus Deaths

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The family of an 88-year-old man who died in a COVID-19 outbreak at a suburban Kansas City nursing home has sued. KCUR reports that the wrongful death suit that was filed Monday on behalf of the family of Gordan Grohman alleges that the staff at Brighton Gardens in Prairie Village, Kansas, failed to separate residents with COVID-19 symptoms from those without the virus. Grohman died May 1. It’s the first such suit against the facility, where there have been 76 positive cases and 14 deaths. 

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Kansas GOP Congressman Using Malaria Drug to Ward off Virus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Kansas City Star) — A Kansas congressman who is also a doctor says he is taking the malaria drug that President Donald Trump has touted as a treatment for the coronavirus. Republican Rep. Roger Marshall says he doesn't have COVID-19 but he's been taking hydroxychloroquine to hold off the virus. A spokesman for Marshall, who is running for U.S. Senate, told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday that Marshall's parents, siblings and wife also are taking the drug. Trump said Monday that he's taking the drug to protect himself from the coronavirus. Health officials have questioned the drug's usefulness against COVID-19 and warned that it could cause significant side effects, including irregular heart rhythms and death.

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As State Tax Collections Drop, Kansas Considers Budget Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) —  Kansas tax collections have taken a beating during the coronavirus pandemic, as businesses closed and thousands of people were laid off. The governor and lawmakers are now staring down a deficit and considering budget cuts.  Funding for highways, social services, state pensions and even K-12 education may also fall under the budget ax.  (Get more details on this story.)

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Kansas Lawmakers May Take Up Coronavirus Liability Laws When Session Resumes Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Lawmakers will return to the Kansas Statehouse Thursday to wrap up the legislative session. Among other things, legislators will likely consider coronavirus liability protections for health care providers and businesses.  Health care providers want to be protected from lawsuits over procedures that were delayed because of the pandemic, and businesses don’t want to be sued by customers who claim they got sick at the business.  David Morantz, with the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, told senators they should avoid making any changes to law because they could end up protecting something like a nursing home that didn’t do enough to prevent the spread of the virus.  “Why would we pass a proposal that would let them off the hook for that?" Morantz said, "That doesn’t make any sense at this time.”  Business groups say the virus can spread even if companies do everything right, so they shouldn’t be held liable if they took necessary precautions.

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Kansas Hospitals Begin to Relax Coronavirus-Related Restrictions

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — Hospitals across Kansas are beginning to relax some of their coronavirus-related restrictions, including allowing visitors for the first time since mid-March.  On Monday, Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka started allowing one designated visitor per person. Angela Gamber is the hospital’s administrative director of emergency trauma and surgery. She says safety is the number one priority, but Stormont Vail would like to get back to allowing as many visitors as their patients want.  “Right now I think we’re just trying to reassess the situation every two weeks from a safety perspective and just make sure that we’re not seeing an uptick in positive cases.”  Wesley Healthcare in Wichita, as well as H-C-A hospitals in the Kansas City region, are allowing one visitor at a time. Visitors will have to answer questions about their health, get their temperature taken and must wear a mask.

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Kansas City Apartment Shooting Kills 2, Critically Injures Another

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City are investigating a shooting inside an apartment building that killed two men and left a woman with life-threatening injuries. Police say the shooting happened around 1:30 am Monday, when officers were called to the building in far-south Kansas City. Arriving officers reported finding one man dead inside the apartment, and a woman wounded. The woman was rushed by ambulance to a hospital with critical injuries. Police say someone drove a second man wounded in the shooting to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Witnesses told investigators that an argument preceded the shooting. The names of the victims have not been released.  

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City Council Member in South Central Kansas Arrested on Child Sex Crime Charges

BURRTON, Kan. (AP) — A member of the city council in a central Kansas town is facing charges involving child sex crimes. The Harvey County Sheriff's Office says 39-year-old Justin Freeman was arrested Monday. He is in his first year on the  Burrton City Council. The county attorney charged Freeman with six counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He is being held in the Harvey County jail on $750,000 bond. Burrton Mayor Rodney Redinger said the city is aware of the allegations and is cooperating in any way it can with investigators.

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Embattled Lawrence Police Chief Resigns in "Mutual Decision"

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Embattled Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. is resigning, just months after most members of the police union approved a no confidence vote against him. Burns's tenure with the department will officially end June 12. A separation agreement says Burns and the city reached a mutual decision that he would step down. He will receive a lump sum payment equal to nine months of pay. Captain Anthony Brixius, a nearly 17-year veteran of the department, will begin serving as interim chief immediately. The Lawrence Police Officers Association approved a vote of no confidence in Burns in January but has never explained what prompted the vote.

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KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Projects 12% Enrollment Drop this Fall

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An enrollment projection for the biggest school at the University of Kansas is offering a glimpse at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the fall semester as it struggles to fill classes. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the university has told its faculty members in an email that enrollment for the fall semester is down 12% from where it was in 2019 and 9% from its three-year average. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that interim dean John Colombo, wrote that some mid-to-upper level classes are not expected to meet the minimum enrollment requirement of 12 students.

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Kansas Education Leader Hopeful for Fall In-Person Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas education commissioner is cautiously optimistic that the state's 500,000 public school students will be back in their classrooms when the fall semester begins. Commissioner Randy Watson concedes it's difficult to predict the future as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic. Concerns about spreading the virus prompted schools to go to mostly online learning since mid-March. Watson says the Kansas Department of Education intends to present a reopening guide to school districts by July 10. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Watson acknowledges that if cases surge again, things could change. .

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Family of Missing Wisconsin Brothers Settles Lawsuit

KINGSTON, Mo. (AP) — The family of two Wisconsin brothers who were killed in Missouri have settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the suspect and his mother.  A Callaway County judge approved a $2 million settlement in a lawsuit filed in the deaths of Nicholas and Justin Diemel of Shawano County, Wisconsin. The family sued Garland Nelson, his mother, Tomme Feil; and their cattle business. Nelson is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of the brothers and could face the death penalty if he's convicted. Nelson has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

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Missouri Governor: Virus Testing Should Focus on Long-Term Care Facilities

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is expanding coronavirus testing to high-risk places where people are in close contact, with an emphasis on long-term care facilities. Governor Mike Parson says he has directed agency heads to “get better” at testing so the state can respond to sectors of the population that are under threat of exposure. He says 91 long-term care facilities have reported at least one case within the past two weeks, and that all residents and staff at those homes will be tested by the end of this week.

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Sedgwick County Zoo Re-Opens to Public This Week with New Safety Precautions.

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) — The Sedgwick County Zoo held a soft opening for zoo members Monday morning.  It was the first time the zoo had allowed visitors in more than two months.  The zoo set up one-way routes past animal exhibits, and is limiting the number of people allowed inside buildings.  Zoo Executive Director Jeff Ettling says cleaning crews are out in full force.  "There's two teams and they're just going to be rotating throughout the zoo," Ettling said, "The idea is they're going to be cleaning any touchable surface."  The biggest change is that it’s going to take planning to visit the zoo. Admission tickets are only available online and visitors have to schedule a specific entry time.  The zoo is limiting attendance until the next phase of the state’s re-opening plan begins.

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Military Flyovers in Kansas Aim to Salute and Thank State's Healthcare Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Air National Guard's 190th Air Refueling Wing is scheduled to perform a flyover across four cities in the state today (TUE) to salute healthcare workers, first responders and other frontline workers in the fight against the coronavirus.  Dubbed "Operation Kansas Strong," the flyovers will take place today (TUE) beginning at 1 pm in Emporia.  The Emporia flyover will be followed by flyovers in Manhattan, Topeka and Lawrence.  The detailed itinerary is below.

Col. Lee Norman, state surgeon for the Kansas Army National Guard, will be flying on the refueling tanker along with leaders from the Kansas National Guard. In addition to serving in the Kansas Army National Guard, Norman is secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  All arrival times are subject to change based on weather, air traffic and airspace requirements, so flyover times may shift slightly.

Flyovers for Tuesday, May 18, 2020

Emporia:
1 pm - Emporia Police Department
1 pm - Newman Regional Health Hospital
1 pm - Downtown Emporia

Manhattan:
1:13 pm - Riley County Police Department
1:13 pm - Manhattan Surgical Hospital
1:13 pm - Manhattan Vet Center
1:13 pm - Ascension Via Christi Hospital
1:15 pm - Downtown Manhattan

Topeka:
1:26 pm - Stormont Vail Hospital
1:26 pm - St. Francis Campus
1:26 pm - State Capitol Building
1:28 pm - Topeka Veteran Affairs Hospital
1:29 pm - Topeka Police Department

Lawrence:
1:34 pm - Lawrence Memorial Hospital
1:34 pm - Lawrence Police Department
1:34 pm - Downtown Lawrence
1:34 pm - Lawrence VA outpatient clinic

Officials with the Kansas Air National Guard says the Operation Kansas Strong flyover is incorporated into previously scheduled training missions and will come at no additional cost to taxpayers while serving as vital training for aircrews.  Officials say spectators are encouraged to take pictures of the flyover and tag #OperationKansasStrong on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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NPR Says $4.7 Million Grant Boosts Local News Efforts

NEW YORK (AP) _ NPR says it has received a $4.7 million grant from a foundation created by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, that will boost its local news efforts. The money is being used to create a Midwest news hub with reporters who will provide work for NPR stations in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. NPR is also funding a previously-announced news hub that connects its California stations, and it also has such newsrooms operating in Texas and the Gulf States. The idea is to do the type of investigative work that has been lost with the shrinking of newspapers. 

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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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