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Headlines for Wednesday, April 22, 2020

 

Coronavirus Clobbers Kansas Tax Revenue Projections

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS / AP) — The coronavirus is battering projections for how much Kansas can expect to collect in state taxes. A new revenue forecast shows a plunge of almost $1.3 billion in the next 14 months. The virus has shuttered businesses and led to massive layoffs. J.G. Scott, the head of the Kansas Legislative Research Department, says what’s different about this economic downturn compared to a normal recession is the speed at which the revenues are projected to fall.  Lawmakers could return as soon as next week for the wrap-up part of the legislative session, and the revenue forecast says they’ll need to cut spending by 8% or more. They already passed a basic budget, but the new numbers estimate a $650 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year starting in July.  

Governor Laura Kelly called the revenue projection sobering and said state leaders will have to make some difficult budget decisions.  "Although it was news we've been bracing for since the coronavirus began disrupting our lives in early March, the reality is no less jaw dropping," she said.  Kelly will be working with the legislature on the budget over the next few months, though she's hoping the federal government will send some stimulus dollars to state governments.  Kelly said the state is ramping up its contact tracing efforts, which she says is needed to lift the statewide shelter in place order. But she still wants federal support to boost testing capacity.  

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UPDATE: Kansas COVID-19 Cases Climb Past 2,200, Including 110 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — As of 11 am Wednesday, state health officials reported 2,211 cases of COVID-19 in Kansas, including 110 deaths.  Cases are reported in 70 of the state's 105 counties.  (Get the latest updates from KDHE.)

Earlier reporting...

Kansas Reports More than 2,000 Cases of COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — As of 11 am Tuesday, health officials reported 2,025 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 107 deaths.  Cases have been reported from 69 of the state's 105 counties.  Most COVID-19 cases are in the state's most populated areas, places like Kansas City and Wichita.  But Ford County in southwest Kansas has also been hard hit.  The Dodge City area had fewer than 20 cases on Monday of last week.  It now has 187.  The top five Kansas counties with the most COVID-19 cases include Wyandotte, Johnson, Sedgwick, Ford and Leavenworth.  (Get the latest updates from KDHE.)

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More Deaths Reported at KCK's Riverbend Post Acute Rehab Facility

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) — More COVID-19 deaths have been reported at a rehab facility in Kansas City, Kansas.  
Officials said Monday that 24 people had died at the Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation. The Unified Government reported this week that the number of positive cases climbed to 116.  Meanwhile, many of those who were hospitalized are returning to Riverbend.  Doctor David Dosa, an associate professor of medicine and public health at Brown University, says it would be best if people were no longer infectious before returning to the home. Riverbend is the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in Kansas.  

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KU School of Engineering Produces Personal Protective Equipment to Help Healthcare Workers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The University of Kansas campus may be largely shut down, but faculty, staff and graduate students at the School of Engineering are helping out in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, using their skills and resources to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.  KU Engineering is designing alternative equipment based on the need and the constraints, such as raw materials, to make the equipment more comfortable and easier to use for longer periods of time.  “The School of Engineering continues the challenging work of adapting to circumstances and serving our community,” said Candan Tamerler, associate dean for research at the School of Engineering. “I am proud of our resilience, resourcefulness and generosity. It’s a powerful reminder of who we are.”  Using the school’s collection of 3D printers, the KU team is manufacturing personal protective equipment to be used by health care workers in The University of Kansas Health System.  

Graduate students Bryce Stottlemire and Raj Bose use the printers to produce face shields and the headbands that hold them in place. They printed 100 sets of the devices — using open-source plans available online — and plan to deliver them to health care workers and use them on KU’s campus.  “This is the reason I’m a bioengineer – to serve people the best I can through devices and potential therapies,” said Stottlemire, who is pursuing a doctorate in bioengineering.  Stottlemire will soon pivot to producing specialized N95 masks with replaceable air filters.

For Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, professor of aerospace engineering, the pandemic is personal: His youngest daughter works in radiology at a Kansas City hospital that is short of personal protective equipment — and what is available to the doctors and nurses there, she told him, is often uncomfortable.  So Barrett-Gonzalez designed a new, lightweight polycarbonate shield that is more comfortable and easier to clean. He also designed a device to make regular face masks more comfortable, an adjustable loop that fits around the back of the head instead of the common one-size-fits-all mask that loops around the user's ears.  Barrett-Gonzalez said he expects to make the plans available online.  (Read more about this story.)

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Kansas Gets COVID-19 Testing Kits for Meat Processing Towns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has received more personal protective equipment and supplies to expand COVID-19 testing in communities with meat processing plants. Governor Laura Kelly says the supplies will go to Finney, Ford and Seward counties in southwest Kansas and Lyon County in the east-central part of the state. As of Monday, 336 people in those counties are infected with the coronavirus out of 1,986 statewide. Cargill, Tyson Fresh Meats and National Beef say employees at their plants have tested positive. Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tracking clusters connected to the plants.

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Kansas Relaxes Guidelines for Who Can Get Tested for CV

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has relaxed some guidelines on coronavirus testing so that residents who don't have a fever - but who are showing other symptoms - can be tested. Governor Laura Kelly announced the change Tuesday, as the state prison system saw the coronavirus spread to a third facility and the number of confirmed cases among staff and inmates topped 100.  Kansas has among the the lowest testing rates of any state, and officials say they struggle to find supplies. Expanded testing is a key issue for officials in determining how and when to reopen the state's economy.

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Protestors Take Message to Missouri and Kansas Statehouses, Demanding States Reopen for Business

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP / WIBW) — Protesters gathered outside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City to demand that the state reopen to business after weeks of government-imposed social distancing aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Tuesday's protest is among several across the country over the past week. In Jefferson City, many of the several hundred protesters waved the American flag and chanted “USA! USA!” A sign on a car window stated, “I prefer dangerous liberty over peaceful slavery.” Some of the protesters wore masks, but many did not. Several also stood near each other, ignoring recommendations that people remain at least 6 feet apart.  

A similar protest is expected this week at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.  According to WIBW TV, more than 1,000 people have either indicated an interest or plan on attending the event scheduled for noon Thursday.  Organizers are telling those attending to stay in their cars, but circle the statehouse, honk horns and wave flags.  “It is time to open Kansas back up for business. It is time to converge on Topeka and show Governor Kelly that WE THE PEOPLE of Kansas can be safe, responsible, and LOUD!”, the group said in their Facebook event page called Operation Gridlock Topeka!

On Monday, about 100 people attended a rally in Kansas City.  The event near the Country Club Plaza followed similar protests that began across the country last week, with some events drawing much larger crowds.  The protesters waved signs and U.S. flags and yelled their belief that the orders are unnecessary, are damaging the economy and violate the rights of U.S. citizens.

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Flags Fly at Half-Staff to Honor Kansas City EMT Who Died from Virus

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri flags are flying at half-staff at all government buildings in the Kansas City area today (WED) to honor an emergency medical technician who died from the coronavirus. Governor Mike Parson has also ordered the U.S. and Missouri flags to be flown at half-staff at the Fire Fighters Memorial of Missouri in Kingdom City in honor of 69-year-old Billy Birmingham. The Kansas City Fire Department EMT died April 13 from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

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China Calls Virus Lawsuit Brought by State of Missouri "Very Absurd"

BEIJING (AP) — China is slamming a lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. state of Missouri over the coronavirus pandemic as “very absurd.” Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says the legal action has “no factual and legal basis at all,” and is defending China’s response to the outbreak, which has largely subsided in the country where it was first detected. China's government has strenuously denied accusations that officials delayed reporting on the extent of the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, despite reports that worries over political stability were placed above public health concerns.

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Kansas Universities Had Serious Budget Problems Before Coronavirus and May Ax Even More Staff

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW / KNS) — Kansas colleges will soon get millions in federal money to help with the ripple effects from the coronavirus, but educators and experts say it’s not nearly enough.  The roughly $2 trillion CARES Act, meant as a life preserver for the national economy, added higher ed to the list of its beneficiaries. The government said half of the $13 billion for public and private universities must go to student grants. But the need is greater than that: Some students have lost the ability to pay hefty tuition bills — not to mention rent or groceries — and universities have lost revenue sources on top of already-strained budgets.  Without another stimulus boost from Washington, campus leaders and experts say Kansas’ colleges and universities must make two tough choices: which students to help and which employees to cut.  (Read more here.)  

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Police in Kansas City, Kansas, Investigate Shooting Death

Kansas City, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating the shooting death of a man whose body was found at an apartment complex early Tuesday. The Kansas City Star reports that officers were sent to the Terrace Pointe Apartments around 1:30 am Tuesday for a report of a death, and arriving officers found the body of a man in his 20s. Police say the man had been shot. His name has not yet been released. The death marked the 10th homicide in Kansas City, Kansas, so far this year.

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Officials: Man Killed in Kansas City House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Fire officials say a man has died and a woman has been injured in a house fire in Kansas City. Television station KMBC reports that the fire broke out around 4 am Tuesday. Firefighters on the scene say a man died in the fire, while a woman was injured and taken to a hospital in serious condition. Officials have not yet released the names of the man and woman. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the fire.

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Man Charged with Killing Missouri Car Dealership Employee

BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Cass County authorities are trying to determine what prompted a 21-year-old Kansas City man to fatally shoot a car dealership employee. Edward Carnejo-Juarez is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 28-year-old Kyle Wanner. Surveillance video shows a man talking with Wanner at the Show Me Auto Mall in Belton on April 16 shortly before Wanner was shot. Police said Cornejo-Juarez admitted smoking what he thought was synthetic marijuana before going to the business, which he claimed he had bought. He told police he didn't know Wanner.

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4 Kansas City Men Charged in Deaths of 3 Oklahoma Men

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four Kansas City men are charged with killing three Oklahoma men in 2017. Jackson County prosecutors announced Tuesday that 36-year-old Rashidi Crosdale and 41-year-old Tyree West are charged with three counts of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Thirty-one-year-old Terrence Hardin and 19-year-old Ravon Freeman are charged with two counts of both charges. The three victims from Tulsa died in two separate shootings in July 2017. Prosecutors allege the three men — 31-year-old John Waldon, 46-year-old Darren Harris and 49-year-old Andre Barnes — were in Kansas City for an alleged drug deal.

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Wichita Police Identify Man Who Died Before Standoff at Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a man who was found shot to death in a home before a standoff on Sunday. Officers found the body of 64-year-old Mark Howard when they went to a home in Wichita Sunday afternoon. Officer Charley Davidson says the incident began when police received a shoplifting report. Officers responding to that call saw 22-year-old Jessica Sanders fire a shot into the ground and then walk to a home. Davidson says officers found Howard's body inside the house but left because of safety concerns. After about three hours of negotiations, Sanders came out of the house and was arrested.

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Wichita Officer Will Not Face Charges in Fatal Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita police officer who fatally shot a man in January 2019 will not face charges. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Tuesday the officer shot and killed Geoffrey Morris in self-defense. Morris was shot after officers surrounded his car to try and arrest him on outstanding warrants. Bennett said in his report that Morris backed up and hit a law enforcement vehicle then then drove forward toward an officer, who fired because he thought he might be hit by the car. Morris died two days later at a hospital. The officer's name has not been released.

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USDA Holds Virtual Career Expo April 28 for Kansas City Area Jobs

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is holding a virtual job fair for positions in the Kansas City area.  USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have partnered with the University of Missouri to host a joint Virtual Career Expo on April 28. A similar event last year attracted more than 400 attendees. Both agencies relocated most of their operations to the Kansas City region last fall and are continuing to grow their workforces.  ERS and NIFA continue to fill open positions and current listings are on USAJobs.  Vacancies include positions for economists, geographers, accountants, grant specialists, financial specialists, and communications specialists, among others.  ERS anticipates trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America and conducts economic research to inform public and private decision making.  NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. Through an integrated approach, NIFA ensures scientific discoveries make their way into communities, farms, and classrooms.  Interested applicants may register for the Career Expo and sign up for information sessions online. Sessions will be held virtually, beginning at 2 pm with the last session at 4 pm CDT.  Visit USAJobs for current open positions at both agencies.

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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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