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Headlines for Wednesday, February 10, 2021


No Evidence So Far that Virus Variant Has Spread Widely in Kansas

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — A virulent strain of the coronavirus that first appeared in Kansas in a Fort Hays State University athlete hasn’t spread widely among the student’s friends. Dr. Lee Norman, head of the state health department, said Tuesday that officials sent a mobile lab to Hays after the variant that is wreaking havoc in the United Kingdom was detected last week during routine testing of athletes at the school. But he said only one of the 200 contacts or potential contacts of the student-athlete who were tested were positive for COVID-19. Officials are trying to determine now whether that person has the same strain as the student-athlete. The results are expected later this week.


KU Begins Spring Semester with Fewer COVID-19 Cases

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) —University of Kansas students started the spring semester last week with much of the same COVID-19 precautions that were in place during the fall. KU officials say they had only seventy positive cases to begin the semester, which represents a significant drop from last fall. Chancellor Douglas Girod says now that cases are on the decline, the university is slowly returning to normal activities. Girod says KU is planning to have an in-person commencement ceremony at the end of the semester but plans on still having safety guidelines in place.


Number of COVID-19 Cases in Kansas Continues to Climb but at a Slower Pace

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Wednesday that there have been 284,894 cases of COVID-19, including 4,303 deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 1,934 cases and 106 deaths since Monday.  KDHE will provide another update on Friday.


Kansas Schools Rush to Vaccinate Teachers Ahead of Reopening

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas school districts are rushing to vaccinate their teachers in preparation for an eventual return to a full reopening of classrooms and before more a contagious strain of the coronavirus can spread throughout the state. Gov. Laura Kelly told the State Finance Council on Wednesday that about 60% of the state’s school districts have started vaccinating their teachers and staff. She discussed the push a day after the state Department of Education recommended that districts allow middle and high school students to resume full-time in-person instruction if precautions are taken. Several of the state’s largest districts have been offering in-person classes only part-time or teaching students only online.


Vaccine Effort for Black, Latino Missourians Slow to Begin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri tasked nine regional groups across the state with making sure Black and Latino communities had equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, but the effort is off to a slow start. KCUR Radio reported Monday that nearly two months into the vaccine rollout, four of the regional teams aren’t yet operational. Just 5% of doses in Missouri have gone to Black residents even though Black people make up about 11.5% of the state's population. The theory behind the state plan was that a regional organization would know its area best. But regional officials say the effort is being hampered by a lack of state funding and confusion about what they see as vague state expectations.


Kansas Tax-Cut Fight Revives Memories of Past GOP Experiment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas are struggling to contain their impulses to slash state income taxes. They are conjuring memories of a past, nationally notorious GOP tax-cutting experiment as they try to enact some reductions over Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s objections. Some Republicans worried Wednesday that action on a tax bill by the GOP-controlled Senate moved them a step backward in their efforts to provide relief to individuals and businesses paying higher state taxes because of federal tax changes in 2017. Senators on Tuesday tripled the size of a GOP tax relief bill so that it would cost the state more than $1.3 billion in revenues over three years.


Kansas Bill to Recognize Other States' Gun Permits Advances

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee has advanced a bill to expand Kansas's recognition of other states’ concealed carry permits. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the bill would help Kansas maintain reciprocity agreements with other states, which would help Kansans carry concealed firearms elsewhere. The bill is drawing pushback from Democrats and gun control groups that worry the bill would allow people from states with looser gun laws to carry concealed weapons in Kansas. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted to advance the bill to the full House for a vote.


Nursing Home Protections Limit Families Who Want to Sue

UNDATED (AP) — As the coronavirus takes a devastating toll on seniors in nursing homes, many attorneys are turning down grieving families seeking to sue long-term care providers for wrongful death. That's because more than half of U.S. states have granted nursing homes and other health providers protection from lawsuits during the pandemic. The federal government says COVID-19 has killed about 162,000 nursing home residents and workers, accounting for roughly 1-in-3 virus deaths in the U.S. The national association representing nursing home operators says many would be forced to close under the financial strain of litigation. But the AARP and other advocates for nursing home residents say states have essentially made negligent care acceptable.


Prosecutors: Ex-KUMC Employee Embezzled More Than $500,000

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors say a former University of Kansas Medical Center administrator has pleaded guilty to bank fraud and filing a false tax return in a scheme that saw him embezzle more than $500,000 from the institution. Federal prosecutors said in a news release that 49-year-old Michael Tae Kim Ahlers, of Lenexa, was the administrative officer for the occupational therapy education department at KUMC in Kansas City from 2009 through 2015, when he stole more than $500,000 for his personal use. Investigators say Ahlers deposited the funds into a KUMC Credit Union account that allowed him to avoid oversight and conceal his fraud. 


Officials: Man Drowns After Falling Through Ice in Northern Kansas

KIRWIN, Kan. (AP) — Officials in northern Kansas say a man has drowned after falling through the ice at the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge. Wichita television station KAKE reports that the incident happened Tuesday afternoon at the national wildlife refuge near Kirwin in Phillips County. The Phillips County Sheriff's Office says it was a 67-year-old man who fell through the ice on Kirwin Reservoir, but officials have not released his name or details about what he was doing on the ice. Officials say his body was recovered with help from the Phillipsburg Fire Department, Kirwin Fire Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.


Winter Weather Blamed for Crashes in Kansas, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Winter weather is being blamed for crashes in Kansas and Missouri, including two fatal crashes in eastern Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says 46-year-old Michael Dickison, of Bolivar, died Monday afternoon when he lost control of his pickup truck on icy pavement in southwestern Missouri. And south of St. Louis, 19-year-old Jimi Williams of Festus died after his car skidded and was struck by another car. That news comes as Kansas and Missouri residents woke up Tuesday to bitter winter temperatures in the single digits, with wind chills in portions of northeast Kansas and northern parts of Missouri dropping to as low as 20 below zero.


Marty Schottenheimer, NFL Coach with 200 Wins, Dies at 77

UNDATED (AP) — The longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer has died. Family friend and former Kansas City Chiefs publicist Bob Moore says Schottenheimer died Monday night in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and was moved to a hospice January 30. Schottenheimer won 200 regular-season games with four NFL teams thanks to his “Martyball” brand of smash-mouth football but fell short in the playoffs. He was the eighth-winningest coach in NFL history. He coached for 21 seasons with Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego. His success was rooted in “Martyball,” a conservative approach that featured a strong running game and tough defense. He would exhort his players before a game with his mantra, “One play at a time.” Marty Schotenheimer was 77.


Black Farmers Unconvinced by Ag Secretary Vilsack's 'Root Out' Racism Vow

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — President Joe Biden’s nomination of Tom Vilsack to lead the Agriculture Department is getting a chilly reaction from many Black farmers who contend he didn’t do enough to help them the last time he had the job. The former Iowa governor served eight years as agriculture secretary under President Barack Obama. Vilsack is trying to assure minority farming groups and the senators who will vote on his confirmation that he will work to “root out generations of systemic racism” in the agency. But many Black farmers fault him for failing to address a backlog of discrimination complaints in the department and for firing a Black woman for remarks that he later learned were taken out of context.


Kansas' Democratic Governor Offers Rival to GOP Tax-Cutting Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is denouncing a Republican plan for cutting Kansas income taxes as “unthinkable” during the COVID-19 pandemic. She proposed an alternative Tuesday that would pay for its relief by taxing online music, movies and streaming services. Kelly outlined her proposal just hours before the Kansas Senate was set to debate the GOP’s measure. The Republican plan is aimed at providing $423 million in relief over three years to businesses and individuals paying more to the state since an overhaul of federal tax laws in 2017.  Kelly's plan targets its relief only to individuals and is designed to not cost the state any net revenues.


Kansas Legislature to Discuss Changes to Local Property Tax Rules 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas lawmakers are poised to change the rules local officials must follow when they raise property taxes.  The Legislature put a tax lid in place four years ago with the hope of limiting tax increases but some say it’s not working. The new plan would get rid of the controversial property tax lid and replace it with a system where local governments have to provide more information to residents before raising taxes. Republican Senator Caryn Tyson of Linn County says the change would require local governments to hold a public hearing where citizens can provide input.  “This is just local control with transparency," Tyson said. "They would tell the taxpayers why they’re going to increase (taxes) and how much they’re going to increase.”  The bill has already passed the state Senate with bipartisan support.   


Chiefs Assistant Coach Britt Reid on Leave After Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs placed outside linebackers coach Britt Reid on administrative leave while an investigation continues into a crash that injured two children. The team has said Reid, who is head coach Andy Reid's son, was involved in a multi-vehicle crash last Thursday that injured two young children near the team’s training complex next to Arrowhead Stadium. A 5-year-old girl, identified by the Chiefs as Ariel Young, remained in critical condition on Tuesday. The Chiefs said the team has contacted the girl's family and is offering support and resources to them. Andy Reid said this week that Britt underwent surgery after the crash.


KC Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid: "My Heart Bleeds" for Those in Son's Car Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Sunday night that his "heart bleeds" for those injured in a car accident involving his son, assistant coach Britt Reid, that left two children with injuries and one of them hospitalized in critical condition. The crash occurred Thursday night, two days before the Chiefs were due to leave for the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. Kansas City wound up losing 31-9 to the Buccaneers on Sunday night. Britt Reid did not travel to the Super Bowl. Police are investigating whether the younger Reid was impaired before the accident.


Man Charged in Death of Wichita Teen Who Was Dragged by SUV

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Wichita teenager who was dragged for miles during an attempted car theft. Kevin Michael James Palmer was also charged Tuesday with felony theft. Prosecutors say the 13-year-old girl was sitting in an SUV Saturday waiting for relatives to get food when Palmer jumped in and drove away. The girl, who police have not identified, got caught in a seat belt when she tried to escape and was dragged for several miles. Police say Palmer was arrested as he ran away from the SUV.


Body of Missing Missouri Man Found in Kansas Backyard

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The body of a Kansas City, Missouri, man who was reported missing last month was found the same day 112 miles away in Kansas. The Kansas City Star reported authorities have identified the victim as 33-year-old Derrick A. Yule. Police say he had been reported missing from an apartment in Kansas city. His body was found Jan. 13 in the backyard of a home in Arcadia, Kansas after deputies in Kansas received a tip.


Man Charged with Murder in Deaths of Young Wichita Couple

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old Wichita man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of a young couple. Dontenzie Lamar Kelly was charged Tuesday in the deaths of 17-year-old Michael Beasley and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Kaylah Blackmon. Beasley was found dead outside an abandoned church on February 1. Blackmon's body was found three days later inside her truck at a Wichita apartment complex. Police have said the couple was shot to death. They have not released a possible motive in the killings. Kelly's next court date is set for March 1.


Southwest Missouri School Board Fires Administrator Facing Child Porn Charges

NIXA, Mo. (AP) — An assistant principal at a southwest Missouri junior high school, who is facing charges related to child pornography, has been fired by the local school board. The Springfield Leader-News reports that the Nixa school board voted Monday to fire 41-year-old Colby Fronterhouse. Fronterhouse was charged last month in federal court with sexual exploitation of a child for the purpose of producing child pornography. A court affidavit says Fronterhouse pretended to be a 14-year-old girl sending sexually explicit messages to a 13-year-old boy. Federal authorities said Fronterhouse gained access to the victim's cell phone through school records. He had been on administrative leave from the junior high until the board's vote to fire him Monday.


Kansas Governor, Spouse Among Thousands of Victims of Bogus Unemployment Claims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says both she and her husband had fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits filed in their names with the state. Governor Kelly says that she and first gentleman, Ted Daughety, received Department of Labor notices “months ago” about obtaining unemployment benefits. The governor’s office said the notices came in early fall and that Kelly quickly went to the department’s website and reported the fraud. The Legislature has been scrutinizing bogus unemployment claims and ongoing criticism of the state Department of Labor’s operations. The department reports that it had blocked more than 538,000 attempts from internet bots or human scammers to log into its unemployment system during one day last week. 


Independent Examiner Sought in NRA Mismanagement Allegations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A National Rifle Association board member from Kansas is seeking the appointment of an independent examiner to investigate allegations of mismanagement against national leaders of the organization. Sedgwick County District Court Judge Phil Journey filed a motion Monday in federal bankruptcy court in Texas. He says in the motion that an independent investigator could best confirm or deny allegations facing the gun-rights group. The NRA filed for bankruptcy protection and is seeking to move to Texas from New York, where a lawsuit claims the organization's management improperly spent millions of dollars to enrich longtime leader Wayne LaPierre, his supporters and favored vendors.


Wichita School Board Votes to Drop Redskins Mascot Name

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school board has voted to drop the North High School's Redskins mascot name, opting to phase out use of the mascot over two years. The board voted unanimously at a Monday meeting to drop the name, but will continue to use Native American imagery by keeping its shield, drum and feather logo. The decision comes as teams on all levels across the country are changing or reconsidering mascots considered to be culturally insensitive. Starting next school year, the district will begin removing "Redskin" from athletic and other uniforms, jerseys and facilities, as well as school-related activities and school apparel. No new mascot was chosen.


NFL Writer Terez Paylor of Yahoo Dies Unexpectedly at Age 37

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Terez Paylor, the popular NFL writer and Pro Football Hall of Fame voter whose career took him from the Kansas City Star to Yahoo Sports, died unexpectedly at his home early Tuesday. He was 37. Yahoo Sports announced his death in a statement. No cause was given. Paylor, who was known for his booming laugh and infectious smile, was one of 48 voting members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also was a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and National Association of Black Journalists.


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