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Headlines for Wednesday, July 22, 2020

 

Kansas Reports More than 24,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 308 Fatalities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas health officials have recorded 24,104 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.  State health officials reported today (WED) that the virus, now confirmed in 103 of the state's 105 counties, has also claimed 308 lives. Johnson, Wyandotte, and Sedgwick Counties have the most cases. The next update is expected Friday.     

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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GOP Blocks Kansas Governor's Plan to Delay Reopening Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas schools will be allowed to reopen in mid-August. Republican officials on Wednesday again thwarted a plan from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly aimed at reversing a resurgence in reported coronavirus cases. The GOP-controlled State Board of Education on Wednesday voted 5-5 and rejected a proposal from Kelly to delay the restart of K-12 classes for three weeks until after Labor Day. Decisions on when school buildings reopen will be left to locally elected boards. Conservatives have argued that it’s inappropriate for Kelly to impose “one size fits all” pandemic measures. Republican legislators made similar arguments to successfully pressure Kelly into lifting statewide restrictions on businesses.

(–Related–)

Kansas School Board Rejects Delaying In-Person K-12 Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Local school boards in Kansas are allowed to reopen elementary, middle and high schools in mid-August as they normally would, despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the state. The Republican-controlled State Board of Education on Wednesday voted 5-5 and rejected Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to postpone the start of fall classes for three weeks, until Sept. 9. The board’s action leaves decisions about when to reopen to the state’s 286 local school boards. Kelly argued that a resurgence in coronavirus cases has made it necessary to give public and private schools more time to prepare, but a Kansas law required her to get the state board’s approval.

Majority of Kansas School Board's Republicans Opposed Delay

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A majority of Republicans on the Kansas State Board of Education have opposed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to delay the reopening of K-12 schools from mid-August until after Labor Day. The board's vote Wednesday was 5-5. Republicans have an 8-2 board majority. Voting against Kelly’s plan were Republicans Jean Clifford of Garden City, Michelle Dombrosky of Olathe, Deena Horst of Salina, Ben Jones of Sterling and Steve Roberts of Overland Park. Republicans voting in favor were board Chairwoman Kathy Busch of Wichita, Jim McNiece of Wichita and Jim Porter of Fredonia. They were joined by Democrats Ann Mah of Topeka and Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kansas.

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COVID-19 Outbreak Reported at Coffeyville Nursing Facility; 20 Residents, 12 Staff Members Test Positive

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (KPR) — The Montgomery County Chronicle reports 20 patients and 12 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at a nursing facility in southeastern Kansas.  Windsor Place, in Coffeyville, is the site of the latest coronavirus outbreak at a long term care facility. Monte Coffman, the executive director of Windsor Place, said that prior to late last week, the facility had zero patients and only three staff members who tested positive for the virus.  Those three employees were immediately quarantined away from the facility.  But a new round of testing over the weekend revealed that the number of positive cases had grown.  With this latest outbreak, Montgomery County’s total COVID-19 caseload soared from 74 on Friday to 108 on Monday.

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UPDATE: County Commission Shortens Shutdown of Bars in Wichita Area

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Restaurants won’t have to close early in Kansas’s largest city and bars won’t be shut down as long as a local health officer wanted because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Wichita Eagle reports that commissioners in Wichita's home of Sedgwick County voted 4-1 on Wednesday to make an order from County Health Officer and Dr. Garold Minns less restrictive before the directive takes effect Friday. Minns’s initial order shut bars down until Sept. 9. The county commission said the shutdown will last until Aug. 21. The health officer directed restaurants serving alcohol to close at 12:01 a.m. The county commission removed that restriction.

(–Earlier reporting–)

Sedgwick County Health Officer Plans to Close Bars in State's Largest City

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A local public health official plans to close bars and restrict restaurant hours in Wichita and the surrounding area until after Labor Day.  Dr. Garold Minns, the health officer for Sedgwick County, says he's taking action because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the county the past six weeks, which has been worse than the statewide spike in cases.  Minns told the county commission Tuesday that he will issue an order to close bars and nightclubs until September 9 and direct restaurants to close at 10 pm.  He said he also plans to drop the limit on public gatherings from 45 to 15.

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Missouri Reports Record-Breaking 1,138 New COVID-19 Cases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has again broken its own record for the highest single-day increase in reported coronavirus cases. The health department on Tuesday reported another 1,138 cases, breaking a record set Saturday. So far, the state has reported 34,762 cases. The state's health department director has said cases among young people are driving the surge. Kansas City's mayor now is urging local K-12 schools to wait until after Labor Day to reopen. The Kansas City Star reports Mayor Quinton Lucas said Tuesday that he doesn't need to issue an order because almost all Kansas City schools have acted responsibility during the pandemic.

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Stowers Institute in Kansas City Develops Saliva Test for COVID-19

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A new saliva testing process for COVID-19, which promises faster results at reduced costs, is being developed by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.  FOX4 TV reports the institute wants to expand test processing to eliminate the backlog of samples and long waits for results.  Dr. David Chao says Stowers has developed an easier test that uses saliva, instead of nasal swabs.  Swabs have been in short supply and require a healthcare professional to obtain a sample in a procedure that most find unpleasant.  Volunteers have been working at Stowers for the last three months to develop a saliva test, which uses robotic machines to automatically determine test results. With $500,000 in equipment, Stowers researchers say they can test 500 samples a day accurately, while reducing costs by two or three times what labs charge now.

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Hutchinson Police: Driver Dies in Fiery Crash

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Police in central Kansas say a driver has died after a sport utility vehicle crashed into a building in Hutchinson and burst into flames. Television station KSNW reports that the crash happened Tuesday night. Police say witnesses reported that the SUV was speeding when it left the roadway, traveled through an open field and crashed into a building on the west end of the city. Police say the SUV erupted in flames, and officers tried to rescue the driver but had to retreat because of the flames. The driver, whose identity has not been released, died at the scene. Police say some officers were treated and released for smoke inhalation.

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Topeka City Council Bans Use of Police No-Knock Warrants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka City Council has banned the use of no-knock warrants by law enforcement in the city. The Capital-Journal reports that the council voted 8-to-1 Tuesday night to adopt the ordinance banning the controversial practice. Police Chief Bill Cochran has said this department already had a policy of not allowing no-knock warrants before the ban was made local law. Councilwoman Christina Valdivia-Alcala was the only member to vote against the measure. She said while she opposes the use of no-knock warrants, she doesn't trust the city's police auditor to offer an independent review of possible violations because he answers to the city manager.

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Body of Kansas Man Who Died in 2004 Exhumed in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have exhumed the body of a Black man who died in 2004 in Kansas as federal officials continue to investigate the death as a possible hate crime. The body of Alonzo Brooks was exhumed from a Topeka cemetery on Tuesday. Brooks was 23 when he disappeared after attending a party in La Cygne, Kansas, in May 2004. His family later found his body in a creek near where the party was held. The FBI reopened the investigation in 2019 and in June of this year offered a $100,000 reward for information. KSNT-TV reports his family said new information has come in since the case was featured recently on a national crime show.

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Retiring Kansas Senator Endorses Congressman Roger Marshall for Open Senate Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Retiring Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has declared his support for Republican Congressman Roger Marshall as his replacement. Roberts’s endorsement Tuesday came in a string of tweets in which he praised Marshall without mentioning polarizing conservative Kris Kobach, one of Marshall's primary opponents. Roberts is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and touted Marshall’s service on its House counterpart. He also said Marshall’s experience as a doctor will be helpful during the coronavirus pandemic. Marshall is an obstetrician who represents the same sprawling western and central Kansas district that Roberts did before being elected to the Senate in 1996. Marshall won the House seat in 2016.

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Kansas City Man Charged in Fatal Shooting near Children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 40-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man is charged with second-degree murder in a shooting at a gas station. Jackson County prosecutors charged Isaac Knighten Tuesday in the death of 28-year-old Jayvon McCray.  McCray was shot Sunday at a gas station in Kansas City, Missouri. Witnesses told police Knighten was with his girlfriend and the five young children when the two men got into a confrontation after Knighten looked at McCray in a strange way. Both men were armed. Several other people became involved in the argument. Prosecutors say Knighten shot McCray several times while other people stood between them.

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Police: Wichita Sex Offender Tried to Kidnap 10-Year-Old Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 62-year-old man has been arrested after allegedly trying to abduct a 10-year-old boy who was walking on a sidewalk in Wichita. The Wichita Police Department said Monday that 62-year-old Webb Ketcherside has been booked on suspicion of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child and attempted aggravated kidnapping. Ketcherside is accused of approaching the boy Sunday afternoon, making sexually explicit comments and grabbing his arm. The boy was able to break free and run to a QuikTrip for help. An investigation led police to Ketcherside, a registered sex offender who was arrested without incident.

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Watchdogs Eye $700 Million Relief Loan to Struggling Overland Park Trucking Firm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional watchdogs are questioning the government’s decision to award a $700 million coronavirus relief loan to a struggling trucking company on grounds its operations are critical for maintaining national security. Headquartered in Overland Park, YRC Worldwide provides transportation and logistics services, such as delivering food, electronics and other supplies to military locations around the country. The Defense Department is a major YRC client. The department sued YRC in 2018 for overcharging the government for freight carrier services and making false statements. Under terms of the loan U.S. taxpayers, through the Treasury Department, will take a 30% stake in the company. The Congressional Oversight Committee also said there appeared to be a large risk of taxpayers losing money on the investment.

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U.S. Attorney: Federal Agents in Kansas City Will Be Identifiable

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The top federal prosecutor in Kansas City says any federal agents involved in an operation to reduce violent crime in the area will be clearly identifiable, unlike what has been seen in Portland, Oregon. Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a written statement Monday that a new federal effort called Operation LeGend in Kansas City is in response to record violent crime numbers, not local protests. He says agents won't be patrolling the streets or usurping the authority of local officers. His statement comes amid clashes between protesters and camouflaged, unidentified agents in Portland.

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“Friends of the Kaw” Group Stops in Topeka While Kayaking Kansas River

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A group of Kansas River fans called “Friends of the Kaw” stopped in Topeka Wednesday morning while kayaking the Kansas River from end to end.  KSNT TV reports that the eight-day, 173-mile journey started in Junction City last Friday and is expected to reach the end of the river on Saturday.  Program Manager Kim Bellemere said the group is trying to raise awareness for the Kansas River Water Trail and get more people interested in seeing the river for themselves.  “We’re really trying to highlight that it can be used for recreation,” said Bellemere. “A lot of people fish on the river and because it’s a national water trail and in Kansas it’s actually public property so anyone can get on the river.”  The journey did require careful planning. The group has been camping on sand bars and meeting people at boat ramps to stock up on supplies along the way.  River Guide David Sain said they did a practice run before this to get a sense of what the full journey would entail. 

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President to Award Medal of Freedom to Former Kansas Congressman
 

WASHINGTON (KPR) - President Trump will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jim Ryun, an Olympian and former Kansas Congressman.  The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor.  It's given by the president to individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the United States.  Ryun is one of the most accomplished athletes in American history.  Despite being cut from every athletic team in junior high, he made the track team at Wichita East High School.  There, Ryun broke a world record by becoming the first high school runner to clock a mile in under 4 minutes.  Ryun also competed in the 1964 Olympic Games.  While a student athlete at the University of Kansas, he broke several more world records.  He also won the silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Games and competed in the 1972 Munich Games. Among many other accolades, he was named ABC Wide World of Sports' Athlete of the Year.  Following his athletic career, he served his home state of Kansas in Congress from 1996 to 2006. He has since written three books and currently gives motivational speeches around the country.  The three-time Olympian will receive the Medal of Freedom Friday, during a ceremony at the White House. 

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USDA Study Shows Gulf Between Cattle, Processed Beef Prices

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A study released by the U.S. Agriculture Department into the disparity between cattle prices paid to ranchers and the higher prices earned by meat processors offers more details about the factors that have led to the situation. The 20-page analysis by the USDA released Wednesday explains how after a 2019 fire at a Tyson Foods beef plant in Holcomb, Kansas, and this year’s temporary closure of slaughterhouses amid the coronavirus pandemic, ranchers saw cattle prices drop while concerns about meat scarcity caused prices at grocery stores to rise. Some members of Congress have called for an investigation into possible violations of the Packers and Stockyard Act, which is designed to protect ranchers and consumers. 

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Bowyer Heads to Kansas Speedway Without His Typical Crowd

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Emporia, Kansas native Clint Bowyer would usually be swamped by family and friends during the first of two trips to his home track this season. Instead, the Cup Series star will be running in front of mostly empty seats again at Kansas Speedway. The series has had limited fans for select races since returning fro the coronavirus pandemic, but hot spots in Kansas and neighboring Missouri forced officials to pull the plug on fans earlier this month. That doesn't take the pressure off Bowyer, though. He's still looking to secure a playoff spot for this season and a ride for next. 

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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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