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Headlines for Wednesday, May 20, 2020

UPDATE: Trump: Kansas Governor Doing 'Fantastic Job' on Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has received the kind of praise from President Donald Trump that Republicans in her home state of Kansas would love to hear about themselves. Kelly met with the Republican president Wednesday in Washington to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, along with GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas. Trump said both have done "a fantastic job.” A YouTube video of a session with reporters showed Trump touting his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly remained quiet as Trump said she speaks her mind on White House calls. Kelly recently praised the Trump administration for its response to outbreaks in meatpacking plants. 

(– earlier version –) 

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Meeting with President Trump in Washington, D.C.

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is in the nation’s capital today (WED) to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   The governor and Trump are expected to discuss the state's phased reopening plan and its statewide strategy to test for COVID-19.  The two leaders are also expected to discuss how to protect Kansas farmers and America’s food supply chain.


Kansas Policy Lets Exposed Meatpacking Workers Stay on Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Emails and text messages show Kansas softened its quarantine guidelines for meatpacking plants after industry executives repeatedly pushed state officials so employees who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus could continue working. The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle reports that they obtained messages through an open-records request. The newspapers report the documents show that executives at Tyson and National Beef pushed Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam to adopt more lenient guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowing meatpacking employees who have come into close contact with positive cases to stay on the job if they had no symptoms. The state had previously advised contacts to quarantine for two weeks. 


GOP Plan Would Keep Kansas Governor from Closing Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas are pushing to greatly limit Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s power to keep businesses closed during the coronavirus pandemic. They also advanced a plan Wednesday to give the GOP-controlled Legislature’s leaders the final say over how federal coronavirus relief funds are spent. GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee included the measures in a bill that the full Senate expects to consider Thursday. That's when the Legislature is scheduled for one, final day in session this year. Republicans tied their proposals to a ratification of Kelly’s previous coronavirus orders and an extension of a state of emergency over the pandemic.

(– related –)

GOP Wants Top Kansas Lawmakers to Control Coronavirus Aid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas have moved to give the GOP-controlled Legislature’s leaders the final say over how federal coronavirus relief funds are spent. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to include legislative oversight of the distribution of $1.25 billion in federal funds in a broader measure that’s likely to also curb Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s power to direct the state’s coronavirus response. Many GOP lawmakers argue that the Legislature has the duty to oversee how the aid is spent, just as it approves an annual state budget. They are also frustrated with Kelly’s plan for a phased reopening of the state’s economy. 


2 Men Charged in Fatal Shooting of Topeka Man

TOPEKA, Kan., (AP) — Two men are charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Topeka high school senior earlier this month. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said Tuesday that Tyron Michael and Daravian Ryce are charged in the May 12 death of 18-year-old Jo'Heem Meredith. Police say Meredith was shot at a Topeka apartment complex. He went to a hospital but died from his injuries. Besides the murder charge, the suspects each face four other charges.  The suspects also face several other charges, including aggravated robbery and assault. Michael was charged with gun and drug counts related to his arrest on May 13.


Missouri Teen Charged in Fatal Shooting at Convenience Store

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri teenager is charged with second-degree murder after a fatal shooting outside an convenience store. Seventeen-year-old Camryn Wilkins, of Independence, is accused of killing Jason Juszczyk outside a Truman Mart gas station on Sunday. KSBH-TV reports witnesses told investigators the two men got into an argument before Juszczyk pulled out a gun and shot Wilkins. Wilkins surrendered Tuesday to Jackson County authorities.


Small Plane Makes Emergency Landing on I-470 in Kansas City

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A small plane was forced to land on an interstate in suburban Kansas City Tuesday afternoon when one of the plane's two engines apparently failed, authorities said.  The pilot was the only one on board and was not injured when the plane landed on eastbound 470 in Lee's Summit, police said. The plane hit a few signs while landing but no other serious damage was reported.  Police said the plane is a twin-engine Bonanza based at Lee's Summit Municipal Airport.  The Missouri State Highway Patrol said on Twitter that the pilot was making his final approach to the Lee's Summit airport when the engine failed.  The interstate was expected to be closed for two to three hours while the airplane is removed.


Kansas Reports More than 8,500 COVID-19 Cases, Including 178 Deaths 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — As of Wednesday morning, state health officials reported 8,539 cases of COVID-19, including 178 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.)  


Lawsuit Filed Against Prairie Village 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 was filed Monday on behalf of the family of Gordan Grohman.  It alleges that the staff at Brighton Gardens in Prairie Village failed to separate residents with COVID-19 symptoms from those without the virus. Grohman died May 1.  It’s the first such lawsuit against the facility, where there have been 76 positive cases and 14 deaths.


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.


Missouri Lawsuit for Absentee Voting Amid Virus Appealed

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights groups are appealing to the Missouri Supreme Court to allow all Missourians to vote absentee in upcoming elections because of the coronavirus. Attorneys for groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Missouri NAACP filed an appeal Tuesday. A circuit judge on Monday dismissed their lawsuit. Judge Jon Beetem wrote that the groups asked for absentee voting in all future elections, regardless of whether COVID-19 is still around. Voters currently can request absentee ballots only if they provide an excuse for why they can’t vote in person. Illness is one option.


Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall Using Malaria Drug to Ward off Virus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas congressman who is also a doctor says he is taking the malaria drug that President Trump has touted as a possible treatment for the coronavirus. Republican Representative Roger Marshall says he doesn't have COVID-19 but he's been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure.  A spokesman for Marshall, who is running for the U.S. Senate, told The Kansas City Star that the doctor's parents, siblings and wife also are taking the drug. Trump said Monday that he's also taking the drug to protect himself.  Some health officials have questioned the drug's usefulness against COVID-19 and warned that it could cause significant side effects.  Hydroxychloroquine has been used to treat malaria since the 1960s.  More recently, it's been used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.      


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 Governor 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 lawmakers are irked because they still see Kelly's 2018 election as a fluke.


Mask Use Divides Kansas Lawmakers as They Prepare to Meet in Topeka

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are divided on the importance of masks as they get ready for the final day of the session, generating concerns that the gathering could fuel a coronavirus outbreak in the Legislature. Republican Representative 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.”


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.)


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.


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.


3 Men Charged with Federal Hunting Violations at Fort Riley

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged three men with violating federal laws by hunting deer at Fort Riley in an area where explosives are discharged. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release Wednesday that the men violated the hunting laws several times since 2015 by disregarding off-limit areas on the base. The charges are misdemeanors. McAllister says the men would enter the base before daylight and leave after dark. Investigators recovered deer mounts, antlers, phone data and equipment allegedly used to harvest eight whitetail deer. The suspects are two men from Wamego and another from Watertown, New York.


U.S. Farmers Leaning More Heavily on Government Loan Programs

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — U.S. farmers leaned more heavily upon the federal government last year to finance their agricultural operations amid low commodity prices and trade disputes. And more of the money they borrowed is now delinquent. The Agriculture Department said it has not seen significant change in loan delinquency rates because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it does expect an impact if the the economic fallout continues. Farm foreclosures have not increased. The department is taking a number of measures to help borrowers, including extending repayments for operating loans. The department says it also temporarily suspended loan accelerations and non-judicial foreclosures.


Police: Body of Man Found in Kansas City, Kansas, Creek Bed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating the death of a man whose body was found in a creek bed over the weekend.  The body was found late Sunday morning, police said. Officers discovered the body after being called to the area by someone who thought they had spotted a human body in the creek. Officials have not yet released the man’s identity, and police continue to investigate his cause of death.


Riley County Officials Find About 30 Dogs in Man's Home

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County officials say they are working with a man who had about 30 terrier-mix dogs living in his home. The dogs were discovered Monday at a home in Randolph. Although the home was unsanitary, authorities said the man cared for the dogs but had become overwhelmed. He was not intentionally breeding the dogs, who were in generally good condition. The area animal shelter is awaiting guidance from the state and working with the dogs' owner to determine a plan to care for them. The man was not cited.


Three People Injured in Kansas City, Missouri Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a shooting Wednesday that injured three people in the Westport bar and entertainment district in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports none of the injuries are considered to be life-threatening. Police dispatch said the call came in after 3 p.m. Officers responded to multiple crime scenes in connection to the shooting in the Westport area. No further details were immediately available. 


May 20th Marks Odd Tornado Anniversary for Small Rooks County Town

LAWRENCE, Kan.  (KPR) — Today (WED) marks an odd anniversary for the small western Kansas town of Codell.  The community north of Hays was hit by a tornado, on the same date, for three consecutive years.  On May 20th, 1916, the Rooks County town was hit by an F2 tornado.  On the same date the following year, an even stronger tornado - an F3 - came through Codell.  And then, on May 20, 1918, the town was hit for the third year in a row, this time by an F4 tornado, which destroyed much of the town. About 100,000 thunderstorms develop across the United States each year and most don't produce tornadoes, making the odds exceedingly small that this exact weather coincidence will ever happen again.


Missouri Court Records: Man Shot by Belton Police Threatened to Kill Mom

BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Court documents indicate a 54-year-old man who was shot by Belton police over the weekend had threatened to kill his mother. Cass County prosecutors say police shot William Mallow early Sunday when he advanced on them with a machete. Mallow is charged with two counts of first-degree assault or attempted assault. Court documents indicated Mallow called police to say he was going to kill his mother but when officers arrived the woman was safe inside. Two officers went inside and confronted Mallow, who allegedly ignored commands to drop the machete and advanced toward the officers. Mallow was seriously injured and remained hospitalized Tuesday.


KSU Graduate Tapped for MSSU Job in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Southern State University in Joplin has chosen its new president. The university's board selected Dean Van Galen Monday to become the school's sixth president, beginning July 1. Van Galen most recently served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He also taught and was an administrator at Truman State University in Kirksville and the University of West Florida. Van Galen earned a doctorate at Kansas State University. His base salary will be $270,000, with other allowances. He succeeds Alan Marble, who is retiring. 


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.


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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