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Headlines for Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 

Kansas Governor Unveils COVID-19 Testing Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has announced details of a statewide plan to rapidly increase the number of coronavirus tests in the state. The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases are surging across Kansas.  Kelly plans on using federal coronavirus relief dollars to double the state’s testing capacity. That could mean 400,000 additional tests by the end of the year. The governor says that will let Kansas do more screening tests at schools and high-risk locations like nursing homes.  “This is especially important for populations at high risk but also for businesses across the state worried about keeping their workforces safe and their doors open,” Kelly said.  Kansas reported hundreds more cases between Monday and Wednesday than it saw in the same three-day period last week.  The highest rates of infection now mostly come from rural counties and western Kansas.

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UPDATE: Kansas Reports More than 82,045 COVID-19 Cases, Including 1,007 Virus-Related Deaths 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the state has now recorded more than 82,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.  Kansas has also surpassed 1,000 virus-related deaths.  KDHE released the latest numbers today (WED), reporting 82,045 cases of COVID-19, which includes 1,007 deaths.  This marks an increase of 3,369 coronavirus cases and 31 deaths since Monday.  The next online update of COVID-19 cases will be released Friday afternoon.

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Regulators Suspend Missouri Nursing Home COVID-19 Test Lab

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) _ The federal government has closed a coronavirus testing lab in Missouri over concerns about test accuracy. Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suspended Gamma Healthcare's Poplar Bluff license, and a federal judge ruled today (WED) that he won't step in to keep the lab open.  The Poplar Bluff lab tested for coronavirus at around 2,500 nursing homes in 11 states, including Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.  Other states include Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.  Health officials say two testing machines at the lab operated for months producing false-negatives on over a quarter of known-positive COVID-19 samples. Lawyers for the lab say it's fixed the issues and should be allowed to stay open.

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Prisoner Dies from COVID-19 at Hutchinson Correctional Facility 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A 66-year-old man serving a sentence at the state prison in Hutchinson has died from COVID-19, making this the seventh COVID-related death among Kansas inmates. The Department of Corrections said the family of the inmate who died requested his name not be released. He tested positive for the coronavirus on October 13 and was transferred to a hospital October 16. The department says he had underlying health conditions that made his illness worse. As of last week, the Hutchinson Correctional Facility recorded 250 cases of coronavirus among inmates, which currently houses 1,700 men. Throughout the pandemic, more than 700 inmates at Hutchinson have tested positive. Three prison staff members and six other inmates throughout the state have also died of virus-related illnesses. 

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Kansas Governor, Top Lawmakers Agree: No Mandatory Mask Rule 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Laura Kelly and top Republican lawmakers have agreed to encourage Kansas counties to adopt local mask mandates rather than consider a statewide mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Kelly had a private Zoom meeting with eight leaders of the Legislature and discussed increasing mask use to curb the spread of COVID-19. Kelly issued a statewide mask mandate July 2, but a state law enacted the month before allowed the state's 105 counties to opt out, and most did. Kelly said the group agreed on "a bipartisan outreach strategy." 

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Lyons Man Charged in Shooting of Police Officer, Teacher

LYONS, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas man accused of shooting a police officer and a high school teacher has been charged with attempted capital murder. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says 40-year-old Adam Hrabik, of Lyons, was charged in the October 19 shooting of Lyons police Sgt. Cory Ryan, who suffered serious injuries.  He was also charged with aggravated assault after high school teacher Brian Friess was caught in the crossfire and seriously injured. The suspect ran into a home after the shooting and was arrested after a long standoff with police.

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60 People Charged in $300 Million Phone Scam Targeting Elderly Victims

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Sixty people have been charged in a widespread magazine telemarketing scam that authorities say netted $300 million from more than 150,000 elderly and vulnerable people nationwide.  Minnesota's U.S. Attorney (Erica MacDonald) announced the charges today (WED), calling it the largest elder fraud scheme in the country.  The defendants are from 14 states and two Canadian provinces.  Prosecutors say that during the last 20 years, the defendants used a network of fake magazine sales companies and telemarketing call centers to trick people into making large or repeat payments.  Prosecutors say the companies operated in Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota and 10 other states (Iowa, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, California, Illinois, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Arkansas.)

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Kansas Man Faces Capital Murder Charge in Death of Two Sons

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - A northeast Kansas man will face a capital murder charge in the death of his two sons, whose bodies were found in their Leavenworth home Saturday. Donny Ray Jackson Jr. has also been charged with two alternative counts of first-degree murder. Investigators allege the 40-year-old Jackson killed his 14-year-old son Logan and 12-year-old son Austin and then took their younger sisters from the home.  Jackson was stopped and arrested Saturday night in Oklahoma and the girls were found safe.  Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson would not discuss a possible motive, or how the boys were killed. Jackson remains jailed in Oklahoma awaiting extradition proceedings.

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Haskell University President Accused of Violating Student's Free Speech Rights

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A free speech organization is accusing the president of Haskell Indian Nations University of violating the First Amendment rights of a student journalist.  The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education, which goes by the name FIRE, says it obtained a letter from the university that threatens disciplinary action against the editor of the student paper.  In the letter, Haskell president Ronald Graham says Jared Nally, editor of The Indian Leader student newspaper, acted inappropriately by requesting information from the Lawrence Police Department about a university employee's death. Graham also accused the student of verbally attacking university employees in letters and at public forums. FIRE says it filed a complaint with the Department of the Interior over the letter, calling it unconstitutional. Haskell has not responded to requests for comment.  

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Leaders in Wichita Chastise 3 over Plot to Smear Mayor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Elected officeholders in Wichita are formally chastising three GOP officials over a plot to smear the Democratic mayor of Wichita and then try to shift the blame to a local Republican Party chairman. The controversy stems from an ad published on YouTube during last year's mayoral election. The Sedgwick County Commission passed a resolution Wednesday censuring Commissioner Michael O'Donnell and formally requesting his resignation. Separately, the Wichita City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday saying Councilman James Clendenin had violated the city's code of ethics. The council also condemned O'Donnell and state Rep. Michael Capps.

Earlier reporting...

GOP Leaders Want Three Officials to Resign over False Ad Plot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A growing number of GOP leaders in Kansas are calling for the resignation of three elected officials who were recorded planning a cover-up of their role in a plot to smear the Democratic mayor of Wichita, the state's largest city.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the controversy stems from an ad that falsely suggested Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was accused of sexual harassment when he served in the state legislature.  The ad was published on YouTube during the mayoral election last year.  Following the release of a pair of recordings about the plot, Republican Congressman Ron Estes joined the growing call for Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell to resign.  A growing number of Republican leaders are also calling for Wichita City Council member James Clendenin and state Representative Michael Capps to resign.

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Man Charged with Mayor Threat Had Been Texting Wichita City Councilman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court documents say a retired firefighter who is charged with threatening to kidnap and kill the mayor of Wichita because he was upset about the city's mask ordinance had been texting an acquaintance on the city council for more than a month before his arrest. The Wichita Eagle reports that the document were released Tuesday in the case against 59-year-old Meredith Dowty, who was charged last week with three counts of criminal threat. They say Wichita City Council member James Clendenin started receiving texts from Dowty on September 9.  But he said he didn't feel the conversation went beyond "venting" until October 16, when Dowty allegedly wrote that the "Mayor and all those who bankrupt us" are "viable targets for elimination."

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Suspect Shot During East Wichita Police Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say officers have shot and wounded a man in an exchange of gunfire while attempting to arrest him because he is suspected of firing at an officer from a nearby town last week. Police said in a tweet that the suspect fled Tuesday night before coming to a stop and firing at officers. The officers returned fire, striking the man. He was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. No one else was in the car with the suspect, and no officers were injured. Police described the man as a "violent felon" and said he is suspected of shooting a Mulvane police officer during a vehicle pursuit.

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Roger Marshall Campaign Staffer Contracts COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -  A member of Republican Congressman Roger Marshall’s Senate campaign team has contracted the coronavirus.  The campaign's chief of staff, Brent Robertson, says the staffer was on the Kansas Republican Party bus tour in the Kansas City area, but was exposed at a non-political event.  Marshall has not had contact with the staffer since the exposure, and his campaign says Marshall is regularly tested.  With a week left before the election, Marshall and Democratic state Senator Barbara Bollier’s race has tightened, with last week’s Siena/New York Times poll showing Marshall up by 4 percentage points.

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Kansas City Sees Record Virus Deaths; St. Louis Hospitals Filling Up

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients at an alarming rate, and experts say many of those patients are coming in from other areas of the state.  Meanwhile, the Kansas City area over the past week recorded its highest number of deaths over a one-week period, with more than 80 people dying from COVID-19. Missouri is among several states across the U.S. seeing a spike in confirmed cases and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus. The state health department on Tuesday announced 1,695 additional confirmed cases and 28 more deaths. Missouri has reported 172,717 cases and 2,838 deaths since the pandemic began.  

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Topeka Long-Term Care Facility Hit with Virus Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Nursing homes are facing an increasing strain combating the coronvirus as cases rise statewide and residents and families grow distressed about limits on visits. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that one of the latest outbreaks has infected 12 residents and employees at the Topeka Presbyterian Manor. The facility says none of them are experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports 250 clusters associated with long-term care facilities, accounting for more than 3,800 cases of COVID-19.

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Kansas Voters Will Elect Two Board of Education Members in November

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans are electing two state Board of Education members this fall. The panel has gained attention amid the coronavirus pandemic for its decision not to mandate a delay in the start of school. Democrat Melanie Haas is running against Republican former state legislator Benjamin Hodge for an open seat representing northern Johnson County. Republican incumbent Kathy Busch and Democrat Betty Arnold are running for the board seat representing Wichita, home to the state’s largest school district.

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Icy Weather Causes Massive Power Outages in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - More than 300,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma are without electricity because of an early season ice storm. An ice storm warning is in effect until 1 p.m. Wednesday for parts of the state, including Oklahoma City. The National Weather Service said some areas near and southwest of Oklahoma City could see up to a half-inch of ice, causing widespread tree damage and power outages. Snow, sleet and freezing rain were also reported Tuesday in parts of the Texas Panhandle. A winter weather advisory was also issued for parts of Kansas, where a Monday night fatal crash was blamed on the snowy, icy conditions

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Activists Again Call for Kansas City Police Chief's Ouster

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The civilian board that oversees the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department went into a closed session after civil rights activists repeatedly called for a public vote on whether to fire the city's police chief. The disruption of Tuesday's meeting was the latest salvo in a months-long effort by civil rights activists to force Chief Rick Smith to resign or be fired over the police department's handling of excessive force complaints and fatal shootings of Black men by officers. Several civil rights activists spoke out against Smith during the meeting. Smith has been under fire for months amid complaints about the department's handling of excessive force complaints. 

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Suspected Robber Picked Wrong Victim: Judo Champion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City, Missouri, police say a would-be robber is in custody after picking the wrong guy to victimize _ a Judo champion. WDAF-TV reports that 36-year-old Josh Henges was in the Midtown area Monday night when someone came up from behind, grabbed his shoulder and tried to rob him. Henges is a former member of the national Judo team. Henges turned to see a gun pointed directly at him. He took the suspect to the ground and called police. Henges says he forgives the 20-year-old suspect. The suspect faces one count of attempted robbery. The gun turned out to be a BB gun. 

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Ex-KU Player de Sousa Charged in New Year's Day Battery

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Former Kansas forward Silvio de Sousa has been charged in a New Year's Day altercation a little more than a week after announcing this month that he was opting out of the upcoming season. The Kansas City Star reports that an assistant in the Douglas County District Attorney's office said that although the felony count of aggravated battery wasn't filed until Monday, the case was ``reviewed promptly upon receipt.'' The assistant said the district attorney's office received an affidavit and reports from Lawrence police on Sept. 30 and an updated affidavit on Oct. 16. No attorney for De Sousa was listed in court records, and he could not be reached for comment.

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Kansas City Officials Work to Lure Toronto Raptors Raptors 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS) _ Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors may be looking for a temporary home within the U.S. this season, and Kansas City has formally reached out. In a letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, co-signed by Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and U.S. Senators Roy Blunt, Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, Kansas City’s selling points are outlined.  It’s not unprecedented for an NBA team to temporarily move to another city because of a catastrophic situation. Oklahoma City served as the temporary home for the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.  The Raptors, with former Wichita State guard Fred Van Vleet as one of its stars, won the NBA championship last year.

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