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Headlines for Monday, June 29, 2020


Merck Announces $100 Million Investment in Company Facilities in DeSoto, Kansas

DESOTO, Kan. (KPR) – Merck Animal Health, a division of Merck & Company, will invest $100 million to expand its manufacturing facilities in DeSoto.  According to a news release from the Kansas Department of Commerce, the investments include a technological expansion of the vaccine production facility, which will come on line this year.  An additional investment of $66 million will provide for added enhancement capabilities to be realized over the coming years.  The  DeSoto site develops and manufactures a broad portfolio of vaccines for Swine, Cattle and Equine with key technologies in research and development, manufacturing and quality operations. Particularly, the site houses large-scale fermentation and cell culture, blending and filling operations and packaging.  Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said, “Merck Animal Health continues to be a strong source of innovation and growth in Kansas and are a leading force in vaccine production and research in the Animal Health Corridor.”


KDHE Reports Over 14,000 Cases of COVID-19, Including 270 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas has recorded 14,443 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.  That number includes 270 deaths. State health officials released those numbers Monday. New data will be released Wednesday.  Cases have been reported in 97 of the state's 105 counties. 

( The Kansas Department of Health and Environment releases new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)

- Related -

Kansas Governor Mandates Statewide Use of Masks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is mandating that people wear masks in public starting Friday to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The Democratic governor said her administration will issue specific guidance later this week and will work with the state attorney general’s office to implement the policy. Local officials would enforce the policy. Kansas health officials reported on Monday at least 14,443 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of 905 since Friday. Kelly said evidence shows mask wearing is safe and necessary to avoid another shutdown.  Learn more about Governor Kelly's executive order from the Kansas News Service and Kansas Public Radio here. 

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department Announces Mandatory Mask Order 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Douglas County Local Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino announced today (MON) that people will be required to wear masks in all Douglas County indoor public spaces where six feet of separation is not possible. That includes businesses, workplaces, and public facilities such as community centers or libraries. The order takes effect at 12:01 am on Wednesday, July 1. Marcellino said in a press release that the order was prompted by a steady increase of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, including more than 30 new cases over the past weekend. Douglas County includes the cities of Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City, Lecompton, and VInland. 

To see the complete order, click here: Mask Order from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department
To request a cloth mask for personal use for you and your family members, click here: United Way of Douglas County Mask Program

Rural Areas See Increase in Coronavirus Cases

UNDATED (AP) - For many states and counties in the U.S., the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic in April unfolded on their television screens, not on their doorsteps. But now, some places that appeared to have avoided the worst are seeing surges of infections, as worries shift from major cities to rural areas. Much of the focus of concerns that the United States is entering a dangerous new phase has been on big Sunbelt states that are reporting thousands of new cases a day. But the worrying trend is also happening in places like Kansas. In early June, Kansas looked to be bringing its outbreak under control, but its daily reported case numbers have more than doubled in recent weeks.

Virus Cases Jump in Branson Area After Tourists Return

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — A jump in coronavirus cases after many businesses in the Branson area reopened to tourists has health officials concerned. The Taney County Health Department urged people to wear masks in public after reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday. The county’s virus cases jumped to 54 from 15 over the past two weeks, and that total doesn’t include visitors to the area who test positive but are counted in their home counties. Many of Branson’s businesses have reopened for tourism, including miniature golf courses, shops and restaurants. Many entertainers have returned to their stages around Branson as well.

Kansas City, Kansas, Makes Masks Mandatory Starting Tuesday

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Another Kansas City area community is making masks mandatory amid a surge of coronavirus cases. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, announced Saturday in a tweet that a requirement that masks be worn in public will go into effect at 5 pm Tuesday. The community made the announcement one day after Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said that people must wear masks inside businesses and other public places there starting today (MON).  The number of confirmed conornavirus cases in Wyandotte County rose Friday to 2,108, up 12% from one week earlier. Its one of the hardest hit counties in the state, which is now recording more than 13,500 cases and 264 deaths.


Kansas City Mayor Called Racist Slur After Requiring Masks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City’s Black mayor says he was called a racist slur and told he should “swing from a tree” after he announced mandatory face masks in the Missouri city. Mayor Quinton Lucas on Monday shared a screenshot of the texts on Twitter. The exchange comes after Lucas said masks are mandatory in Kansas City when 6 feet of separation isn’t feasible. It’s unclear if police are investigating the texts to the mayor as a threat. An Associated Press request for comment to a Kansas City police spokesman wasn’t immediately returned Monday. 


Man Charged in Bridge Shooting Fired with Handgun, AR-15

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Court records say a Kansas City-area man charged with randomly shooting into traffic last month on a bridge that connects Kansas and Missouri fired 15 rounds from a handgun before retrieving an AR-15-style rifle from his car and shooting at least 23 more rounds. The Kansas City Star reports that a criminal affidavit released Friday in the case against 37-year-old Joseph Westrem describes the May 27 shooting that ended with a Fort Leavenworth soldier hitting Westrem with his truck to stop him. One person was taken to the hospital after being struck with gunfire.


Las Vegas Hitman Gets Nearly 70 Years in Kansas Murder Plot Foiled by Wrong Ammo

WICHITA, Kan. (Wichita Eagle) - A Las Vegas hitman, whose plan to kill two Wichita men was botched when his handgun misfired, has been ordered to spend nearly 70 years in prison.  That's according to a news release from the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the hitman's gun misfired because it was loaded with the wrong ammunition.  Prosecutors say Cardell Turner, 52, drove up next to two men on a residential street in south Wichita on August 14, 2018, pointed a handgun at them and pulled the trigger several times. But the gun didn't go off because it was full of the wrong ammo, foiling the murder attempt.  Turner, who lived in Las Vegas, was hired by another man to travel to Kansas to kill someone who lived on the street where the attempt took place, according to evidence presented at his trial last summer.  A jury convicted Turner of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder last year.  Last week, he was sentenced to 837 months in prison — 69 3/4 years — by District Judge Bruce Brown.  The man who allegedly hired Turner to carry out the killings is currently imprisoned in another state, the DA's Office said.


Ruling: Civil Case Against Topeka Police Officer Can Proceed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal appeals court upheld Monday a lower court's decision not to grant qualified immunity to a Topeka police officer accused of using excessive force against a handcuffed Black man. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal from police officer Christopher Janes that had sought to dismiss the civil lawsuit brought by Timothy Harris against him and the city of Topeka. The three-judge appeals panel ruled that a reasonable jury could find that Harris, once handcuffed and walking to the patrol car, did not present an immediate threat. The decision sends the case back for trial. 


Police: Man in His 40s Fatally Shot in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been fatally shot in Kansas City, Kansas. Police spokesman Officer Dustin Dierenfeldt says officers responded around 9:20 pm Sunday to the scene. The Kansas City Star reports that a man in his 40s was declared dead at the scene. No suspect was publicly identified as of Monday morning.


Body Recovered After Search for Missing Swimmer at Lake in South Central Kansas

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have found the body of a missing swimmer in a lake in south central Kansas. A spokesman for the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said the body was found around 1:20 am Sunday at Lake Afton. The search began Saturday afternoon at the 258-acre, man-made, recreational lake in an area of Sedgwick County west of Wichita. The name of the victim has not been released.


Feds Cite Textron Aviation for 2019 Explosion at Kansas Site

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have cited aircraft maker Textron Aviation for a December 2019 explosion that injured 15 workers at a Wichita manufacturing plant. KWCH-TV reports the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Textron had a serious violation when it failed to protect employees at the facility. The agency has proposed a $13,494 penalty for the violation. The aviation manufacturer must also develop and implement measures to “effectively control, discover, maintain and repair pressure vessels.


Farm Issues Key in Kansas 1st District GOP Congressional Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A commercial real estate broker from Salina and an eye surgeon from Finney County are trying to draw attention to themselves ahead of an August Republican primary for the 1st District congressional seat that's likely to decide the election. Former Kansas Lt. Governor Tracey Mann and Finney County commissioner Bill Clifford are anti-abortion, pro-gun and plan to support President Donald Trump's policies. Mann has name recognition from his 11 months as lieutenant governor in former Governor Jeff Colyer's administration. Clifford has contributed to his own campaign in an attempt to gain name recognition.


K-State Football Players Announce Boycott Following Student's Tweet About George Floyd

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State football players say they will boycott all team activities until administrators create a policy that would allow a student to be expelled for "openly racist, threatening or disrespectful actions." The move that most players announced Saturday on social media follows a tweet by a student about the death of George Floyd that prompted outrage on campus. The tweet from Jaden McNeil mocked Floyd's death. McNeil is the founder of a conservative group called America First Students and has been criticized for his past comments on the Black Lives Matter movement. University officials have said they are exploring their options for action.


Longtime Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder Says He Enjoys Retirement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Legendary former Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder says he misses being on the field but has no interest in returning to the sidelines more than 18 months after wrapping up a Hall of Fame career. Snyder stepped away in 2018 after 27 seasons on the sidelines that included winning 215 games, reaching 19 bowls and claiming a pair of Big 12 titles. He says he's now mostly at home spending time with his wife and family. Snyder noted that when he first retired in 2005, it took him about half a year to adjust to the new role, but it's never bothered him since.


Testing to Determine Whether Kansas Carp are Dying of Herpes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State wildlife and parks staff are collecting and testing samples from fish carcasses to determine whether a koi herpes virus is behind fish kills in at least two Kansas lakes. Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, staff say they have confirmed die-offs at Pomona Reservoir in Osage County and Hillsdale Reservoir in Miami County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that common carp are the only species that appear to be affected, leading staff to belief that the koi herpes virus is the cause. The virus has no effect on other species, including humans.


K-State Researchers Get $1 Million to Improve Wheat Diversity

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University wheat geneticist will get nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research designed to improve the genetic diversity of wheat. The Hutchinson News reports the research will focus on studying and cultivating a genetic species of wheat that can withstand drought, heat and viruses. Wheat geneticist and professor of plant pathology Jesse Poland is part of two grants that focus on bringing wild native plants together with wheat to create better seed. Poland estimates that each project might take from six years to more than 10 years.


Police: Pedestrian Hit by Train in Winfield

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities said pedestrian was hospitalized after she was hit by a train in Winfield. The Wichita Eagle the female pedestrian was taken to Wesley Medical Center in critical condition. Her age and city of residence were not released. Police said she was on or near the railroad tracks when she was struck by a BNSF Railway locomotive shortly before 9:30 a.m. Monday. No one else was injured in the incident, and police said no further information would be released at this time.


Kansas Man Gets Probation in Crash that Killed 4 Motorcyclists

OGALLALA, Neb. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to four years of probation in a Nebraska crash that killed four Iowa motorcyclists. The Kearney Hub reports that Jeser Cisneros-Hernandez, 24, of Liberal, Kansas, also was ordered Friday to serve 400 hours of community service. He pleaded no contest in February to reckless and willful vehicular homicide. Prosecutors dropped three more counts and two other charges in return for his pleas. Prosecutors say his vehicle hit two motorcycles carrying two people each on July 1, 2017, near Ogallala.


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.