Hospitals Raise Morgue Capacity Concerns; Schools Close
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Nursing homes are facing COVID-19 outbreaks, schools are closing and hospitals in the Kansas City area are seeing so many deaths that they are raising alarms about morgue capacity. The problems come as Kansas yet again shattered its record for new confirmed and probable cases. The state reported an average of 7,887 new cases a day for the seven days ending Friday -- nearly triple what had been the biggest peak in November 2020. While the omicron variant is less deadly, hospitalizations are approaching the previous high from December 2020, new state data shows.
More Kansas Districts Close, Warn Parents to Prepare
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP/KC Star) — More Kansas districts are closing and warning of potential closure as the COVID-19 outbreak sickens staff. The Eudora districts pulled the plug on classed Friday because of a lack of substitutes and increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. The Kansas City Star reports that the De Soto school district in Johnson County also canceled classes Friday. In addition, the Bonner Springs / Edwardsville school district called off classes Thursday and Friday. The Kansas City, Kansas, district has warned parents to start preparing for school closures and said buses would be 15 to 20 minutes late Friday because of staff shortages. Earlier this week, the Wichita district, which is the state's largest, warned that school closures might be necessary. The staffing shortages are so severe that the state announced this week that substitute teachers in Kansas will not be required to have college credit hours.
Wichita Schools Warn of Potential Closures Amid COVID Spike
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school district is warning parents that temporary school closures may be necessary because so many teachers are out sick amid a rise in COVID-19 cases. The Wichita Eagle reports that Superintendent Alicia Thompson told parents in an email that the district hopes to give parents two to three days’ notice before closing schools, but she couldn’t promise decisions won’t be made more quickly. The Bonner Springs and El Dorado districts already have canceled classes. And The Manhattan Mercury reports that the Rock Creek district in Pottawatomie County said an elementary and middle school were closed Thursday and Friday because of staffing issues. The DeSoto, Eudora and Manhattan-Ogden districts were set to be closed Friday, The Kansas City Star reported.
Missouri Board of Education Keeps 36-Hour Virtual Learning Rule Intact
NORMANDY, Mo. (AP) — Some Missouri schools facing staffing and student absences because of COVID-19 are facing difficult decisions because state law limits virtual instruction to 36 hours per school year. The state loosened the 36-hour rule during the last school year but it is in force again this school year. School districts that close because of high absences and also hit the 36-hour virtual learning limit might have to extend the school year to meet a state requirement to provide 1,044 hours of instruction each year. The State Board of Education heard a presentation Tuesday about the problem but decided to keep the 36-hour limit on virtual learning.
Body Discovered at Kansas City Homeless Encampment Fire Which Closed Part of I-70
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - A body was found early Thursday in a fire at a homeless encampment near Interstate 70 and Truman Road. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Fire Department was called around 6 a.m. Crews responded to the blaze near Indiana Avenue and Truman Road, under an I-70 bridge where a homeless encampment had been established. Firefighters found heavy smoke and flames, which were extinguished. As they began investigating, crews uncovered a body. The Kansas City Police Department was called to the scene. Police later said the victim was an adult and that no foul was immediately suspected. The Missouri Department of Transportation was sent to the interstate to check the structural integrity of the westbound lanes of the bridge. Around 4 p.m. Thursday, the agency said the westbound lanes would remain closed until further notice and to expect delays in the area. (Read more.)
Kansas Governor Proposes to Set Aside $600 Million, Spend Reserves
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has proposed that Kansas put $600 million of its surplus revenue into a rainy day fund and spend nearly $1.8 billion of the excess revenue on a long list of projects. Parts of Kelly’s proposed spending blueprint for state government through June 2023 are likely to meet strong resistance from the Republican-controlled Legislature. It assumes that Kansas will expand its Medicaid coverage, which GOP lawmakers have repeatedly blocked, and give a one-time $250 income tax rebate to residents who filed state income tax returns last year. Before Kelly’s budget director outlined her proposals to a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees Wednesday, Republicans suggested that the state’s good economic fortunes could sour quickly.
Kansas Reduces Requirements for Substitute Teachers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are temporarily reducing requirements for substitute teachers. The Kansas State Board of Education said its action Wednesday was designed to keep schools open during a worsening staff shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration removes a requirement that those seeking an emergency substitute license have a minimum of 60 semester credit hours from a regionally accredited college or university. The changes will be in force only until June 1, when the more stringent requirements will return. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said during the state board meeting that he knew of four school districts considering closing because they don't have enough staff.
Girl Dies, 2 Adults Hospitalized After Kansas City Fire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a young girl died and two adults were critically injured in a Kansas City house fire. The Kansas City Fire Department says crews responded early Thursday to the scene. They found a man and woman outside the home suffering from burns. Inside firefighters found the badly burned girl. All three victims were rushed to the hospital, where the girl was pronounced dead and the two adults are listed in critical condition. The girl’s name wasn’t immediately released. Firefighters said only that she was younger than 10. The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but firefighters said foul play isn’t suspected at this time.
Officers Find Dead Woman in Car Near Emporia; Person in Custody
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Lyon County authorities say a person is in custody after deputies found a dead woman inside a vehicle near Emporia. The sheriff's office says deputies were alerted Wednesday night to check on the welfare of two adults and two children inside a vehicle. Deputies stopped the car on U.S. 50 west of Emporia. Sergeant Doug Stump says when the driver got out, deputies heard a sound from inside the car and found a deceased woman. Authorities later said the woman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Stump says the driver was arrested for charges not related to the woman's death. The two children are in protective custody.
Manhattan Man Found Guilty in Robbery-Related Killing
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Manhattan man has been convicted of first-degree murder in a fatal shooting during an attempted robbery. A Riley County jury also found Richard Goens guilty Wednesday of five other counts stemming from the November 2019 death of 24-year-old Tanner Zamecnik, of Manhattan. Prosecutors argued that Goens shot Zamecnik while he and three others were robbing him of drugs and cash. They said the suspects met Zamecnik after saying they wanted to buy marijuana from him. Goens will be sentenced March 3. Two of the other suspects pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The fourth man awaits trial on a first-degree murder charge.
Army Offers Reward in Fort Riley Woman's Killing Last Fall
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the death of a Fort Riley woman last fall. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division is seeking information in the death of 22-year-old Enfinnity Hayes. The Geary County Sheriff's Office says Hayes and her husband were at a Milford State Park Shelter on October 3 when a man tried to rob them. The man shot Hayes. Her husband drove her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
License Suspended for Wichita Doctor over Prescription Practices
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state board that oversees doctors has suspended the medical license of a Wichita physician, alleging that he wrote prescriptions for people he hadn't spoken to or examined. The Wichita Eagle reports that suspension order says that Chad Sharp's employer had unlicensed employees call people last year and ask if if they were suffering from "chronic ailments." These calls were recorded and then sent to Sharp, who was paid for each person whose information he reviewed. The order states that he then would prescribe a cream or ointment that was billed to the person's insurance.
29 Charged in 6-State Shoplifting Ring that Hit Pharmacies
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Authorities have arrested more than two dozen people for allegedly taking part in a multistate shoplifting ring involving more than $10 million in stolen merchandise. U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson in Tulsa and Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor announced state and federal charges Thursday against 29 defendants, including 25 who have been arrested. Prosecutors say the defendants took part in a crime ring that stole mostly over-the-counter medications from pharmacies and other retailers in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Ringleaders would then arrange for the sale of the items on e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay. The Tulsa Police Department launched the investigation in 2019.
Missouri Supreme Court Remands 3 Cases Using Video Testimony
UNDATED, (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has vacated three convictions in separate cases that involved video participation in the trials, which have been used more extensively during the coronavirus pandemic. One of the cases involved an adult male who was convicted in St. Louis Circuit Court of statutory rape. Two of the cases involved juveniles in Jackson County. One objected to not being allowed to appear in person at his adjudication hearing and the other objected to witnesses being allowed to testify via video. The court said it could not rule that video participation in trials satisfies the defendants' constitutional right to confront their accusers in person.
GOP Governors Slam COVID Limits While Setting Policy Agendas
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Republican governors are highlighting their opposition to restrictions that have marked the COVID-19 pandemic even as they seek to move past it and set their agendas for the year. The state of the state addresses governors are delivering to kick off their state's legislative agendas are occurring as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge to their highest levels since the pandemic began. Republicans are using the speeches to rail against the Biden administration's response and to tout their opposition to lockdowns, mandates and other restrictions. The rhetoric contrasts with some Democrats who are seeking an infusion of money to respond to the latest surge.
These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 a.m. weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!