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Headlines for Friday, November 20, 2020

 

Kansas COVID-19 Cases Approaching 135,000; More than 1,400 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 134,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 1,400 virus-related deaths.  The state health department reported Friday that Kansas had identified 134,533 coronavirus cases and 1,410 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 5,939 cases and 84 deaths since Wednesday.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases will be released Monday.

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Kansas Hospitals Buckle, Schools Pull Back Amid Virus Surge

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Hospitals across Kansas are buckling as coronavirus cases swell, leading many schools to scale back in-person learning and one county to intensify plans for a possible field hospital. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment added 5,939 cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Wednesday, bringing the total to 134,533. That brought the state’s seven-day average of new cases to 2,718, just shy of the record but nearly four times higher than it was a month ago. The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 84 to 1,410. Gov. Laura Kelly told local officials and legislators during a call Friday that health care workers are burned out.

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Movie Theaters Among Businesses to Get Kansas Relief Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is including movie theaters among the businesses to receive aid as the state gets close to wrapping up its distribution of federal coronavirus relief funds. Legislative leaders signed off Friday on a proposal from Gov. Laura Kelly's pandemic recovery office to allocate $38.5 million in federal relief funds. The state received $1.25 billion and must spend the dollars by the end of the year. The proposal called for distributing $20 million for aid to businesses that have struggled because of restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic and spending $18.5 million on public health. The funds for businesses include $5 million specifically for movie theaters.

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CDC Pleads with Americans to Not Travel for Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s top public health agency is pleading with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, or to spend the holiday with people with whom they are not currently living. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the recommendations Thursday, one week before the traditional family gathering celebration. The pleas came at a time when diagnosed coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are skyrocketing across the U.S.  If families decide to include returning college students, military service members, or others, the CDC recommends that host families take precautions. Gatherings should be outdoor if possible, with people staying 6 feet apart, wearing masks and with just one person serving food.

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Governor Issues New Mask Mandate as COVID Cases Surge Across Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has issued a new mask mandate in hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus after the state reported another record seven-day increase in new cases. Kansas law still allows the state's 105 counties to opt out of such an order from the governor, and most did when Kelly issued a similar order in July. But the state’s rolling seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases was more than nine times higher Wednesday than it was when her first order took effect. Kelly’s order takes effect November 25, the day before Thanksgiving, and only in counties that don’t yet have their own mask mandates. That’s still a majority of them.

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"Tired to the Bone" - America's Hospitals Overwhelmed with Coronavirus Cases

UNDATED (AP) - Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.  Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the U.S. at an unrelenting pace and the confirmed death toll surpasses 250,000.  “We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,” said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, adding that she drives to and from work some days in tears.  

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, nearly 77,000 were hospitalized with the virus.  Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have exploded more than 80% over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record, with the daily count running at close to 160,000 on average.  Cases are on the rise in all 50 states.  Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest in months.  

The out-of-control surge is leading governors and mayors across the U.S. to grudgingly issue mask mandates, limit the size of private and public gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving, ban indoor restaurant dining, close gyms or restrict the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses.  “There are only so many medical personnel to go around,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration.  In places like Idaho, doctors warned that hospitals have almost reached the point where they need to ration care, unable to treat everyone because there aren’t enough beds or staffers to go around.  “Never in my career did I think we would even contemplate the idea of rationing care in the United States of America,” said Dr. Jim Souza, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Health System.  In Reno, Nevada, Renown Regional Medical Center began moving some coronavirus patients into its parking garage.

In Kansas, hospitals are converting spaces such as chapels and cafeterias for use by COVID-19 patients, said Cindy Samuelson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association.  Stormont Vail Health in Topeka devoted an entire hospital floor to COVID-19 patients as their numbers swelled, hitting 90 on Wednesday. The hospital also converted two surgery waiting rooms for use by non-infected patients, spokesman Matt Lara said.  In some cases, nurses and doctors in Kansas have been spending up to eight hours looking for a large hospital with an opening in cities as far away as Denver, Omaha or Kansas City.  “The problem with this is, by the time you transfer these patients out they already are very ill at that point,” said Kansas nurse practitioner Perry Desbien.  At the same time, patience is wearing thin over the lack of mask wearing that is contributing to the problem in rural areas.  “It kind of feels like we’re just, you know, yelling into the abyss,” said Cheyanne Seematter, a registered nurse at Stormont
Vail. “We keep telling everybody to stay home, wear a mask, that it is actually bad here.”

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Kansas Aims to Boost Virus Testing, but Strategy Unfinished

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's strategy for ramping up coronavirus testing is still a work in progress.  Seven weeks after she first announced it, even some of the state's contractors don't yet have all the details.  Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning contends that Kelly's administration moved too slowly in rolling out the strategy and isn’t focused enough on making sure the state has a healthy work force so businesses can stay open. Kelly dismisses the criticism, and officials and contractors are confident that testing will be ramped up before the year ends. A CEO of one state contractor calls testing a bridge to a coronavirus vaccine.

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State of Emergency Extended as Virus Hits Missouri Hospitals

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson says the state's hospitals are struggling to cope with rising coronavirus cases. The Republican governor said Thursday that he's extending the state of emergency in Missouri through March. He says hospitals face staffing shortages and that the state is considering sending in the military and asking for help from medical workers in other states. The Missouri Hospital Association wants a statewide mask mandate but Parson has repeatedly refused to issue one. He has instead emphasized personal responsibility and urged Missourians to do their part by wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands.

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Investigation of Kansas GOP Lawmaker Referred to AG's Office

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The results of an investigation into a Republican lawmaker has been referred by the local district attorney to the Kansas attorney general’s office to assess whether to take any further action over a plot to cover up their role in a false ad against a mayoral candidate in the state’s largest city. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said in a news release Friday that he has been in consultation with the attorney general’s office concerning state Rep Michael Capps. Wichita City Council member James Clendenin was interviewed again and the district attorney’s office plans to release information on him next week. Michael O’Donnell resigned last week from the Sedgwick County Commission after Bennett concluded there was sufficient evidence to begin ouster proceedings.

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Kansas City Police: Man Shot to Death Inside Apartment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say a man has been shot to death inside an apartment at the southern end of the city. Police say in a news release that officers were called around 11:15 pm Wednesday to Timber Lakes Apartment Homes for reports of a shooting. Arriving officers found a man with gunshot wounds inside one of the units. Police say the man was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he later died. The victim's name has not yet been released.  Detectives questioned people at the scene at the time of the shooting and are not looking for additional suspects. Police have not said whether any arrests were made or what may have led to the shooting.

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Patrol: Three People Killed in Collision in Southern Kansas

ATTICA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says three people died in a collision in southern Kansas. The crash happened Thursday evening on U.S. Highway 160 between Attica and Sharon in Harper County. The patrol says a car driven by 48-year-old Johnathon Goulding crossed the center line and crashed head-on into another vehicle. Goulding and a passenger in his car, 19-year-old Haylee Goulding, died. They were from Las Vegas. The driver of the second car, 60-year-old Connie Randle of Medicine Lodge, also was killed.

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Kansas Equity Panel Recommends Police Stop Using Unmarked Vehicles

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A commission established by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to examine policing and other racial justice issues plans to recommend that Kansas law enforcement agencies no longer use unmarked police vehicles during traffic enforcement. However, it contains an exemption for when police believe unmarked vehicles are needed to avoid endangering officers or public safety. The recommendation faced opposition from Commissioner Gordon Ramsay, Wichita police chief, who said that some of Wichita’s most frequent complaints are traffic-related. The recommendation was among the last that the commission approved to appear in a report it plans to present to the governor by December 1.

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Wyandotte County Prosecutor Resigns from Federal Commission

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County Prosecutor Mark Dupree has resigned from a federal commission created by President Donald Trump to study law enforcement issues. In a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Dupree said that he wanted to leave the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. He said he was initially excited to be appointed to the group but now believes it has a political agenda and was trying to erode the discretion of local prosecutors. Dupree was appointed a year ago to the commission's working group on reentry programs for criminal offenders.

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COVID-19 Spurs Kansas Legislature to Plan $3 Million Tech Upgrade

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature plans to spend about $3 million on technology upgrades. Its leaders are hoping that people will be able to watch committee hearings and other functions even if they can't leave their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the upgrades are designed to ensure that legislative committee rooms and even conference spaces are outfitted with audiovisual equipment to broadcast events to the public. The move comes as top lawmakers are starting to consider exactly how the Legislature will conduct business after it convenes its next annual session in January. The upgrades will include better support for meetings conducted with video conferencing.

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Kansas Man Accused of Illegal Autopsies Faces Fraud Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of performing illegal autopsies has been indicted on 10 counts of federal wire fraud. Federal prosecutors for Kansas say the indictment accuses 41-year-old Shawn Parcells, of Leawood, of falsely leading people to believe they would receive an autopsy report from a pathologist. Parcells is a self-taught pathology assistant with no formal education. The indictment also seeks to recover more than $1 million in fees paid to Parcells by clients. If convicted of the federal counts, Parcells could face up to 20 years in prison on each count. An attorney who has represented Parcells in other matters did not immediately return a message left Thursday morning seeking comment.

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Kansas Upholds 2 Convictions Using Warrantless Blood Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that results from warrantless blood tests were admissible in two cases of driving under the influence, even though the statute that had authorized them was later found to be unconstitutional. The state's highest court said in separate decisions issued Friday that the "good faith exception" allows admission of unlawfully obtained evidence if the arresting officer had no reason to think the statute he had relied on would be declared unconstitutional after the arrest.

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Kansas Guide Sentenced for Federal Hunting Violations

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Kansas hunting guide is losing his hunting privileges for three years for violating federal migratory bird protections. U.S. Attorney for Kansas Stephen McAllister says in a news release that 35-year-old Zachary White, of Ellinwood, pleaded guilty Thursday in Wichita's federal courthouse to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. White admitted that in 2015, he and another man acted as waterfowl guides in Barton County to a party of 13 hunters who killed 31 white-fronted geese, violating a daily bag limit of two per person. White and the other guide were co-owners and operators of Prairie Thunder Outfitters.

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Woman Charged with Trying to Smuggle Cell Phones into Prison

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal authorities say a Missouri woman has been indicted after she allegedly tried to smuggle cell phones into a federal prison in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas announced Thursday that  47-year-old Karilyn Primeau, of Smithville, has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to bribe a public official. Primeau is married to an inmate at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth. The indictment alleges she paid a guard to take cell phones into the prison for inmates to use. If convicted, Primeau could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. 

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Kansas Woman Guilty of Transporting Minor for Prostitution

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Wichita woman pleaded guilty to taking a minor across state lines to engage in prostitution. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister says 22-year-old Taylor Kinsey pleaded guilty this week in federal court to one count of interstate transportation for prostitution. Prosecutors say Kinsey admitted that she recruited a 17-year-old victim to engage in prostitution, then took the minor from Wichita to Oklahoma City to engage in sex acts for money. Kinsey has agreed to a term of 7.5 years in federal prison when she's sentenced on February 5.

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Kansas City Couple Wins $4 Million in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The parents of a Kansas City man who died in a 2016 shooting have been awarded $4 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against a gun trafficker, and a gun dealer and a manufacturer. Court documents say one of the guns dealt by former Kansas City police captain James Samuels was used to kill Alvino Dwight Crawford Jr. in July 2016. Crawford's parents sued Samuels, Jimenez Arms and Green Tip Arms in June 2019. The suit alleged that Green Tip Arms should have known that Samuels was an unlicensed gun dealer. They also accused Jimenez Arms, which manufactured the gun, of aiding and abetting the gun trafficking ring.

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Bankers Survey Projects Drop in Holiday Retail Sales

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — More than half of bankers surveyed in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states are projecting a drop in holiday retail sales this year from last year as the coronavirus pandemic worsens across the country. The Rural Mainstreet Survey's overall index fell to 46.8 in November from October’s 53.2. It's the first time since April that the index has fallen, but it remains well ahead of the 35.5 reading in March, when the index bottomed out as the outbreak began. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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