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Headlines for Monday, November 23, 2020

 

Kansas to Launch Pro-Mask Campaign but Faces Skepticism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is preparing to launch a media campaign aimed at getting more of its residents to wear masks so that the coronavirus doesn’t keep spreading rapidly. Some officials are skeptical that it will move the needle much.  A mask mandate from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is set to take effect Wednesday, but Kansas law allows the state’s 105 counties to opt out. The state has set aside $1.5 million for television, radio, print and social media ads promoting masks that are set to start before Thanksgiving. But some officials worry that politics are driving resistance to masks and others suggest that people already are bombarded with pro-mask messages. Kansans can access campaign resources and other materials at StopTheSpreadKansas.org. The campaign hopes to ignite a sense of unity, community and responsibility by reminding Kansans about the four main tools they can use to stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Washing your hands often
  • Keeping a safe distance (6' or more)
  • Avoiding large gatherings

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Kansas COVID-19 Cases Top 140,000; More than 1,400 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 142,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 1,400 virus-related deaths.  The state health department reported Monday that Kansas had identified 142,059 coronavirus cases and 1,456 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Those numbers indicate an additional 7,526 cases and 46 deaths since Friday. Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases will be released Wednesday.

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Pandemic Straining Kansas Hospitals Days Before Thanksgiving

UNDATED (AP) — Surging pandemic numbers are straining hospitals across Kansas just days before Thanksgiving gatherings that public health officials fear could worsen the outbreak. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Monday 95 new hospitalizations. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that 240 coronavirus patients were in ICU units, with 36% of ICU capacity remaining in Kansas. State health officials added 7,526 cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Friday, bringing the total to 142,059. The data showed that Kansas averaged 2,760 new confirmed and probable coronavirus a day for the seven days ending Monday. The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 46 to 1,456.

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CDC Pleads with Americans to Not Travel for Thanksgiving Holiday

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s top public health agency is pleading with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving - nor spend the holiday with people with whom they are not currently living. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the recommendations last week.  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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2 Kansas City Fire Department Employees Die from COVID-19

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two members of the Kansas City Fire Department died this weekend after battling the coronavirus. A communications specialist and paramedic who worked for the department, Scott Davidson, died Sunday, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42. A day earlier, city officials said fire Captain Robert “Bobby” Rocha died after battling COVID-19 for several weeks. The firefighters union said three members of the Kansas City Fire Department have now died with the coronavirus. The union said the deaths show that the virus has affected all divisions of the fire department. Since the pandemic began, 176 members of the Kansas City Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Many GOP Lawmakers in Missouri Shrug Off Statehouse Mask-Wearing Rules

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Many Republican legislators in states where coronavirus cases have surged are rejecting mask-wearing requirements, even in their own capitols. An Arkansas state senator is proposing that her colleagues risk losing their per diem if they're caught not wearing their masks. The idea is facing pushback, despite Arkansas having the second biggest outbreak in a state legislature. Mississippi, which had the largest, is encouraging but not requiring its members to wear masks. Several others say they're leaving the decision up to members but not enforcing any rules. That decision is worrying public health experts.

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Wichita State Grads Become Finalists in Contest Seeking Better Face Mask

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two recent Wichita State University graduates are among the finalists for a $1 million prize pool in a contest that seeks to design a better mask. The Wichita Eagle reports that Jared Goering and Spencer Steinert are in the top 10 after beating out nearly 1,000 other mask designs from 70 countries. They hope to win the $500,000 grand prize or a $250,000 secondary prize, and they also want to take their mask to market. Both men are graduates of Wichita State's innovation design master's program, and they're both in an apparel start-up called Montana Shirt Co.

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Rules About Police Wearing Masks Vary Widely Across U.S.

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Although authorities have been encouraging people to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many police departments leave it up to officers to decide whether to cover their faces while interacting with the public. Some officials argue that officers have too many other things to worry about while on duty, particularly in fast-moving emergency situations. But others say officers should set an example for the public, particularly as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb nationwide.

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Kansas Firm Settles Allegations It Submitted False Claims

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence, Kansas, engineering firm and its two top officials will pay $672,352 to settle allegations that the company submitted false claims to obtain federal grant funds. The U.S. attorney’s office said Monday in a news release that KalScott Engineering, Inc. and its officials were accused of wrongfully obtaining funds from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. The programs encourage American small businesses to engage in research on behalf of the federal government that has the potential for commercialization. The settlement made no determination of liability.

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Kansas Man Charged with Federal Hate Crime for Racial Threat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been charged with a federal hate crime after allegedly threatening a Black juvenile while shouting racial slurs. The indictment alleges 25-year-old Colton Donner told the youth that Paola, Kansas — where the victim was living — was a “white” town. The Justice Department says in a news release Monday that he was charged with a federal count of interference with housing. Donner was also indicted for a separate incident with unlawfully possessing a firearm while being a convicted felon, for allegedly possessing a .44 caliber revolver. Court records do not show a defense attorney who could speak on Donner’s behalf.

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1 Dead, 1 Arrested After Arkansas City Shooting

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a suspect in a deadly shooting in south-central Kansas. Arkansas City police said in a Facebook post that officers rushed to a stretch of road around 9:30 pm Friday in response to the shooting. They found a vehicle there, and passenger Samuel Hutton was wounded. The 38-year-old was taken to a hospital, where he later died. Police said officers later learned that Hutton had been shot in the suspect’s home in Arkansas City. Officers searched throughout the night before arresting the suspect around 5:30 am Saturday east of Arkansas City. The suspect has been booked into jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.

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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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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 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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Trucks Keep Striking Missouri Overpass, Repeatedly

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Despite the warning signs and flashing lights, trucks just can't seem to stop hitting a Kansas City, Missouri, overpass. The Kansas City Star reports that the bridge on Independence Avenue is struck so often that it has its own satirical Facebook page. The bridge has just 12 feet of clearance, not quite enough for today's box trucks and tractor trailers whose drivers too often don't realize their rigs are just a little too tall to make it. The Kansas City Terminal Railway Company owns the bridge and says it gets hit about twice a month.

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Oklahoma Man Sentenced in Murder-for-Hire Plot

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A northwestern Oklahoma man has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for trying to have the boyfriend of a former employee killed in Oklahoma City. Court documents show 71-year-old Vernon Wayne Brock of Alva was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City to 87 months in prison. Brock admitted in a signed plea agreement that in November 2019 he offered $5,000 to a former business partner in Maize, Kansas, to have the unidentified man killed after the former employee ended a sexual relationship with Brock.

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Sedgwick County Deputy Arrested After Bringing Prohibited Items into Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old deputy who worked at the Sedgwick County jail has been arrested on suspicion of bringing contraband into the jail. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office said the deputy, who was suspended without pay, has been working at the jail since September 2019. Officials said a tip about contraband led to the deputy’s arrest. Spokesman Lt. Benjamin Blick said the items the deputy allegedly brought into the jail wouldn’t be illegal to possess outside of the jail.

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Cost of Fishing Licenses Going Down in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — It will be a little less expensive to fish in Kansas starting January 1. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism Commission has announced several changes related to outdoor recreation. Among them: The cost of a one-day fishing license was reduced from $8.50 to $6.  For non-residents, the price dropped from $14.50 to $10.  Fisheries Programs Specialist David Breth says the number of fishing permits being sold had dropped dramatically since 2016. That year, the state sold around 60,000 one-day licenses. Now, the state is selling about 35,000 annually.

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Wichita Police Officer Arrested on Misdemeanor DUI Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An off-duty Wichita police officer has been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. The Wichita Police Department said in a news release that officer Cory Masterson has been with the department for 12 years and was assigned to the field services division. Police say he has been moved to an administrative assignment. The case is being investigated by the Kansas Highway Patrol, and an internal review will also take place.

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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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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 Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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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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