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Headlines for Monday, October 5, 2020


Kansas Replacing Contractor Handling Medicaid Applications

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is replacing a private contractor that inspired years of complaints about backlogs and other problems in its handling of applications for the state's Medicaid health coverage for the needy. The Kansas City Star reports that the state Department of Health and Environment in August signed a six-year contract worth nearly $135 million with New Jersey-based company Conduent to handle Medicaid applications starting next year. Conduent will replace Maximus, based in the Washington, D.C., area. The state hired Maximus in 2016, hoping to make processing Medicaid applications more efficient and less costly. The company instead received poor marks for its processing and customer-service call center.


Kansas Reports More than 62,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including over 700 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - State health officials say Kansas has now recorded more than 62,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Health and Environment reported Monday that the state now has 62,708 cases, including 706 deaths. That's an increase of 1,597 cases and 8 deaths since Friday.  The next update will be released Wednesday.


Kansas to Get 870,000 COVID-19 Tests, Sets Hospitalization Mark

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas expects to receive 870,000 rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government over the next three months to boost testing in potential hotspots. Kelly's remarks Monday came as the state saw a record increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations. Kelly said the new tests are crucial for a new statewide policy of more testing of people without virus symptoms in areas with high infection rates and increasing routine testing in schools, nursing homes and prisons. She said the state already has received its first 57,000 tests. Meanwhile, state health department statistics showed that Kansas averaged a record 26.29 new hospitalizations a day for the seven days ending Monday.


Kansas Coronavirus Hospitalizations Set New Pandemic Record

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials report a new pandemic record for average daily hospitalizations. The state had an average of 26.29 new coronavirus hospitalizations per day for the seven days ending Monday. The previous high was 23.86 for the seven days ending Friday. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment also reported that the state saw 1,597 new confirmed and probable cases since Friday, an increase of 2.5%, bringing the total cases to 62,708. The state health department also reported eight new COVID-19-related deaths since Friday, bringing the total to 706.


Education Leader: Kansas Schools Must Find Better Solution

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas state education commissioner Randy Watson said schools will need to rethink the way they deliver education amid the coronavirus pandemic because what is happening now is "not sustainable." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Watson told members of the Kansas Association of School Boards on Friday that one of the best solutions is to return students for five-day-a-week learning, while keeping class sizes to fewer than 15 students while requiring masks and social distancing. Watson said schools may need to partner with other organizations in the community, like churches or businesses that are closed anyway because of the pandemic to get enough room to space out students.


Kansas Airports Face Years of Recovery After Pandemic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The downturn in airline travel amid the coronavirus pandemic could lead to years of decreased flights to fewer destinations from Kansas airports. Kansas News Service reports the number of passengers who boarded flights at Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport in Wichita this year has dropped 57% compared to 2019. At its lowest point in April there was a day when only 63 people flew out of the airport. Normally, the airport sees about 2,300 passengers a day, and a lot more during peak travel seasons. Boardings from Manhattan Regional Airport are down 56%.


Private Donations Boost Election Funding in Kansas and Elsewhere Amid Pandemic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Charities are stepping up to help local officials run elections nationwide, including in Kansas, during the coronavirus pandemic. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County, the state's second most populous county, has received a $816,458 grant from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to boost the county's efforts toward a safe and efficient November election. The money is part of the $300 million that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced last month they would donate to two non-partisan organizations “to ensure that everyone can vote and every vote can be counted.”


Topeka Police Investigate Weekend Shooting Death of Man

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are investigating the death of a man who was found with a gunshot wound on Saturday. Police said officers found the man around 11:30 am Saturday when they were checking on the welfare of someone at a Topeka home. He died at the scene. Detectives are investigating the circumstances around the man's death. The man was identified as 38-year-old Christopher McMillon.


Police Arrest 1 After Fatal Stabbing in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police arrested one person after a fatal stabbing in Kansas City, Kansas, Saturday. Kansas City, Kansas, police said officers found a person with stab wounds around 10:40 am Saturday in central Kansas City, Kansas. The victim was taken to a hospital where they later died. Police said a suspect fled the scene of the stabbing and was arrested after a chase that involved the Kansas Highway Patrol.


1 Person Arrested After Kansas City Woman Dies Saturday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — One person was arrested after a woman died in a home in eastern Kansas City, Missouri, Saturday. Kansas City Police Captain David Jackson said officers responding to a disturbance at the home around 11 am Saturday found a woman who was bleeding profusely.  Jackson said police had arrested a suspect in the death by Saturday afternoon. Police didn’t immediately release the names of the suspect or the victim in this case. The Kansas City Star reported that this is the 151st homicide in 2020, which is four short of the record set in 2017.


Fire at Missouri Senior Citizen Home Kills 1, Injures 5

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — A resident of a senior living facility in a Kansas City suburb died in a fire Saturday night. Raytown Fire District Capt. Ty Helphrey said the fire was contained to one apartment on the sixth floor of the Temple Heights Manor in Raytown, Missouri. The fire was reported around 9:15 pm Saturday. Helphrey said firefighters extinguished the fire and kept it from spreading to other apartments, but five people were taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation or the exacerbation of their medical conditions. The identity of the resident who died wasn’t immediately released. The cause of the fire is not yet known.  


Police Shoot Man During Standoff in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Manhattan, Kansas, man is hospitalized in critical condition after being shot by police following a lengthy standoff. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the shooting happened early Friday after the man allegedly used a gun to threaten a relative. The name of the man who was shot has not been released. Riley County Police spokeswoman Rachel Pate said the two officers who fired at the man are on administrative leave and another department, the Lawrence Police Department, is handling the investigation of the shooting. The officers' names were not released.


Demonstrators Camp in Protest of Pregnant Woman's Arrest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Protesters are pledging to camp in front of police headquarters in downtown Kansas City until the officer who kneeled on a pregnant Black woman is fired. KCUR Radio reports that around a dozen protesters spent the night Friday on the lawn outside the police headquarters, with their numbers growing throughout Saturday. They also want Chief Rick Smith to resign. Video of the Wednesday night incident at a business in east Kansas City shows the woman on the ground with the officer’s knee on her back while people in the crowd yell to stop because she is pregnant. Some officers can be heard telling the crowd they will be arrested if they don’t move back.


Prosecutor: No Charges in Death of Mentally Ill Kansas Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — No charges will be filed in the death of a 56-year-old Wichita man who was killed by police last year during an apparent psychotic episode in which he fired 83 rounds from his apartment. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett told reporters Monday via a Zoom news conference that under the circumstances he could not charge the officers who fired at Fred Burton. The hours-long standoff that began shortly before 2 a.m. in May 2019 and led officers to evacuate other occupants of the apartment complex to safety. Burton fired at officers, and two of them returned fire.


Medical Marijuana in Missouri Could be Available this Month

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. (AP) — A St. Louis County lab’s approval to start testing samples of marijuana means that commercial marijuana for medical use could be on the shelves this month. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that EKG Labs in Maryland Heights on September 26 became the first of 10 licensed medical marijuana testers to start operations after passing a state inspection. As a result, marijuana being grown by commercial cultivators may undergo state-required testing for safety and potency. Once approved, it can be sold at dispensaries. EKG director of operations Natalie Brown says testing could begin in the upcoming week. Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018.


Nebraska Man Drowns in Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks

CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. (AP) — A 21-year-old Nebraska man has drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Reece Isenberg, of Omaha, died Saturday morning after he went swimming off a dock and never resurfaced. The State Patrol said Isenberg was intoxicated at the time that he drowned in the lake’s Cimmaron Bay Cove. His body was recovered by Saturday afternoon.


Records Accuse Kansas Legislative Candidate of Threat at 14

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Newly released records show that a 20-year-old Democratic Kansas legislative candidate who admitted to circulating revenge porn was charged five years ago with threatening to shoot a high school student. The Kansas City Star reported Saturday that police and court records it obtained through an open records request show that Aaron Coleman was 14 in May 2015 when he was charged with a felony count of making a criminal threat. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassment. Coleman defended himself in a text message, saying his juvenile record was being used to distract from the issues in the race. The Kansas Democratic Party previously disowned Coleman and is backing a write-in candidate.


Mammoth Tusk Unearthed in South-Central Kansas

PRATT, Kan. (KPR) – Construction workers in south-central Kansas have unearthed a mammoth tusk that could be thousands, or even millions, of years old.  The Pratt News reports that R. Thimesch Construction uncovered the tusk in Pratt on September 28, while they were trenching in sewer lines for a new truck-oil change and tire repair station.  “So, we showed up at the job site to dig our footings for the new oil change… As we start digging, I noticed something in the wall that was out of the ordinary a little bit and I jokingly said it looks like a mammoth tooth. And then as I looked at it more, I was like ‘man, I think it’s a mammoth tusk,’” said Randy Thimesch of R. Thimesch Construction.  Thimesch contacted a local expert and shortly after, the discovery was confirmed.  “So, we slowly start digging it out using brushes and everything, cleaning it off. Got roughly about three feet of it up out of there,” said Thimesch.  On top of the three feet of tusk, the crew found other “rocks that looked kind of suspicious” that are being sent off to be investigated.  The crew reported back to the owner of the property, Dale Withers, who plans on keeping the mammoth tusk parts, getting it professionally preserved and displaying it for others to see.  This discovery is unique due to being found in the plains, as tusks are usually found in gravel pits or riverbeds.  “They are less common as far south as Kansas,” said Dr. Reese Barrick, director of Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays. “These materials (tusks) will easily decay and will splinter and fall apart when dried out and exposed to wide changes in humidity. This is why tusks themselves are quite rare.”  In 2016, another mammoth tusk was found in Cunningham, Kansas, and is now on display at the Cunningham Historical Museum in Kingman County.


Months Later, Still No Charges After Car Drove into Protesters in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County district attorney's office is still deciding whether to file charges for two incidents earlier this year where vehicles drove into protests in Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that meanwhile, at least three defendants have been charged for similar allegations that weren't protest-related. On May 31, video showed a woman accelerating an SUV into protesters during a march against police brutality. On June 29, another woman drove an SUV through protesters' makeshift barricades and into a crowd. No serious injuries were reported. An official with the DA's office says there were differences between the cases involving the protests and the other cases.


$73 Million Tax Revenue Surplus in Kansas but Recovery Still Seen as Fragile 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas collected nearly $73 million more in taxes than expected in September, suggesting that its economy is bouncing back faster than the state had initially anticipated, though officials still warned Thursday that the recovery is fragile.  The coronavirus pandemic's arrival in Kansas in March scrambled the state's financial picture, leading to a statewide stay-at-home order that Governor Laura Kelly kept in place for five weeks. State officials and university economists then slashed the state's revenue projections in April, creating a projected shortfall in the state budget.  The financial picture has since brightened, with better-than-anticipated tax collections during five of the past six months. 

But Kansas last month saw its biggest average numbers of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began in March, peaking at 667 per day for the seven days ending Monday. And the director of the state health department told reporters Wednesday that the state could see an average of 800 or 900 new cases a day in the coming months.  By mid-week, Kansas reported nearly 60,000 cases and 678 COVID-19-related deaths.  “The impact that the pandemic will have on the economy during the fall and winter months is uncertain at best,” Mark Burghart, the head of the state Department of Revenue, said Thursday in a statement.  The Department of Revenue said Kansas collected nearly $729 million in taxes last month, when it expected to take in $656 million. The surplus of 11% for the month was tied largely to better-than-expected income tax collections. 

A monthly Creighton University survey of business leaders released Thursday suggested that the economy continues to improve in nine Midwest and Plains states, including Kansas, though it remains less robust than before the pandemics starts.  The unemployment rate in Kansas, hovering at about 3% for months and dipping to 2.8% in March, spiked at 11.9% in April. That month the state had 125,500 fewer private-sector, nonfarm jobs — nearly 11% less than in April 2019.  The numbers have gotten better since. But the unemployment rate still was 6.9% in August, and the state had 53,800 fewer private-sector nonfarm jobs than in August 2019, a decline of 4.6%.


Historic Restaurant in Abilene Closing After 125 Years

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — An iconic Kansas restaurant with a long history is closing, a casualty of the coronavirus. The Brookville Hotel, a restaurant in Abilene, announced its closure in a Facebook post on Thursday. The Martin family has operated the business for 125 years. The Facebook post cited the COVID-19 pandemic, "and the lack of traffic" resulting from the virus. "We hung on as long as we could, but the writing was on the wall," the post said. The restaurant moved from Brookville to Abilene about 20 years ago.


Charges Filed in Kansas City, Kansas Killing 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two people from Kansas City, Kansas, are facing charges in a fatal shooting that happened last week. Lolester Mitchell of Kansas City, Kansas, was found dead inside a home on Tuesday. Authorities said Monday that 22-year-old Cooper Allan Beck was charged with intentional murder in the second degree and other crimes. He is jailed on $250,000 bond. Meanwhile, 38-year-old Billy Joe Blood is charged with conspiracy interference with a law enforcement officer, intimidation of a witness or victim, and other crimes. She is jailed on $50,000 bond. Police have not disclosed a motive in the killing.


K-State's Klieman Agrees to Extension, Raise Through 2026

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas StateUniversity head football coach Chris Klieman agreed to a contract extension through the 2026 season on Monday that includes additional incentives and retention bonuses, despite a pandemic that forced the university to announce plans earlier this year to furlough up to 1,500 faculty and staff. Klieman will be paid base salaries of $3.1 million next season, $3.5 million in 2022, $4 million in 2023 and $4.3 million each year from 2024 to 2026. There are also retention bonuses of $200,000 in 2021 and $250,000 in 2022, the use of a private plane for up to 8 hours and one-year extensions at $4.3 million each year for winning eight games in a season.


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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