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Headlines for Saturday, January 15, 2022

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.

(-Earlier reporting-)

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 classes 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.

(-Related-)

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.

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GOP Race for Kansas Attorney General Focuses on Fighting Biden, not Crime

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican primary for Kansas attorney general this year is focused on fighting Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda. The attorney general is often described as the state’s top law enforcement official, but in recent years state attorneys general have built political brands on filing lawsuits against the other party's administration in Washington. Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach is attempting a comeback after losing the general election for governor in 2018 and a U.S. Senate primary in 2020. He faces Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Kellie Warren and retired veteran federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi. All say they're best positioned to fight Biden.

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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.

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Former NFL Player Siavii Found Dead in Kansas Federal Prison

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle has been found dead in a Kansas federal prison where he was being held on charges of illegal firearms possession, a prison official said. U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Anna Armijo says 43-year-old Saousoalii Siavii Jr. was found unresponsive at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth on Thursday afternoon, The Kansas City Star reported. Siavii was pronounced dead at an area hospital. From American Samoa, the former Oregon lineman was drafted by Kansas City in the second round in 2004 and spent two seasons with the Chiefs. He played for Dallas in 2009 and Seattle in 2010.

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4 People Hospitalized After Fire at Kansas House

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say four people were hospitalized after their house caught fire in Olathe, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports firefighters responding to a call at about 8:15 am found “significant fire conditions. Captain Mike Hall of the Olathe Fire Department says three adults and one teenager who were inside the home were hospitalized in stable condition. The cause of the fire is under investigation. A damage estimate was not immediately available, although Hall says the home has “significant damage.”

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Police Say They Are Investigating Man's Death as Homicide 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say they are investigating as a homicide the death of a Topeka man. The Topeka Police Department said Saturday in a news release that officers found the body Friday while responding to a call regarding “a past assault with medical response." The man was identified as 39-year-old Mack Lee. The department's homicide unit is now reviewing investigative leads and evidence.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 pm Thursday, the agency said the westbound lanes would remain closed until further notice and to expect delays in the area.  (Read more.)

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No. 9-Ranked KU Uses Big 2nd Half to Stuff West Virginia, 85-59

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — David McCormack had 19 points and 15 rebounds, Jalen Wilson added 23 points and eight boards, and the ninth-ranked University of Kansas men's team overcame a sluggish first half to rout defensive-minded West Virginia 85-59. Ochai Agbaji also had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Jayhawks. They led 33-31 at halftime but blitzed through the second half to remain perfect against the Mountaineers in 10 meetings at Allen Fieldhouse. KU held Taz Sherman, the Big 12's second-leading scorer, to five points on 1-for-9 shooting. Malik Curry led the Mountaineers with 23 points.

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Kansas State Men Close Out No. 19 Texas Tech for 62-51 Win

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Nijel Pack scored 14 points, Mark Smith made a key 3-pointer with just over a minute left, and Kansas State ended a four-game losing streak, beating No. 19 Texas Tech by a score of 62-51. Smith finished with 12 points and Mike McGuirl had 10 for the Wildcats, who failed to hold second-half leads in each of their four previous games. They got it done against a Texas Tech team that handed No. 1 Baylor its first loss of the season earlier this week. Bryson Williams scored 20 points to lead the Red Raiders, who were playing their fourth game in eight days.

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Texas Tech Women Defeat No. 25 K-State 64-45

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Vivian Gray scored 23 points, Bryn Gerlich added a career-high 16 and Texas Tech raced to a 64-45 win over No. 25 Kansas State. Gerlich and Gray combined for 17 points in the first quarter — Gerlich hit three 3-pointers — and the Red Raiders opened a 23-7 lead. TCU was 10 of 19, the Wildcats just 3 of 13. Trailing 40-22 at halftime, K-State managed to close the gap to 53-43 after three quarters but then went ice cold, making just 1 of 17 shots, ending the game on an 0 for 12 drought over the last 5 1/2 minutes. Serena Sundell and Ayoka Lee both scored 12 points for KSU.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today! 

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