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Headlines for Thursday, December 17, 2020

Kansas Nears 195,000 Cases of COVID-19 Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 194,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Wednesday that Kansas had identified 194,569 coronavirus cases and 2,253 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  That's an increase of 4,551 cases and 144 deaths since Monday.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Friday.

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Kansas Reports COVID-19 Death Surge Amid First Vaccine Shots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — COVID-19 deaths have surged in Kansas in the past week and health statistics show nearly every part of the state has lost people to the disease caused by the coronavirus. Kansas averaged a record 45 new reported COVID-19 deaths per day for the seven days that ended Wednesday, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environment. The department reported 144 new deaths since Monday, pushing the state’s pandemic death toll to 2,253. Kansas received its first shipment of a vaccine made by Pfizer on Monday and began getting it to health care workers, prison workers and nursing home staff and residents.

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Some States Say Pfizer Vaccine Allotments Cut for Next Week

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Several states say they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution. That's leading to worries about potential delays in shots for health care workers and long-term care residents. Officials in California, Washington state, Florida, Missouri and Kansas confirmed to the Sacramento Bee newspaper that they were told to expect fewer vaccine doses next week than they had anticipated. But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays. Two officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity are citing a confusion over semantics. Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. The first U.S. doses of the vaccine were administered Monday. Already this week, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly health care workers, have been vaccinated. The pace is expected to increase next week, assuming Moderna gets federal authorization for its vaccine.

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Rural Kansas Getting COVID-19 Vaccine; 2nd Round to Be Short

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Doses from Kansas’s first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine are arriving in rural Kansas for hospitals to administer to health care workers, though the state expects its second shipment to be smaller than anticipated. The state health department said Thursday that Kansas received its first full shipment of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 23,750 people. Agency spokeswoman Ashley Jones-Wisner says federal authorities initially told Kansas that it would get a second vaccine shipment of 29,000 doses next week, but the state has since learned it will receive 17,750 doses. She did not elaborate.

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Deputy Runs over Fleeing Black Man in Kansas Field

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas sheriff's deputy is the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force. Dashcam video shows Kiowa County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez mowing down Lionel Womack as he runs, shirtless, across a dark field in August. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says the deputy intentionally ran Womack down in pursuit of ``an alleged traffic violation.'' The lawsuit says Womack sustained serious injuries to his back, pelvis and thigh as well as to his right knee, ankle and foot. Rodriguez remains on patrol and Kiowa County Sheriff Chris Tedder has not responded to Associated Press requests for comment. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said it didn’t learn of the incident until September, at which point it offered to help the Kiowa County Attorney’s Office in an investigation. The office declined that offer. The KBI viewed the dashcam video for the first time on Thursday and again reached out to prosecutors. They will now be providing investigative support to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office in a review of the incident, KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said in an email.

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Kansas ACLU Sues Secretary of State Over Provisional Ballot Information

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Kansas News Service) – The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Kansas secretary of state for not releasing information on provisional ballots.  The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Loud Light, a Topeka nonprofit. The group tried to obtain information on provisional ballots, given to people who don’t have an ID, change their name or have other issues at the polls. But Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s office has declined to provide the records, saying it’s not able to access them. The ACLU argues the information on the ballots is of high public interest and should be released. Schwab’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Topeka City Council Bans Discrimination Against LGBTQ Persons

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka City Council has voted to ban discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and veteran status. The council on Tuesday unanimously approved banning discrimination for LGBTQ and veterans in work, housing and public accommodations. A first offense carries a possible $1,000 fine and six months in jail. A second offense carries a possible $2,500 fine and a year in jail.  The ordinance also was updated to prevent discrimination through telecommunication devices, which includes harassment over social media.

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Western Kansas Mayor Backs Mask Mandate then Resigns After Threats 

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas mayor announced her immediate resignation Tuesday because of threats she has received after publicly supporting a mask mandate.  Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw said she was concerned about her safety after encountering threats via phone and email, after she was quoted in a USA Today article supporting a mask mandate,The Dodge City Globe reported“I understand people are under a lot of pressure from various things that are happening around society like the pandemic, the politics, the economy, so on and so forth, but I also believe that during these times people are acting not as they normally would,” Warshaw said.  The commission voted 4-1 on November 16 to impose a mask mandate, with several exceptions.  Ford County, where Dodge City is located, has recorded 4,914 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the state health department. The county has about 33,600 residents.  Some of the threatening emails have been turned over to police. Specific details of the threats were not provided.  

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Kansas Inmates Return from Arizona After Pandemic Delay

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is no longer housing inmates in a privately run prison in Arizona after delaying their planned return for nearly six months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Kansas Department of Corrections said Wednesday that 118 inmates have returned from the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. Kansas moved inmates there last year to prevent crowding in its state prisons, but the prisons were at 81% of their capacities last week. Kansas reported 85 coronavirus cases among the 118 inmates housed in Arizona but said none of those cases are active. Corrections Secretary Jeff Zmuda said Kansas originally had planned to bring the inmates back by the end of June.

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Kansas City, Kansas, Officer Shot in Arm, is Released from Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Law enforcement authorities are still searching for a man who shot a Kansas City, Kansas, police officer and then fled. The shooting occurred on Tuesday in Overland Park. The officer, who was shot in the arm, was released from the hospital Wednesday morning. Police spokeswoman Nancy Chartrand said officers had been searching for the suspect most of the day after he was involved in at least one hit-and-run in Wyandotte County. She says when he was spotted, the suspect got out of his car and began firing at the officer, who returned fire. The officer's injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. It is not clear if the suspect was shot. An independent agency, the Johnson County Multi-Jurisdictional Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Team is investigating.

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Universities’ Housing and Dining Fees Won't Rise Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The six state universities in Kansas will not raise on-campus housing and dining fees next year. The Kansas Board of Regents voted on Wednesday to keep those fees flat, despite higher costs and fewer students because of the coronavirus pandemic. University officials told the regents the schools need to keep costs affordable for students. The regents also appointed a committee to begin the search for a new Wichita State president. Former president Jay Golden resigned abruptly in September, after he was criticized for retracting an invitation to Ivanka Trump to speak at the university.

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Child Welfare Contractor Spent $80,000 on Cubs Tickets

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A whistleblower says a cash-strapped Kansas foster care contractor spent $80,000 on tickets to see the Chicago Cubs, a club owned by the Nebraska governor's family, as it sought new business in that state. St. Francis Ministries of Wichita bought the tickets in 2019. That same year, the agency was awarded a $197 million, five-year contract from the state of Nebraska to oversee the care of abused and neglected children in the Omaha area. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services says St. Francis won the contract because it presented the best bid.

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Missouri High School Coach Charged with Sex Crimes 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Jackson County prosecutors have charged a high school football coach with sex crimes involving a minor teenager that allegedly occurred more than a decade ago. Forty-three-year-old Joshua Hood was charged Wednesday with eight counts including statutory sodomy and second-degree statutory rape. Hood is currently football coach at Park Hill High School. He was a teacher and coach at Holden High School when the alleged crimes occurred in 2003 and 2004. Prosecutors say a woman reported in April that she had sexual encounters with Hood while she was a student at Holden and younger than 17. Hood's attorney says his client denies the allegations. 

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NBAF Delayed - National Bio-Defense Lab Completion Date Moved to October 2021

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials say it will likely be October 2021 before a national biosecurity lab in Manhattan is substantially completed. National officials announced in April that The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) would not be completed as expected by December because of disruptions in supply chains and construction employee availability caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The federal Department of Agriculture and Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday the new “substantial completion” date is now October. That is when the USDA will have full access to the plant and be responsible for its operation. The new date will also allow time to address necessary technology upgrades and installation of USDA-funded equipment.

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Wichita on Pace in 2020 to Set Record for Homicides

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita recorded this year's 56th homicide on Monday, one short of the record set in 1993. Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says the city is like many others across the country that have seen a sharp rise in violent crime this year. Ramsay attributes the increase to a variety of sources, including stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic, record levels of unemployment, COVID-19-related delays in court proceedings and a surge in gun violence. Ramsay said 42 of the deaths have been attributed to guns. Another 11 involved drugs and 12 were related to domestic violence. Wichita had 44 homicides in 2018 and 2019, which was the highest number since 1995.

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Dozens of States, Including Kansas, File Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Google

DENVER (AP) — Dozens of states filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, alleging that the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers. The lawsuit was announced by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by states represented by bipartisan attorneys general. The lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of 34 other states including Kansas, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. The case is the third antitrust salvo to slam Google during the past two months as the Department of Justice and attorneys general from across the U.S. weigh in with their different variations on how they believe the company is abusing its immense power

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Government Ordered to Pay Landowners on Lower Missouri River

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A judge has ruled that the federal government must pay landowners on the lower Missouri River for flooding damage caused by the Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to protect endangered species. Judge Nancy Firestone, with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, ruled this week that the Corps caused increased flooding by changing habitat on the river to comply with the Endangered Species Act. She says that violated constitutional protections against taking property without compensation. The ruling affects property owners from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis, although not all landowners will qualify for payments. The ruling doesn't cover all flood-related damages.

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Cyberattack on Independence Systems Causes Bill-Paying Delay

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A ransomware attack on the city of Independence, Missouri's computer systems has left some residents unable to pay their utility bills. Officials in the Kansas City suburb say the cyberattack occurred last week. City Manager Zach Walker tells KSHB that 90% of the billing issues plaguing the city trace back to the cyberattack, which has left customers unable to pay their utility bills online and has caused a delay in bills being delivered by mail. Walker says staff is working to restore all city systems. He could not say whether any customer's personal information was compromised in the attack, but says the city is working to find out.

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Mail Carrier Indicted for Stealing Mail, Checks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A U.S. Post Service worker has been indicted on charges alleging that he stole mail from customers along his Kansas City, Missouri, route and deposited the checks he found into his own bank account. The U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release that 21-year-old Lane Snider, of Kansas City, Kansas, was charged with one count of stealing mail while he worked for the postal service from June through August. He also is charged with 12 counts of bank fraud related to the deposit of a stolen check, in amounts ranging from $25 to $500.

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Bankers Say Economy Improving in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is improving in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states. But Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the region still has about 95,000 fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic began, and it will take many months of growth to erase all the job losses. The overall index for the region improved to 51.6 in December from November’s 46.8. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy while a score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Kansas State Latest to Skip Bowl Game Due to COVID-19

UNDATED (AP) - At least five Power Five teams have now withdrawn from consideration for a bowl game. Kansas State is the latest. The school has paused all football activities indefinitely amid an outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing. The First Responders Bowl in Texas was the likely destination for Kansas State. The Wildcats are the first Big 12 team to withdraw. They join three ACC teams — Boston College, Virginia and Pittsburgh — and Stanford out of the Pac-12.

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Kansas City Chiefs Lead AP Pro32 Poll; Packers at No. 2, Bills at No. 3

NEW YORK (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are still on top in the latest AP Pro32 poll. The Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills each moved up two spots to No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. And the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers each slipped two places No. 4 and No. 5 after losses on Sunday. The Saints host the Chiefs this Sunday.

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KU Athletic Director Gives Miles Vote of Support After Winless Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas football coach Les Miles has received a vote of confidence from athletic director Jeff Long. The Jayhawks just finished their second winless season since the 1950s. Long says it was disappointing, but building a program takes time. He says some of the problems were related to the pandemic. Miles went 3-9 his first season before the step back this year. Miles will be heading into the third year of a five-year deal that pays him $2,775,000 annually.

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Chiefs Visit Saints for Potential Super Bowl Preview

UNDATED (AP) — The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs are trying to remain the top team in the AFC when NFL-leading passer Patrick Mahomes takes Kansas City into New Orleans on Sunday. The Chiefs already have wrapped up the AFC West title for a franchise-record fifth straight time. But this season only the top seed in each conference gets a first-round playoff bye. The Saints could clinch the NFC South for a fourth straight time this weekend with a win or Tampa Bay loss. But New Orleans hurt its chances of securing the top seed in the NFC by losing in Philadelphia last week.

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Kansas City Chiefs' Tight End Kelce Rewriting Record Book During Special Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — With six 100-yard receiving games already, the Chiefs' Travis Kelce is poised to become the first tight end in NFL history to lead the league in receiving. He has 1,250 yards with three games still to play, giving him a 70-yard lead over Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf and another 13 yards over the Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs — oh, and teammate Tyreek Hill is at 1,158 yards. Kelce is having just as special a year off the field, too. He was recently made the Chiefs nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his work with children from impoverished backgrounds.

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