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Headlines for Thursday, December 3, 2020


Kansas Reports Spike in COVID-19 Deaths as State Awaits Vaccine

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting spikes in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, as dozens of nursing homes experience outbreaks and the state prepares to see that health care workers receive the first available vaccines.  Governor Laura Kelly says the state expects to receive the first of two vaccine doses for 23,750 people by the middle of this month if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use for the vaccine made by Pfizer. The state health department added 119 deaths since Monday, raising the state's pandemic death toll to 1,679. Kansas also had a record average of 53 new coronavirus-related hospitalizations a day for the seven days ending Wednesday.


Kansas COVID-19 Cases Surpass 160,000; Nearly 1,700 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 162,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Wednesday that Kansas had identified 162,061 coronavirus cases and 1,679 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Those numbers indicate an additional 4,615 cases and 119 deaths since Monday.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Friday.   


Kansas Counties Reject Part of COVID-19 Quarantine Guidance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two northeast Kansas counties have rejected at least part of the new federal and state guidelines for shortening the time people are quarantined after they’re possibly exposed to COVID-19. The new guidance says people with no symptoms can end their quarantines after 10 days instead of 14 or after seven days with a negative COVID-19 test. Public health officials in Wyandotte County announced Thursday that they're sticking with 14-day quarantines, arguing that shorter quarantines risk greater spread of the virus. Shawnee County's health officer announced that it will allow people with no symptoms to end their quarantines after 10 days but not any sooner with a negative test.


Missouri to Bring in Health Care Workers from Other States

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — The state of Missouri plans to bring in hundreds of health care workers from other states to help care for an increasing number of COVID-19 patients. Governor Mike Parson and Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association announced Wednesday the state will partner with Vizient, a national health care company, to bring in up to 760 more health care workers. Kuhn said the announcement comes as early indicators about travel during Thanksgiving week in Missouri raised concerns about a potential increase in COVID-19 cases, even as hospitals in the state are dealing with a continuing surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.  


Missouri Lawmakers Pass $1.2 Billion Virus Spending Bill

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A $1.2 billion coronavirus aid package is on its way to Missouri Governor Mike Parson's desk. Senators on Wednesday gave the measure final approval. It's mostly federal funding. About $752 million needs to be spent this month or it will go back to the federal government. The spending plan includes $135 million for testing, contact tracing, lab equipment and data collection. Senators adjourned Wednesday without taking action on a bill to protect health care workers and some businesses from being sued during the pandemic. That had been a priority for Parson. But he asked lawmakers to abandon the bill Tuesday. It likely will come up again next session.


Expected Staffing Shortages Could Hit Rural Hospitals Hard

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Medical providers say anticipated staffing shortages amid surging coronavirus cases could hit rural hospitals especially hard because smaller communities have more limited options for finding providers to cover for sick workers. The Kansas Hospital Association reports that about 44% of the state’s hospitals on Monday were anticipating staffing shortages this week amid an expected rise in COVID-19 cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. Five rural Kansas counties — Rush, Republic, Ellsworth, Rawlins and Kearny — rank in the top 25 counties in the nation with the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days.


Majority of Kansas Inmates Housed in Arizona Have COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A majority of the inmates Kansas is housing in a privately run Arizona prison have coronavirus. The Kansas Department of Corrections said Thursday there were 77 active coronavirus cases among the inmates housed out-of-state as of Monday. The department said it is housing 118 offenders at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. It has moved inmates there to prevent crowding in Kansas state prisons.  A department spokeswoman said the numbers of cases among Kansas inmates at the Arizona prison appears to be consistent with numbers for outbreaks in Kansas prisons. The state has reported more than 162,000 coronavirus cases and 1,679 deaths in Kansas since the pandemic began.


Kansas Rep. Watkins Set for February 4 Hearing on Going to Trial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A hearing is set for Feb. 4 to determine whether defeated Rep. Steve Watkins will face a trial on charges of felony election fraud and other crimes. The Republican congressman for eastern Kansas had initially faced his first appearance in state district court Thursday in Topeka in a case arising from his listing a postal box at a UPS Inc. store as his residence on a state voter registration form. But Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said Watkins’s attorney sought beforehand to schedule a hearing to determine whether Kagay's office has enough evidence to warrant a trial. Neither Watkins nor his attorney came to the courthouse Thursday.


Shawnee Mayor Charged with Felony Perjury in Kansas

UNDATED (AP) — Court records show Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler has been charged with felony perjury. The Kansas City Star reports the 47-year-old mayor was released Wednesday on $2,500 bond.  The criminal complaint alleges she made a false statement on March 7.  Distler has served as mayor of Shawnee since 2015. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Online court records do not indicate a defense attorney in the case.


Pizza Hut Co-Founder Frank Carney Dies from Pneumonia at Age 82

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Frank Carney, who co-founded the Pizza Hut empire with his brother in Wichita, has died from pneumonia. He was 82. The Wichita Eagle reports that Carney had recently recovered from COVID-19, but had battled Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade. Family members say he died at 4:30 am Wednesday at an assisted living facility in Wichita. In 1958, Frank Carney was a 19-year-old student at Wichita State University.  Along with his 26-year-old brother Dan, the two borrowed $600 from their mother to start a pizza business.  They did so at the suggestion of the landlord at the beer joint near their family’s business, Carney’s Market. Somewhere along the way, the brothers paid back the loan to their mother.  In 1977, PepsiCo bought Pizza Hut for more than $300 million.  


Australian Firm to Buy Kansas-Based Waddell & Reed

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — An Australian company has purchased the Kansas-based financial services company Waddell & Reed Financial for $1.7 billion. Macquarie Asset Management, an arm of Australia’s Macquarie Group, announced late Wednesday that it will buy all outstanding shares of Waddell and Reed for $25 per share in cash. The companies said in a statement that when the sale is complete, Macquarie plans to sell Waddell & Reed’s wealth management platform to LPL Financial Holdings, an independent broker-dealer in Boston for $300 million. The two companies' boards of directors have approved the sale, which is expected to be complete by mid-2021, pending normal regulatory approvals.


Missouri Inmate Who Videotaped Sexual Torture-Murders Dies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri inmate who was convicted of killing two women in 2006 after videotaping their torture and murders has died. The Missouri Department of Corrections said 56-year-old Richard Davis died Tuesday. Davis was sent to death row after being convicted of 32 felonies, including first-degree murder. Corrections officials say he died of natural causes. Davis was being held at the Potosi Correctional Center and was hospitalized for more than two weeks before his death. Prosecutors said Davis and his then-girlfriend, Dena Riley, tortured and killed Marsha Spicer and Michelle Huff-Ricci to fulfill Davis's fantasies. Riley is serving several life sentences.


Investigators: Crash Involving Deer Kills 1, Injures Another Near Pratt

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — Kansas troopers say a man was killed and a woman seriously injured when their small sport utility vehicle hit a deer before being hit by another vehicle in south-central Kansas. Television station KAKE reports the crash happened just after 9 pm Tuesday on U.S. Highway 54, east of Pratt. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the westbound SUV hit a deer and became disabled, sitting sideways in the roadway. It was then broadsided by a camper van, killing 65-year-old Gregory Hettmansberger, of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The patrol says Hettmansberger's passenger, a 70-year-old woman, was taken to a Wichita hospital with serious injuries. Investigators say the 26-year-old driver of the camper van was not hurt.


Kansas Officials Concerned About Repeated, Widespread 911 Outages

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are concerned about the state's 911 service, after a nearly three-hour outage across southern Kansas over the weekend.  It's at least the third major disruption to 911 service in Kansas in four years. An audit in 2018 warned the system was at risk of outages affecting emergency departments. A 911 Coordinating Council has been working for years to move the state to the next generation of service, called NG911. Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat who is a member of the council, says the state has ignored the basic requirement to have a redundant system in case of a widespread outage.


Retired Kansas Supreme Court Justice Tyler Lockett Dies 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Kansas News Service) -- A former Kansas Supreme Court justice has died from COVID-19. Tyler Lockett died Saturday (11/28) in Topeka. He was 87. He graduated from Washburn University’s law school and worked as an attorney and a judge in Sedgwick County. In 1983, Lockett was appointed to the state Supreme Court by then-Governor John Carlin. He retired from the court in 2003.


Kansas Governor Picks Another Justice for State Supreme Court; Her 3rd Appointment in Less than 2 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has appointed state Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court. Monday's appointment was made despite the objections of the state’s most influential anti-abortion group. It is Kelly’s third appointment to the seven-member court in less than two years in office. Under the state constitution, her choice is not subject to review by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Standridge will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Carol Beier. The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life opposed Standridge because she sided in a 2016 ruling with other judges who said the state constitution protects abortion rights.


Kansas Offers Free Wasting Disease Testing on Hunted Deer

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are offering deer hunters in the state free testing for chronic wasting disease on the carcasses of deer they kill during the 2020-2021 deer hunting seasons. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is offering the testing in conjunction with the University of Missouri as part of a research project to better understand where the disease is present in Kansas and how it is spread. The project will offer the free testing on a maximum of 450 samples over the next three years. Hunters will need to be able to provide the location of where they killed the deer, using GPS coordinates, range-township-section numbers or the nearest intersection to receive the free testing.


Confidence in Midwest Economic Future Plummets in Latest Survey

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of business leaders in nine Midwest and Plains states suggests faltering confidence in the region's economy. After climbing every month since bottoming out in April, the overall index of the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions survey fell to 69.0 in November from October's 70.2. Any score above 50 on the survey's indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. Meanwhile, the survey's confidence index looking ahead six months plummeted 20 points to 50.0 this month from October's 70.4. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Police Investigate Fatal Shooting at Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating a shooting that fatally injured a 49-year-old Wichita man. The Wichita Police Department says officers responded to a shooting call at about 4:30 am Wednesday and found Michael Horn with a gunshot wound. He was transported to an area hospital where he died from his injuries. Police say this was not a random incident and that the investigation is ongoing. Investigators were working to locate the suspect.


Judge: No Contact Meetings for Suspect in Brothers' Deaths

WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of killing two brothers from Wisconsin will not be allowed to meet in person with his attorneys, at least for now. Attorneys for Garland Nelson, of Braymer, have not been able to meet with him in the same room at the Caldwell County Jail because of coronavirus restrictions. They argued they need to have personal visits with Nelson because he is facing the death penalty in the deaths of 24-year-old Justin Diemel and 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin. A judge ruled Tuesday that he wants to hear from public health officials before allowing the personal meetings.


Peppered Chub Proposed by Agency as Endangered Species

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list a small minnow-like fish known as the peppered chub as an endangered species and designate parts of rivers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico as its critical habitat. This week, the agency published the proposal in the Federal Register. The proposal says the fish, once found in each of the four states and in Colorado, is now found only in one river from New Mexico into Texas.  The agency says rivers in Kansas and Oklahoma must also be protected to ensure they could be relocated, if necessary, to prevent extinction.


'Change at Any Moment' - Virus Upends Football Season for Big 12

UNDATED (AP) — No. 12 Iowa State's most remarkable accomplishment this season might not be beating Oklahoma and Texas in the same season for the first time. Or reaching the conference championship game if they do. It could be staying on the field in a season dominated by the pandemic. The Cyclones are one of three Big 12 teams set to finish their 10-game regular season Saturday. The others are Kansas State and Texas Tech. While the Big 12 has only had to reschedule three games so far, there are still the weekly and even daily COVID-19 issues for every team.


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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