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Headlines for Thursday, November 19, 2020


Governor Issues New Mask Mandate as COVID Cases Surge Across Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has issued a new mask mandate in hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus after the state reported another record seven-day increase in new cases. Kansas law still allows the state's 105 counties to opt out of such an order from the governor, and most did when Kelly issued a similar order in July. But the state’s rolling seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases was more than nine times higher Wednesday than it was when her first order took effect. Kelly’s order takes effect November 25, the day before Thanksgiving, and only in counties that don’t yet have their own mask mandates. That’s still a majority of them.


"Tired to the Bone" - America's Hospitals Overwhelmed with Coronavirus Cases

UNDATED (AP) - Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.  Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the U.S. at an unrelenting pace and the confirmed death toll surpasses 250,000.  “We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,” said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, adding that she drives to and from work some days in tears.  

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, nearly 77,000 were hospitalized with the virus.  Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have exploded more than 80% over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record, with the daily count running at close to 160,000 on average.  Cases are on the rise in all 50 states.  Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest in months.  

The out-of-control surge is leading governors and mayors across the U.S. to grudgingly issue mask mandates, limit the size of private and public gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving, ban indoor restaurant dining, close gyms or restrict the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses.  “There are only so many medical personnel to go around,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration.  In places like Idaho, doctors warned that hospitals have almost reached the point where they need to ration care, unable to treat everyone because there aren’t enough beds or staffers to go around.  “Never in my career did I think we would even contemplate the idea of rationing care in the United States of America,” said Dr. Jim Souza, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Health System.  In Reno, Nevada, Renown Regional Medical Center began moving some coronavirus patients into its parking garage.

In Kansas, hospitals are converting spaces such as chapels and cafeterias for use by COVID-19 patients, said Cindy Samuelson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association.  Stormont Vail Health in Topeka devoted an entire hospital floor to COVID-19 patients as their numbers swelled, hitting 90 on Wednesday. The hospital also converted two surgery waiting rooms for use by non-infected patients, spokesman Matt Lara said.  In some cases, nurses and doctors in Kansas have been spending up to eight hours looking for a large hospital with an opening in cities as far away as Denver, Omaha or Kansas City.  “The problem with this is, by the time you transfer these patients out they already are very ill at that point,” said Kansas nurse practitioner Perry Desbien.  At the same time, patience is wearing thin over the lack of mask wearing that is contributing to the problem in rural areas.  “It kind of feels like we’re just, you know, yelling into the abyss,” said Cheyanne Seematter, a registered nurse at Stormont
Vail. “We keep telling everybody to stay home, wear a mask, that it is actually bad here.”


CDC Pleads with Americans to Not Travel for Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s top public health agency is pleading with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, or to spend the holiday with people with whom they are not currently living. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the recommendations Thursday, one week before the traditional family gathering celebration. 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.


Kansas COVID-19 Cases Approaching 130,000; More than 1,300 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 128,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 1,300 virus-related deaths.  The state health department reported Wednesday that Kansas had identified 128,594 coronavirus cases and 1,326 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 5,853 cases and 60 deaths since Monday.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases will be released Friday. 


Kansas Health Officials Urge Communities to Do More to Slow Spread of Virus

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials are urging communities to take stronger action as more hospital rooms are devoted to the care of coronavirus patients and hundreds of doctors, nurses and other workers are quarantined, leading some surgical procedures to be delayed. The state's top health official, Dr. Lee Norman, said this week that a system he compared to air traffic control for coronavirus patients is being put in place so nurses from rural hospitals can make a single call to find a larger hospital that can take their sickest patients. In some cases, nursing staff and doctors have been spending up to eight hours looking for a large hospital with enough bed space.  But Norman said these rural communities can’t rely entirely upon the state for help. Hospital emergency departments in at least two communities have been holding coronavirus patients while waiting for space or staff to treat them elsewhere. The CEO of Stormont-Vail hospital in Topeka called the local spread of the virus “uncontrolled.”


Kansas Aims to Boost Virus Testing, but Strategy Unfinished

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly's unified strategy for ramping up coronavirus testing in Kansas is enough of a work in progress seven weeks after she announced it that even some of the state's contractors don't yet have all the details. Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning contends that Kelly's administration moved too slowly in rolling out the strategy and isn’t focused enough on making sure the state has a healthy work force so businesses can stay open. Kelly dismisses the criticism, and officials and contractors are confident that testing will be ramped up before the year ends. A CEO of one state contractor calls testing a bridge to a coronavirus vaccine.


Emergency Crews Battle Large Wildfires in Shawnee, Pottawatomie, Wabaunsee Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT/KPR) - Emergency crews worked to contain several wildfires in northeast Kansas Wednesday afternoon.  Whipped by strong winds, the fast-moving fires erupted in Shawnee, Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee counties.  KSNT TV reported that Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse urged residents of Delia and the surrounding area to evacuate.  The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for eastern Kansas until 6 pm Wednesday, as dry conditions and strong winds increased the fire danger.  Kansas National Guard helicopters have been helping to fight wildfires in Kansas since Saturday.  The State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka, which is currently activated in response to the coronavirus pandemic, continues to monitor fire conditions across Kansas.  


Go Vintage! Audio-Reader Offers Audio Equipment, Vinyl and CDs During Another Facebook Live Sale

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Audio-Reader Network is holding another Facebook Live sale of gently-used audio equipment, vinyl records and CDs at 6:00 pm today (THUR).  All proceeds benefit the radio-reading service at the University of Kansas, which has been serving blind and vision-impaired listeners across the state since 1971.  Audio-Reader has been holding these virtual sales events at least once a month, featuring different items such as audio equipment, vinyl records, CD packages, DVDs and musical instruments. (Read more.)


Mouth Spray Developed in Kansas Used to Fight Coronavirus?

WYANDOTTE COUNTY, Kan. (KCTV/KSMO) — A mouth spray used in dentistry for over a decade, now has a new use during the pandemic.  TV station KCTV reports that the spray, developed in Wyandotte County and now awaiting FDA approval, could change the way we fight the coronavirus.  “Oral health in America, May 2000 came out and it said we had a pandemic of oral disease in America,” says Janice King the President/CEO of NOWsystem Inc. in Kansas City.  That study is what motivated King to start the company, with the goal of creating a special spray that heals your mouth while killing bacteria.  “We went through this for over a year of sending up samples and getting the results and saying okay now we have to formulate this a little differently,” says King.  Finally, she came up with a plant based, alcohol free, formula for her product now called Tri-ology.  With several sprays, a couple of times a day, the product has gained the reputation of a strong bacteria killer.  Unlike regular mouthwash, the product also heals your mouth.  Doctor Jim Elias uses this product at Dental Arts, his dental office in Independence, Missouri.  He says they use it in several situations.  “Gum surgery patients, people that were meth addicts that came in with total decay, people that just had total bad gum infections, plaque, disease and bad breath,” says Elias.  Lately, his office is taking advantage of its new use, killing the coronavirus, by inhaling or ingesting the product.  Something King recently got proof that it can do, after getting it tested at a certified coronavirus lab in Virginia.  “The report came back and we only had it tested for two minutes but at two minutes 100 percent of the COVID-19 virus was inactivated.  KCTV asked local doctors what trust they put in a product like this.

“All of these products, they may look in the lab to inactivate or kill infectious virus, but we don’t really know the utility of protection and even treatment of SARS COVID-2 or COVID-19 with these products,” says Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an Infectious Disease Expert at University Kansas Health Systems.

The product has taken off both locally and globally and is something King says is changing how we fight the pandemic.  She says especially during times when masks aren’t an option, such as sports.  “This is something that if they can get their teams using before practices and before games, they can limit the amount of COVID that spreads out there,” says King.  She says Tri-ology shouldn’t permanently take the place of wearing masks, and adds that restaurants, businesses, and teachers who already use masks, can apply this for an added level of protection.  “This is a way for us to get our economy back to get businesses open again,” says King.  King is currently in the process of getting the product FDA approved, and by the end of the year, she expects it to be readily available on several store shelves.  For now, those interested in the product can find it on the Tri-ology website.  


Kansas Man Accused of Illegal Autopsies Faces Fraud Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of performing illegal autopsies has been indicted on 10 counts of federal wire fraud. Federal prosecutors for Kansas say the indictment accuses 41-year-old Shawn Parcells, of Leawood, of falsely leading people to believe they would receive an autopsy report from a pathologist. Parcells is a self-taught pathology assistant with no formal education. The indictment also seeks to recover more than $1 million in fees paid to Parcells by clients. If convicted of the federal counts, Parcells could face up to 20 years in prison on each count. An attorney who has represented Parcells in other matters did not immediately return a message left Thursday morning seeking comment.


Woman Charged with Trying to Smuggle Cell Phones into Prison

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal authorities say a Missouri woman has been indicted after she allegedly tried to smuggle cell phones into a federal prison in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas announced Thursday that  47-year-old Karilyn Primeau, of Smithville, has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to bribe a public official. Primeau is married to an inmate at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth. The indictment alleges she paid a guard to take cell phones into the prison for inmates to use. If convicted, Primeau could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. 


Kansas Woman Guilty of Transporting Minor for Prostitution

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Wichita woman pleaded guilty to taking a minor across state lines to engage in prostitution. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister says 22-year-old Taylor Kinsey pleaded guilty this week in federal court to one count of interstate transportation for prostitution. Prosecutors say Kinsey admitted that she recruited a 17-year-old victim to engage in prostitution, then took the minor from Wichita to Oklahoma City to engage in sex acts for money. Kinsey has agreed to a term of 7.5 years in federal prison when she's sentenced on February 5.


3 Black Female Former Detectives Sue Kansas City Police for Discrimination

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Three Black female former detectives have accused the Kansas City Police Department of discriminating against them because of their race and gender during an internal probe of a unit that investigated sex crimes against children. In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, the women allege they became scapegoats during an internal affairs investigation of the Crimes Against Children Unit, which was accused of not properly investigating rape and child molestation cases. Gleanice Brown, Latondra Moore and Tamara Solomon argue the findings and disciplinary recommendations from the investigation were racially and sexually motivated. The police department says it doesn't discuss pending litigation.


Kansas City Couple Wins $4 Million in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The parents of a Kansas City man who died in a 2016 shooting have been awarded $4 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against a gun trafficker, and a gun dealer and a manufacturer. Court documents say one of the guns dealt by former Kansas City police captain James Samuels was used to kill Alvino Dwight Crawford Jr. in July 2016. Crawford's parents sued Samuels, Jimenez Arms and Green Tip Arms in June 2019. The suit alleged that Green Tip Arms should have known that Samuels was an unlicensed gun dealer. They also accused Jimenez Arms, which manufactured the gun, of aiding and abetting the gun trafficking ring.


2 from Oklahoma Escape Serious Injury in Small Plane Crash in Southwest Kansas

JOHNSON CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people from Oklahoma escaped serious injuries when a small plane crashed in southwest Kansas. The crash occurred Tuesday afternoon about 7 miles east of the Stanton County Airport near Johnson City. The patrol said the Cessna 120 fixed-wing, single-engine airplane crashed when the left wing hit the dirt while the pilot was attempting a “fly-by” of people on the ground. The pilot, 36-year-old Blake Gerard, and a passenger, 13-year-old Matthew Gerard, both of Collinsville, Oklahoma, were taken to Stanton County Hospital. The patrol said neither suffered serious injuries.


U.S. Senate Confirms Third Federal Judge to District of Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Senate has confirmed Kansas Solicitor General Toby Crouse as a federal judge for the District of Kansas. It is the third federal district judgeship in Kansas nominated by President Donald Trump. Senators voted 50-43 on Tuesday to confirm Crouse. He was nominated in May to replace former U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia in Kansas City, Kansas. Murguia resigned after he was publicly reprimanded for sexually harassing female employees and having an extramarital affair with an offender. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Crouse has been an outstanding solicitor general. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposes Crouse's nomination, calling him “a right-wing ideologue."


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


Texas-Kansas Among 6 Major College Games Postponed by Virus

UNDATED (AP) — No. 22 Texas at Kansas was among six games postponed by COVID-19 problems as the virus took another chunk out of this weekend's major college football schedule. Overall, 14 out of 62 games involving Bowl Subdivision teams scheduled for this week have been called off. Texas-Kansas was just the second Big 12 conference game to be postponed this season and was rescheduled for Dec. 12. The American Athletic Conference had to call off Navy at South Florida and Houston at SMU. The conference will work to reschedule those games. The Mountain West's Thursday night game between Utah State and Wyoming was canceled and No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette said it would not play its nonconference game against Central Arkansas on Saturday.


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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