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Headlines for Thursday, November 26, 2020

Kansas COVID-19 Cases Close in on 150,000; Virus-Related Death Toll Exceeds 1,500 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 147,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 1,500 virus-related deaths.  The state health department reported Wednesday that Kansas had identified 147,797 coronavirus cases and 1,503 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Those numbers indicate an additional 5,738 cases and 47 deaths since Monday. Another update of Kansas COVID-19 case statistics is expected on Friday. 

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Governor Kelly Urges State to 'Hunker Down' Amid Virus Surge

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly warned residents Wednesday not to let down their guard during Thanksgiving Day celebrations as coronavirus cases soar and hospitals overflow. The number of confirmed and probable cases rose by 5,738 from Monday to 147,797, bringing the daily average to 2,743 over the past week. Surging pandemic numbers are straining hospitals across Kansas as public health officials fear that family Thanksgiving gatherings could worsen the outbreak. Kansas health chief Dr. Lee Norman warned that hospitals are running out of beds and especially staff. The problem is so severe that doctors and nurses in rural parts of the  state have been complaining about spending hours on the phone arranging transfers. Some patients are being flown hundreds of miles because closer hospitals have no capacity.

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More Counties Require Masks as New Mask Mandate Takes Effect

LAWRENCE, Kan (AP) — The number of Kansas counties that require face coverings has risen sharply as fewer opted out of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest mask mandate. Sixty-two Kansas counties now have mask orders in place, with many coming as  Kelly’s new statewide mask order went into effect Wednesday, according to a list compiled by the Kansas Association of Counties. The remaining 43 of the counties have opted out, but most are encouraging or recommending people wear masks, The Kansas City Star reports. It’s a stark contrast to the response Kelly received to her first mask order in July, when the majority of counties opted out.

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Kansas Launches Pro-Mask Campaign but Faces Skepticism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has launched a media campaign aimed at getting more of its residents to wear masks so that the coronavirus doesn’t keep spreading rapidly. Some officials are skeptical that it will move the needle much.  A mask mandate from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is went into effect Wednesday but Kansas law allows the state’s 105 counties to opt out. Most counties did so the first time Kelly tried to require masks in July but with the average new case numbers more than nine times higher now than then, there appears to be less pushback. The state has set aside $1.5 million for television, radio, print and social media ads promoting masks but some officials worry that politics are driving resistance to masks and others suggest that people already are bombarded with pro-mask messages. Kansans can access campaign resources and other materials at StopTheSpreadKansas.org. The campaign hopes to ignite a sense of unity, community and responsibility by reminding Kansans about the four main tools they can use to stop the spread of the virus: wearing a mask, washing their hands, keeping a safe distance from others and avoiding large gatherings.

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Kansas City Area WalMarts to Offer COVID Self-Testing Kits

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR/KNS) - Three Kansas City area WalMart stores are offering self-administered COVID-19 testing kits for adults who meet CDC, state and local guidelines on who should be tested. Curbside delivery of the kits will be made available at the Walmart store on Kansas Avenue in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Drive-through pick-up of the kits will be available at the Supercenter on Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kansas, and the Neighborhood Market on North Antioch Road in Kansas City, Missouri.  Patients must first request an appointment through Quest Diagnostic’s online portal at my-quest-covid-test-dot-com. Quest will screen and schedule appointments for those who qualify. Results will be made available by Quest, typically 48 to 72 hours after it has received patients’ samples.

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Missouri Cities Crack Down on Restaurant Virus Rule Violators

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri's two largest metropolitan areas are cracking down on restaurants that violate rules designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Kansas City's liquor control authorities found two dozen bars and restaurants in violation of the city's new COVID-19 restrictions after a recent sweep of 185 establishments. Meanwhile, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health sent certified letters to three dozen bars and businesses ordering them to cease indoor service or face lawsuits or criminal charges. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 11 of those establishments had already received a second notice from the county. 

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Hospital Bed, ICU Capacity Becoming More Limited in Missouri

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Hospital beds across Missouri are nearly four-fifths full, and capacity is even more limited in intensive care units as the coronavirus pandemic continues its autumn surge. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Monday cited 2,805 hospitalizations statewide -- double the number from a month ago. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard notes that just 21% of capacity remains at hospitals, and ICU capacity is down to 17%. Bed capacity is at 13% in northwest Missouri, 17% in the St. Louis region and 19% in Kansas City. ICU capacity is at 13% in the southwestern part of the state and in St. Louis.

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Inmate Deaths Connected to COVID-19 Rise Sharply in Missouri

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri prisons have seen a surge of inmate deaths connected to the coronavirus this month, prompting civil rights leaders to urge additional steps to protect prisoners and staff. Early in the pandemic, confirmed cases were common but mostly mild among Missouri prisoners. Through August, the state reported just one inmate death. But 26 additional inmates infected with COVID-19 have died since September, most of them this month. A state spokeswoman says it isn’t certain that COVID-19 was the primary cause of death in most cases. All but two had serious underlying conditions such as late-stage renal failure, heart disease or cancer.

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Extended Unemployment Benefits Ending Next Month in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal program that had extended unemployment benefits for an extra 13 weeks in Kansas will stop next month just as new COVID-19 restrictions could lead to more furloughs and layoffs. The U.S. Department of Labor informed the state labor agency that the Kansas unemployment levels had fallen below the eligibility threshold for the Extended Benefits program. The last payments for Kansans on the program will be the week ending December 12. The Kansas Department of Labor will notify affected individuals. Kansas previously qualified for the Extended Benefits program in June, which offered an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for workers who exhaust regular unemployment benefits during periods of high unemployment.

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Plan Calls for Housing Homeless in Transformed Kansas Hotel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to transform a hotel near downtown Wichita into housing for the homeless goes before the city council next week. A Wichita spokesperson said the owner of the 316 Hotel has agreed to sell the building for $2.6 million. The Wichita Eagle reports that renovations for the studio apartments are estimated to cost another $1.6 million. A mixture of public and private money would pay the bills. HumanKind Ministries, which was previously Inter-Faith Ministries, would own and operate the location.

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Church Organization in Kansas, Oklahoma Pays Medical Debts

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The United Church of Christ Kansas-Oklahoma Conference has paid off medical debts totaling more than $5.2 million for more than 3,200 families in the two states. Conference President Bobbie Henderson said that the conference's 7,000 members in 53 churches in Kansas and Oklahoma raised about $40,000 that was given to a non-profit debt company, which purchased the debts at a discount from the debt holders, then forgave them. A UCC spokesperson said the project began in 2019 and has now eliminated about $57 million in medical debt nationwide. The UCC said it does not know who the recipients of the program are.

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Ballot Drop-Off Boxes Here to Stay in Sedgwick County

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Election officials in Sedgwick County say the drop-off ballot boxes used in the November 3 election were “wildly popular” and are here to stay. Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman told the Wichita Eagle that the secured boxes where voters could turn in their mail ballots at their convenience were a big success. She’s looking forward to using them for years to come. The drop-off boxes were part of the effort to help voters social distance during the coronavirus pandemic. Voters who dropped off their ballots there didn’t have to interact with anyone in person, negating the COVID-19 threat.

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Judge Refuse Missouri Tenants Request to Halt Evictions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A federal judge rejected a request to halt evictions after a tenants' rights group in Missouri claimed Jackson County was violating a federal moratorium that aims to stop the spread of COVID-19 by preventing homelessness. The ruling comes in a federal lawsuit filed by KC Tenants in Missouri. The lawsuit against Jackson County Circuit Judge David Byrn argues that the court is violating a federal eviction moratorium by allowing eviction cases to go forward. 

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Christmas Traditions Axed as Pandemic Sweeps Rural Kansas

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — The cancellation of the beloved Christmas Drawing in Norcatur, Kansas, has shone a spotlight on a global coronavirus pandemic that has reached deep into rural America. The notice blamed individuals who have Covid-19 and refuse to quarantine for not making it safe for the town to holds its Christmas celebration. It's a decades-old tradition in which the whole town gets together for a potluck dinner at Christmastime. Its namesake drawing features a plethora of donated meats, crafts and other goodies so every family can go home with prizes. Sheriff Ken Badsky estimated that 5% of county residents who should quarantine violate the restrictions and go out.

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Iowa Tribe Creates National Park on Nebraska-Kansas Border

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is creating the nation’s largest tribal national park on a forested bluff overlooking the Missouri River and a historic site of its people. The tribe says the 444-acre park will allow it to tell the story of the Ioway people and provide a rustic getaway where people can hike, camp and bird-watch. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the Ioway Tribal National Park will overlook a historic trading village once used by the Ioway people to barter for buffalo hides and pipestones with other tribes. That site includes three burial mounds that date back 3,000 years.

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Report Cites Need for Economic Diversity in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new report commissioned by the city of Lawrence cites a need for the community to diversify its economy or risk becoming too expensive for many people. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the city in June hired Ernst & Young to create an economic development strategic plan. The first phase of the process included a report with a community survey. The executive summary of the report says Lawrence's economy is not working for everyone and that there are reasons to be concerned about the city's economic sustainability. Despite the growing population, the report says Lawrence is becoming more expensive, leaving many residents behind.

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4-Year-Old Killed, 16-Year-Old Wounded in Kansas Shooting

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested after a 4-year-old girl was killed and a 16-year-old was wounded in a western Kansas shooting that stemmed from a domestic dispute. Garden City police said in a news release that the teen was found around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday in the parking lot of an elementary school, where classes weren’t in session. Officers were investigating when they were notified of the second shooting victim less than a mile away.  Police said a 31-year-old was taken into custody and both victims were taken to a hospital, where the girl was pronounced dead and the teen was treated for critical injuries.

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Police: 50-Year-Old Man Shot, Killed in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a deadly shooting in Wichita. Police identified the victim in a news release as 50-year-old Kamilu Boyede of Wichita. Officers found him dead Wednesday after a neighbor called to report that Boyede’s door was open. The case remains under investigation. No suspect information was released.

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Kansas Fire Claims Life of 62-Year-Old Man, Authorities Say

WETMORE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been killed in a fire in northeast Kansas. According to WIBW-TV,  a neighbor reported the fire around 5:30 a.m. Thursday in the Nemaha County town of Wetmore. The State Fire Marshal’s Office said the victim was a 62-year-old man who lived alone in the home. The office said the cause of the fire is not yet determined but was most likely accidental.

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Kansas Man Sentenced to Prison for Selling Drug that Caused Fatal Overdose 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison for selling heroin mixed with fentanyl to a man who fatally overdosed in 2017. The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release Wednesday that 44-year-old Ramon Strickland of Kansas City, Kansas, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing on a heroin-fentanyl mixture that resulted in death. The case stems from an emergency call in Overland Park on May 23, 2017 from a parent of the overdose victim.

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No. 1 Gonzaga Defeats No. 6 Kansas, 102-90

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Drew Timme scored 25 points, Jalen Suggs had 24 and Corey Kispert added 23 as No. 1 Gonzaga pulled away from No. 6 Kansas for a 102-90 victory. The Bulldogs built a double-digit lead in the first half at the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off, then saw the Jayhawk men's team tie it twice in the second half before putting them away. Gonzaga went on a 22-7 run to go up 96-78. Suggs scored 17 of his 24 in the second half. Marcus Garrett led Kansas with 22 points and Ochai Agbaji added 17 points. The way these teams played each other, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gonzaga and Kansas meet again late in the NCAA Tournament, maybe the Final Four.

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Defenses Fueling Run Toward Big 12 Football Championship Game

UNDATED (AP) — Defenses are helping carve a path toward the Big 12 championship game. No. 15 Iowa State and No. 14 Oklahoma have stood out recently by what they’ve done to limit opposing offenses. The first-place Cyclones held Kansas State to nine pass completions and 149 total yards in a 45-0 victory over the Wildcats last week. Second-place Oklahoma has allowed a total of two touchdowns and registered 13 sacks in its last two games. Iowa State can clinch a berth in the league title game with a win Friday at Texas. Oklahoma takes a five-game winning streak into its matchup Saturday night at West Virginia.

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Wichita State's Season Starts in Chaos with New Coach, No Games

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In little more than a week, Wichita State University’s basketball program has lost its most successful coach amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse, promoted an assistant with no head coaching experience and bowed out of a season-opening tournament because of COVID-19. The departure of Gregg Marshall was followed by the promotion of Isaac Brown to interim coach. Brown says he has just tried to focus on preparing his team. The season opener is now set for next week against Oral Roberts University.

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Jayhawks Women's Basketball Team Wins Season Opener

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) -  KU sophomore Holly Kersgieter led the KU Jayhawks to a 78-62 win over Northern Colorado in their season opener. WIBW-TV reports that Kersgieter scored 21-points with 11 rebounds to defeat the Northern Colorado Bears Wednesday in Lawrence. Senior forward Tina Stephens added 13 points and nine rebounds while freshman forward Ioanna Chatzileonti added 15 points. The KU women's team will next face Texas A&M Corpus Christi in Lawrence on Sunday.

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Sturtz's Double-Double Helps Send Drake Past Kansas State Men

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Garrett Sturtz scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Drake to an 80-70 victory over the Kansas State University men's team in a basketball season opener. Sturtz made all three of his field-goal attempts and 9 of 10 free throws, including four in the final 1:19 when the Bulldogs made 10 straight from the line to pull away. Tremell Murphy scored 12 points with seven rebounds and Shanquan Hemphill added 10 points, including a dunk to put Drake ahead for good with 7:24 remaining. Wildcats senior Mike McGuirl scored a career-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting and DaJuan Gordon, a sophomore, tied his personal best with 15 points.

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