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Headlines for Tuesday, December 1, 2020

 

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.

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Kansas Hospital Officials Fear Shortage of Nurses, other Healthcare Workers, Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases

UNDATED, (AP) - Hospital and nursing officials fear if COVID-19 cases continue unchecked, there will not be enough nurses to staff new hospital beds in the near future in the Kansas City metro area.  On Monday, Kansas health officials added 4,425 cases to the state's pandemic tally, bringing the total to 157,446 since Friday. The data showed that Kansas averaged 2,198 new confirmed and probable coronavirus a day for the seven days ending Monday. That is below the record average of 2,766 cases. The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 31 to 1,560.

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Kansas COVID-19 Cases Surpass 157,000; More than 1,500 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 157,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 1,500 virus-related deaths.  The state health department reported Monday that Kansas had identified 157,446 coronavirus cases and 1,560 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Those numbers indicate an additional 4,425 cases and 31 deaths since Friday. Another update of Kansas COVID-19 case statistics is expected Wednesday.  

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Surge in Virus Cases Stresses Rural Hospitals Across Kansas

HOLTON, KAN. (AP) — Small rural hospitals in Kansas and Missouri are increasingly spending hours searching for facilities they can transfer patients to because they are struggling to cope with the surge in coronavirus cases.  As the region's hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients, smaller hospitals like the one in Holton are finding it difficult to treat patients who don't have the disease but still need care.  “People don’t just stop having heart attacks or those sorts of things,” said Carrie Saia, CEO of the hospital in Holton, which is about 30 miles north of Topeka, Kansas. “I just worry that we’re going to be so consumed that we’re not really able to care for some emergency that comes in.”  The urban and rural health care systems in Missouri and Kansas are intertwined, with smaller hospitals identifying which patients need more advanced care and transferring them to larger facilities in bigger cities, the Kansas City Star reported.

But lately, smaller hospitals have been spending hours searching for beds for their patients in larger facilities in places such as Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri.  When COVID-19 patients stress the capacity of smaller hospitals, it makes it harder to care for patients with heart attacks, strokes or other serious conditions.  “Those patients, when they come through our doors, honestly that’s a little more scary than COVID,” said Valarie Davis who is the administrator of Mercy’s smaller hospitals in Cassville and Aurora, Missouri. “We have to get them somewhere as quick as we possibly can.”  And rural hospital administrators increasingly worry about how the surge in patients is affecting their nurses and doctors.  “I’ve had one of the nurses literally break down right in front of me because of her concern for one of the patients, which is a wonderful thing but it takes a toll on the staff,” said Dennis Franks, CEO of the 25-bed Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute, in southeast Kansas. “They’re working a lot.”

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At Tiny Rural Hospitals in Missouri, Weary Doctors Treat Friends, Family

MEMPHIS, Mo. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic is devastating rural hospitals, including the tiny 25-bed facility in Memphis, Missouri. People come from six surrounding counties for basic care at Scotland County Hospital. No beds are available and nurses are often working 24 extra hours a week. Larger hospitals nearby are full, too, so it’s difficult to transfer patients needing more critical care. Doctors and nurses say the struggle is made worse when people in the community continue to downplay the virus, with some calling it a hoax. Yet the situation is so dire that doctors sometimes have to send infected people home, telling them to come back if their condition worsens.

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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.

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Widespread 911 Outage Causes Alarm for Kansas Officials

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say they are concerned about the state's 911 service, after a nearly three-hour outage across southern Kansas during the weekend.  It's at least the third major disruption to 911 service in the state 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 Kansas 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.

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Kansas Official Replaced by Man He Allegedly Tried to Frame

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A disgraced politician in Kansas will be replaced on a county commission by the man he and two other Republican officials allegedly tried to frame in order to hide their own roles in a smear campaign against a mayoral candidate. The Wichita Eagle reports that Republican Party stalwarts on Monday selected Dalton Glasscock to finish the remaining term of former Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell. Separately, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Tuesday the state's Constitution doesn’t give the courts power to remove state Rep. Michael Capps from the Legislature. He referred Capps's case to leaders of the state House of Representatives to consider whether expulsion proceedings are appropriate.

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Consumer Agency Urges Kansas Regulators to Reject Solar Rate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state consumer advocacy agency has urged regulators to reject Evergy’s proposal to add charges to recover the cost of providing solar energy. The Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board requested a temporary plan in which Evergy would charge solar and non-solar customers the same. The Wichita Eagle reports Evergy proposed new rates after their current rate structure, which included fees to customers who generate their own electricity, was ruled discriminatory by the Kansas Supreme Court. Evergy contends it needs to recover the cost of providing on-demand electricity for solar-equipped homes that don’t use many kilowatts. It argues customers without solar are subsidizing those who use solar power.

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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.

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Kansas Certifies Election Results Showing Trump Win

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have certified election results showing President Donald Trump won the heavily Republican state to claim the state’s six electoral votes. The Kansas State Board of Canvassers said Monday that over 56% of Kansas votes were cast for Trump. The hotly contested U.S. Senate race was certified with Republican Roger Marshall chalking up over 53% of the vote against Democrat Barbara Bollier. The election drew historic turnout despite the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 71% of registered voters cast ballots. In the 2016 general election slightly more than 67% voted.

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Wichita Police: Man Driving Stolen Car Dies in Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man died when a stolen car he was driving crashed during a police pursuit. Wichita police Captain Wendell Nicholson says the vehicle was stolen about 6 am today (TUE) after it was left running to warm up. Police saw the vehicle and began a pursuit. Nicholson says the driver eventually clipped another vehicle in an intersection and the car crashed into a telephone pole. The driver was ejected and died at the scene. The driver's name has not been released. Wichita police and the Kansas Highway Patrol are investigating.

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Police ID Body Found in Kansas City Neighborhood

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified a man whose body was found over the weekend in a Kansas City neighborhood. Police say the body of 34-year-old Martez Brock was found near a residential area Friday night by officers responding to a report of “suspicious party.” Police spokesman Capt. David Jackson said Brock’s injuries were consistent with foul play but have not said what the cause of death was. The Kansas City killing marked the city’s 174th homicide this year, up sharply from 2019. By the same time last year, there had been 139 killings.

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Wichita Police Investigating Stabbing Death of Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are investigating the stabbing death of a man inside a home. Television station KSN reports that firefighters in the area were flagged down just after 4 pm Sunday by a witness to the stabbing. Firefighters then called police, who found 32-year-old Rickey Mason, of Wichita, fatally wounded inside the home. Police say witnesses reported Mason and another person were arguing over property when the other person pulled a knife and stabbed Mason in the chest. Police have not reported any arrests in the case, but say they know the identity of and are searching for a suspect.

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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Closes Because of Virus Cases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum decided it would close for 10 days. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick said officials decided to close the museum starting Sunday as a precautionary measure to protect staff and visitors. Kendrick said the museum plans to reopen on December 8.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues.

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VA Outpatient Clinic in Liberal Closing Next Year

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center said it will close its outpatient clinic in Liberal next year. The Dodge City Globe reports that the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic opened in 2018 in Liberal. It will cease operations after January 14. Candace Ifabiyi, Medical Center director for Dole VA, says they are disappointed to have to make this decision. She says veterans in southwest Kansas have other options for their health care needs, including a well-staffed VA clinic in Dodge City that is within driving distances. It also has virtual programs that let veterans connect by video from their homes to VA health care providers.

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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 Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico as its critical habitat. The agency on Tuesday 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 and rivers in Kansas and Oklahoma must also be protected to ensure they could be relocated, if necessary, to prevent extinction.

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2 Teens Accused of Spraying Mace in Carjacking Attempt

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police arrested two teenage boys accused of spraying a woman with mace at a Wichita shopping center during a failed attempt to steal her car. The Wichita Police Department says the arrests stem from an incident at 11 am Sunday at the West Way Shopping Center. A 50-year-old woman reported two males tried to steal her SUV as she was getting inside. A 13-year-old was arrested on suspicion of robbery, simple battery, simple battery of a law enforcement officer and other charges. A 15-year-old was also arrested on suspicion of robbery, simple battery and obstruction.

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Shawnee Mission Schools Under Pressure to Change Mascot

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee Mission school district is looking at making changes to mascots that use Native American imagery. That comes after thousands of people, including current and former students, signed a petition seeking to have the Shawnee Mission North High School drop its Indians name and mascot. More than 3,300 people signed a Change.org petition urging the district to change the mascot by the school's 100th anniversary in 2022. There also have been protests, including several marches near the high school. The Kansas City Star reports that the coronavirus pandemic stalled the district's response this year. But district officials now say a committee set to meet on Thursday will take steps to review how other districts have implemented mascot policies.

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New Quarter Honors Kansas Prairie

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Flint Hills of Kansas are all abuzz over a new coin that pays homage to the state's Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The Wichita Eagle reports that the U.S. Mint has released the 55th installment in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The flip side offers a skyward view of the prairie, native Big Bluestem and Indian grasses as well as a Regal Fritillary butterfly. Heather Brown, chief of interpretation and visitors services for the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, says the design "helps spotlight some of the prairie's endangered ecosystem." The tallgrass prairie quarters were released into circulation in mid November.  Approximately 300 million were minted.

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Gonzaga, Baylor Stay Atop AP Top 25; Jayhawks Drop One Spot 

UNDATED (AP) — Gonzaga and Baylor remain the top two teams in the first Associated Press men’s college basketball poll of the regular season. The Zags received 57 first-place votes from a 63-person media panel. The Bears received six first-place votes, with Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois rounding out the top five. Gonzaga was the preseason No. 1 and lived up to the billing by rolling over Kansas and Auburn in Fort Meyers, Florida. The Jayhawks dropped a spot to No. 7 this week but were ranked for the 222nd consecutive week to break UCLA’s all-time record set from 1966-80. Villanova and Virginia plunged after losses while Virginia Tech entered the rankings at No. 16 and Richmond at No. 19. 

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