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Headlines for Tuesday, December 8, 2020


As Virus Spreads, Kansas Hospital Runs Out of Staff

UNDATED (AP) — A small-town hospital in western Kansas has been running out of staff because of the coronavirus. The situation at Rush County Memorial Hospital in La Crosse illustrates the depths of the COVID-19 crisis in rural America. The radiological technologist had been sleeping in an RV in the parking lot because his co-workers were out sick with COVID-19 and no one else was available to take X-rays. A doctor and physician's assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions. The virus is sidelining nurses, doctors and medical staff nationwide, but the problem is particularly dire in rural communities because they don’t have a deep bench - or many places to send patients because regional hospitals are full or nearing capacity.


COVID-19 Case Total in Kansas Approaches 175,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 174,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Monday that Kansas had identified 174,025 coronavirus cases and 1,856 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Wednesday afternoon.


COVID-19 Forcing Some Missouri Jails, Police Departments to Close

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The coronavirus surge is creating problems for Missouri police departments and sheriff’s offices, forcing some to temporarily close to the public and prompting others to relocate jail inmates. On Monday, Springfield police shut down the lobby of the police station, citing a staffing shortage made worse by the impact of COVID-19. Smaller departments are feeling the impact too. COVID-19 illnesses and quarantines left the Howard County Sheriff’s Department with just two full-time and one part-time deputy, so the sheriff’s office has been closed since Thanksgiving. Staffing shortages forced Howard and Pike counties to transfer jail inmates to nearby counties.


Public Health Workers in Kansas Leaving Jobs Amid Pandemic, Politics

FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) — Public health workers across Kansas are leaving their jobs amid the pressures of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the politics surrounding it. The Kansas News Service reports that 27 county health officials have left their jobs in the nine months since the state had its first documented COVID-19 case. Some retired, but others resigned or were fired. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says that number includes 15 county health department administrators and 18 health officers. Six of those leaving held both positions.


Wichita Bar Owners Seek Return to Pre-Pandemic Rules

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bar owners in Kansas’s largest city are challenging rules designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, hoping to use the courts to overturn a mask mandate, limits on public gatherings and an 11 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants. The Wichita Eagle reports that if the bar owners and others suing officials in Wichita and its home of Sedgwick County are successful, they would take the county back to business as it was before the coronavirus pandemic reached Kansas in early March. The lawsuit is partially crowd-funded by “Unmask the Truths,” a Facebook and web-based group of mask opponents.


Kansas Man's Obit Criticizes Those Who Won't Wear Masks

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — An obituary for an 81-year-old Kansas man who died of COVID-19 is garnering attention. Dr. Marvin James Farr of Scott City died last week in isolation at a nursing home. His son, Courtney Farr, wrote an obituary lamenting how his father died in a world where many of his fellow citizens refuse to wear a mask to protect one another. His father was a farmer and a veterinarian. The obituary says the science that guided his life has been disparaged and abandoned by many of the same people who depended on his knowledge to care for their animals and to raise their food. (Read more.)


Kansas Governor Faces Conservatives as Legislative Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly could have a tough time with the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature during the last two years of her four-year term. The selection of legislative leaders on Monday left no doubt that conservative Republicans are firmly in control. GOP senators and senators-elect unanimously picked Andover Republican Ty Masterson as the Senate’s next president. Masterson last year called Kelly’s election as governor in 2018 “a tragic collision of timing." The new Senate majority leader will be conservative Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop. Masterson and Suellentrop are replacing retiring Senate President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning. The House's top leaders will remain Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins.


Fourth Minor Earthquake in 2 Weeks Felt in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey says an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 3.0 rattled parts of Wichita just before 11 a.m. Tuesday. It is the fourth earthquake of 2.0 magnitude or more reported in the Wichita area in the last two weeks. No serious damages or injuries were initially reported after Tuesday's quake. The geological survey says the quake hit in east Wichita, about 1.86 miles northeast of the enclave Eastborough. Its epicenter was about 3.1 miles underground. Other earthquakes were reported in the Wichita area on Thanksgiving, Nov. 27 and Nov. 30.


Kansas City, Kansas Police Warn About Fentanyl Overdoses

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police are warning residents a surge in drug overdoses and deaths is likely being caused by drugs being laced with fentanyl. The department said there have been 41 suspected overdoses and nine deaths this year, compared with 23 overdoses in all of last year. Capt. Richard Harris said there have been 16 overdoes and two deaths in the last 30 days. The department is warning people not to purchase any opioid, including OxyContin, Vicodin and morphine. Harris said it is possible those drugs are being cut with fentanyl to increase their potency.


Police: Woman Fatally Shot in Kansas City; Person Arrested

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say a woman has died in a shooting at the south end of the city and another person has been arrested. The Kansas City Star reports the shooting happened just before 6 pm Sunday at a home along Ditman Avenue. Arriving officers found a woman at the scene suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the woman died at the scene. Her name was not immediately released. Police say one person was taken into custody, and detectives are not looking for additional suspects. The shooting death marked Kansas City's 175th this year, compared with 143 homicides by the same time in 2019.


Kansas City Police: Body in Burned Car Ruled a Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say the death of a person whose body was found inside a burned car last week has been ruled a homicide. Kansas City police said Monday in a news release that officials are still working to identify the person whose body was found Friday afternoon at East 10th Street and Winner Road. Firefighters who responded to the fire around 6 am Friday called police hours later after the body was found. The death was initially characterized as suspicious. Investigators believe the body was in the car during the fire. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests in the case.


Woman Arrested After Car with 7 Passengers Rolls, Killing 1

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A judge rejected a request for lower bond from a 31-year-old Hutchinson woman who was driving when her car rolled, killing one of seven passengers. Viola Rhodes was arrested after the vehicle crashed Saturday night near Hutchinson. One of the passengers, 44-year-old Brian Bookout, was thrown from the vehicle and died of his injuries. During a bond hearing Monday, Rhodes asked for a lower bond, but Reno County Magistrate Judge Daniel Gilligan rejected that request and set bond at $200,000. Rhodes was arrested on several possible charges, including involuntary manslaughter and drunken driving. She will be formally charged during a hearing next Monday.


Former Kansas Highway Patrol Officers Sue over Firing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Highway Patrol officers are suing after taking a stand against alleged sexual harassment and then being pushed out of the agency. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports former majors Scott Harrington and Josh Kellerman sued in federal court. They allege they faced retaliation for helping female staffers file sexual harassment complaints against top Highway Patrol officers. Harrington resigned under pressure this year. Kellerman was fired. A Kansas Highway Patrol spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit. A spokesperson for Governor Laura Kelly says the sexual harassment allegations are unsubstantiated and that the governor stands by Highway Patrol leaders.


Kansas Prosecutor Faces Hearing for Alleged Misconduct

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Shawnee County prosecutor faces a disciplinary hearing this week over allegations that she lied in court and crossed other ethical boundaries to obtain convictions. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a three-member panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys is presiding over the weeklong hearing that started Monday to determine if Jacqie Spradling’s conduct merits formal discipline. Spradling is now the Bourbon County attorney and an assistant county attorney in Allen County. Neither she nor her lawyer immediately replied to messages seeking comment. Spradling is accused of showing a lack of competence, candor and fairness in two cases she prosecuted.


Advocates Question Evergy's Plan for Boosting Clean Energy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates are pressing Kansas' largest electric utility on whether its plan to generate more renewable energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions is aggressive enough. The Wichita Eagle reports that Evergy faced more than six hours of questions about its plan during a Kansas Corporation Commission hearing last week. The company plans to collect feedback from the utility-regulating commission and others and submit a revised renewable energy plan in May. Evergy's plan calls for a total of $8.9 billion in investments in Kansas and Missouri. But the company is getting some pushback from clean energy advocates because President-elect Joe Biden is promising 100% clean energy by 2035.


Ex-Teacher Sentenced for Kicking Kansas Kindergarten Student

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas teacher who was caught on camera kicking a kindergarten student in the school library has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year of probation. Online court records show that 55-year-old Crystal Smith was also ordered to attend anger management classes. She pleaded guilty Thursday in Johnson County District Court to battery. A security camera at the Bluejacket-Flint Elementary School in Shawnee captured footage of the February 2019 incident, which unfolded after the rest of the class had left the library. The girl had crawled into a bookshelf opening. Smith yanked her out, then kicked the girl as she lay huddled on the floor.


Amount of Water Released into Missouri River to Be Reduced

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal officials say the amount of water being released into the Missouri River from a key dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border has been reduced to winter levels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a news release Tuesday that the amount of water flowing out of Gavins Point Dam has been reduced to a rate of about 17,000 cubic feet per second. That’s down significantly from the reduction seen a year earlier, after heavy rain and snow melt in the spring of 2019 sent the river to record levels and flooded parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.


Wichita Man Who Stole Vehicle with 3 Kids Inside Sentenced

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old Wichita man who stole a vehicle with three children inside has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. Jason Barjas pleaded guilty in October to theft and aggravated endangering a child. He was sentenced Tuesday to 47 months in prison. On June 19, 2019, a Wichita woman reported that she left her three children in a van when she went inside a convenience store. The children were 2, 1 and 8 months old. Police say the keys were left in the van and Barajas jumped in and drove away. The van was found 30 minutes later abandoned with the children inside.


Sportswriter Who Covered KC Royals and St. Louis Cardinals Wins Award for Baseball Writing

NEW YORK (AP) — Dick Kaegel, who covered the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals and edited The Sporting News during a career of more than 53 years, has won the Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Kaegel will be honored during induction weekend from July 23-26 in Cooperstown, New York. He will receive the Spink award along with the late Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe during a double ceremony on July 24. Cafardo was the 2020 Spink winner, and the 2020 inductions were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Wilson Shines as No. 5 Kansas Beats No. 8 Creighton, 73-72

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jalen Wilson hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining, then watched as Marcus Zegarowski missed the last of three free throws after fouling him with 1.1 seconds left, allowing fifth-ranked Kansas to escape with a 73-72 victory over No. 8 Creighton. Wilson finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Christian Braun added 14 points, missing a foul shot that could have clinched the game with 12.5 seconds to go, and David McCormack contributed 13 points as the Jayhawks won their fifth straight against the Bluejays. Denzel Mahoney had 19 points to lead Creighton.


Mahomes' Fiancé Becomes Part of National Women's Soccer League Expansion Team Ownership

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The National Women's Soccer League is returning to Kansas City. An expansion franchise has been awarded to an ownership group led by local businesspeople that includes the fiancé of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The group is led by the husband-wife team of Angie and Chris Long. It will assume all player rights, draft picks and other assets from Utah Royals FC as that club winds down operations. Included in the ownership group is Mahomes' future wife, Brittany Matthews, a former professional soccer player and fitness entrepreneur.


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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