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Headlines for Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 

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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Kansas COVID-19 Cases Exceed 140,000; More than 1,450 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 142,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 1,400 virus-related deaths.  The state health department reported Monday that Kansas had identified 142,059 coronavirus cases and 1,456 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Those numbers indicate an additional 7,526 cases and 46 deaths since Friday. Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases will be released Wednesday.

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Pandemic Straining Kansas Hospitals Days Before Thanksgiving

UNDATED (AP) — Surging pandemic numbers are straining hospitals across Kansas just days before Thanksgiving gatherings that public health officials fear could worsen the outbreak. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Monday 95 new hospitalizations. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that 240 coronavirus patients were in ICU units, with 36% of ICU capacity remaining in Kansas. State health officials added 7,526 cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Friday, bringing the total to 142,059. The data showed that Kansas averaged 2,760 new confirmed and probable coronavirus a day for the seven days ending Monday. The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 46 to 1,456.

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Kansas Launches Pro-Mask Campaign but Faces Skepticism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is preparing to launch 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 set to take effect Wednesday, but Kansas law allows the state’s 105 counties to opt out. The state has set aside $1.5 million for television, radio, print and social media ads promoting masks that are set to start before Thanksgiving. 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 COVID-19:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Washing your hands often
  • Keeping a safe distance (6' or more)
  • Avoiding large gatherings

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Mask Resistance Appears to Soften in Kansas as Coronavirus Cases Soar

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Resistance to masks appears to be weakening in Kansas as the coronavirus surges, straining the capacity of the state’s hospitals. Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest effort to require face coverings takes effect Wednesday, although state law still 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 they were then, there appears to be less pushback. Barton County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to immediately adopt a county-wide mask mandate. The commission had rejected mask mandates twice before.

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2 Kansas City Fire Department Employees Die from COVID-19

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two members of the Kansas City Fire Department died this weekend after battling the coronavirus. A communications specialist and paramedic who worked for the department, Scott Davidson, died Sunday, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42. A day earlier, city officials said fire Captain Robert “Bobby” Rocha died after battling COVID-19 for several weeks. The firefighters union said three members of the Kansas City Fire Department have now died with the coronavirus. The union said the deaths show that the virus has affected all divisions of the fire department. Since the pandemic began, 176 members of the Kansas City Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19.

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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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Many GOP Lawmakers in Missouri Shrug Off Statehouse Mask-Wearing Rules

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Many Republican legislators in states where coronavirus cases have surged are rejecting mask-wearing requirements, even in their own capitols. An Arkansas state senator is proposing that her colleagues risk losing their per diem if they're caught not wearing their masks. The idea is facing pushback, despite Arkansas having the second biggest outbreak in a state legislature. Mississippi, which had the largest, is encouraging but not requiring its members to wear masks. Several others say they're leaving the decision up to members but not enforcing any rules. That decision is worrying public health experts.

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Wichita State Grads Become Finalists in Contest Seeking Better Face Mask

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two recent Wichita State University graduates are among the finalists for a $1 million prize pool in a contest that seeks to design a better mask. The Wichita Eagle reports that Jared Goering and Spencer Steinert are in the top 10 after beating out nearly 1,000 other mask designs from 70 countries. They hope to win the $500,000 grand prize or a $250,000 secondary prize, and they also want to take their mask to market. Both men are graduates of Wichita State's innovation design master's program, and they're both in an apparel start-up called Montana Shirt Company.

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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 Tuesday 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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Kansas Firm Settles Allegations It Submitted False Claims

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence, Kansas, engineering firm and its two top officials will pay $672,352 to settle allegations that the company submitted false claims to obtain federal grant funds. The U.S. attorney’s office said Monday that KalScott Engineering, Inc. and its officials were accused of wrongfully obtaining funds from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. The programs encourage American small businesses to engage in research on behalf of the federal government that has the potential for commercialization. The settlement made no determination of liability.

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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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Execution Rescheduled for Only Woman on Federal Death Row

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government now plans to execute the first female inmate in almost six decades just days before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the death penalty, takes office. Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery said Monday that the Justice Department rescheduled her execution for Jan. 12. Biden’s inauguration comes Jan. 20. A federal judge in Washington had delayed the December execution of Montgomery because her lawyers tested positive for the novel coronavirus after visiting her behind bars. The delay was meant to allow her attorneys to recover from the virus and file a clemency petition on her behalf.

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Missing Wichita Man Found Fatally Shot in Jeep

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a missing man who was believed to be in danger has been found fatally shot in his jeep. Authorities are investigating the death of Jeremy Cook as a homicide after finding his body Monday in Wichita.  Police had asked the public for help in locating him. A citizen called 911 after seeing his 2006 white Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 29-year-old Wichita man was reported missing by his mother on Wednesday. Police say the shooting is not random. No arrests have been made.

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Kansas Man Charged with Federal Hate Crime for Racial Threat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been charged with a federal hate crime after allegedly threatening a Black juvenile while shouting racial slurs. The indictment alleges 25-year-old Colton Donner told the youth that Paola — where the victim was living — was a “white” town. The Justice Department says he was charged with a federal count of interference with housing. Donner was also indicted for a separate incident with unlawfully possessing a firearm while being a convicted felon, for allegedly possessing a .44 caliber revolver. Court records do not show a defense attorney who could speak on Donner’s behalf.

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Trucks Keep Striking Missouri Overpass, Repeatedly

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Despite the warning signs and flashing lights, trucks just can't seem to stop hitting a Kansas City, Missouri, overpass. The Kansas City Star reports that the bridge on Independence Avenue is struck so often that it has its own satirical Facebook page. The bridge has just 12 feet of clearance, not quite enough for today's box trucks and tractor trailers whose drivers too often don't realize their rigs are just a little too tall to make it. The Kansas City Terminal Railway Company owns the bridge and says it gets hit about twice a month.

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Oklahoma Man Sentenced in Murder-for-Hire Plot

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A northwestern Oklahoma man has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for trying to have the boyfriend of a former employee killed in Oklahoma City. Court documents show 71-year-old Vernon Wayne Brock of Alva was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City to 87 months in prison. Brock admitted in a signed plea agreement that in November 2019 he offered $5,000 to a former business partner in Maize, Kansas, to have the unidentified man killed after the former employee ended a sexual relationship with Brock.

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Sedgwick County Deputy Arrested After Bringing Prohibited Items into Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old deputy who worked at the Sedgwick County jail has been arrested on suspicion of bringing contraband into the jail. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office said the deputy, who was suspended without pay, has been working at the jail since September 2019. Officials said a tip about contraband led to the deputy’s arrest. Spokesman Lt. Benjamin Blick said the items the deputy allegedly brought into the jail wouldn’t be illegal to possess outside of the jail.

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Wichita Police Officer Arrested on Misdemeanor DUI Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An off-duty Wichita police officer has been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. The Wichita Police Department said in a news release that officer Cory Masterson has been with the department for 12 years and was assigned to the field services division. Police say he has been moved to an administrative assignment. The case is being investigated by the Kansas Highway Patrol, and an internal review will also take place.

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Cost of Fishing Licenses Going Down in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — It will be a little less expensive to fish in Kansas starting January 1. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism Commission has announced several changes related to outdoor recreation. Among them: The cost of a one-day fishing license was reduced from $8.50 to $6.  For non-residents, the price dropped from $14.50 to $10.  Fisheries Programs Specialist David Breth says the number of fishing permits being sold had dropped dramatically since 2016. That year, the state sold around 60,000 one-day licenses. Now, the state is selling about 35,000 annually.

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Pandemic Leaves Opening Week of College Hoops in Disarray

UNDATED (AP) — The Wichita State University men's basketball team landed in South Dakota on Monday afternoon, masked up and looking forward to playing in the Crossover Classic. Just a few hours later, the school announced that the Shockers were removed from the tournament after learning of multiple positive COVID-19 tests within their travel party. This kind of situation is cropping up across the country as hundreds of schools try to open play in a pandemic. Along with no fans, many teams are finding no stability. No. 2 Baylor, No. 9 Duke and the No. 3 UConn women have all canceled games because of COVID-19.

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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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