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Headlines for Wednesday, February 17, 2021

 

Kansas Records Nearly 289,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 4,521 Deaths, Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — UPDATED: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports today (WED) that there have been 288,717 cases of COVID-19, including 4,521 deaths, since the pandemic began.  State health officials identified more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases since Monday, as well as 115 new, virus-related deaths since Monday.  Johnson and Sedgwick counties continue to report the most coronavirus cases, with more than 52,000 each.  KDHE will provide another update on Friday. 

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Shooting Outside Kansas University Medical Center's Entrance

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas University Medical Center police say a shooting took place outside the entrance of Kansas University Medical Center Tuesday night.  Television station KCTV reports the shooting was caught on the medical center security video around 8 pm.  Kansas City, Kansas, police worked with the KU Medical Center’s police to capture the suspect just an hour after the shooting.  The victim is being treated for injuries but no other details about his condition are available at this time.   

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Police: Teen Killed in North-Central Kansas Town of Beverly

BEVERLY, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement in north-central Kansas are investigating the shooting death of a teenager near the town of Beverly. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the shooting happened Monday evening at a home along a rural road near the Saline River. Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies called to the home for a report of a shooting found a 15-year-old girl with a gunshot wound. The girl was taken to a Salina hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her name was not immediately released. An investigation into the shooting was ongoing Wednesday. No arrests have yet been reported.

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Police: Man Found Fatally Shot Inside Vehicle in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Homicide detectives in Kansas City are investigating the city's latest killing after police found a man inside a vehicle who had been fatally shot.  Officers were called just after 12 am today (WED) to the Ruskin Heights neighborhood for reports of a shooting and found the man suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the man died at the scene. The victim's name was not immediately released. Police were processing the scene for evidence overnight and have not released information on possible suspects. No arrests have been reported in the case.

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Kansas Lawmakers Seek More Control on Unemployment Upgrades

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are moving to exert more control over upgrades of Kansas’ unemployment benefits system. A key GOP legislator has even suggested stripping Democratic Governor Laura Kelly of her control over the state Department of Labor. The Kansas Senate Commerce Committee continued hearings Wednesday on a bill that would create a new council to monitor the department's technology upgrades, direct the agency modernize the unemployment system by the end of 2022, and make other changes in the unemployment system. Kelly has blamed numerous delays in getting benefits to workers during the coronavirus pandemic and other problems on a decades-old computer system. But Commerce Committee Chair Rob Olson suggested removing the governor's control over the department.

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Kansas House Bill Advances to Change Method for Filling State Offices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee has passed a bill that would end a governor’s authority to fill the offices of state treasurer and insurance commissioner if those posts become vacant in the middle of a term. The move comes about two months after Democratic Governor Laura Kelly named her 2018 running mate, former Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, as state treasurer to fill a vacancy created when Republican Kansas Congressman Jake LaTurner left the post for Congress. The Kansas Republican Party objected to Kelly’s appointment of a Democrat. The legislation passed Tuesday provides for a convention of delegates belonging to the departing official’s party to decide who fills a vacancy.

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Kansas Struggles to Fix Vaccine Reporting Issues

MISSION, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is working to fix its troubled system for sending vaccine data to the federal government. It says glitches caused about 100,000 doses that were given to not be shown as administered. The state’s vaccination rate has consistently ranked among the lowest in the country. State data shows that as of Friday, 9.4% of the state’s population had been vaccinated, with 273,428 people receiving at least the first of two required doses. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show the state administering only 60.2% of the 581,975 doses it says the state has received. The state, however, puts the figure at 63.8% and says it has received 572,275 doses.

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UK Variant of COVID-19 Discovered in Sedgwick County

WICHITA, Kan (KMUW/KNS) - A second case of the UK variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Kansas, this time in Sedgwick County.  Kansas health officials say the person likely became infected with the strain while out of state, but aren’t disclosing any other details about the individual. Close contacts have been notified.  The variant was determined through genome sequencing conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The only other known case of the UK variant in Kansas was reported earlier this month in a student at Fort Hays State University. Testing showed the strain hadn’t spread among the student’s friends.  The particular strain of the coronavirus was identified in the United Kingdom last fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the variant is more transmissible than the more common strain of the coronavirus.  

(-Related-)

Top Kansas Official Expects "Pockets" of Coronavirus Variant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of the state health department says Kansas is likely to have pockets of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom.  And, public health officials believe it could become the state’s dominant strain. Dr. Lee Norman also said Tuesday that winter weather across the central and eastern U.S. has created a “brief speed bump” in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Public health officials said the emergence of the coronavirus variant means people can’t let their guard down about wearing masks, social distancing and taking other precautions. Norman said the first case in Ellis County and the second in Sedgwick County are not connected.

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Kansas Governor Announces $200 Million in Rental Assistance

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas has received $200 million from the federal government, which will be used to provide rental assistance to those facing eviction or having trouble making housing or utility payments.  Governor Laura Kelly and the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation announced the statewide rental assistance Tuesday.  The initiative, funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, provides the state with money to support housing stability and prevent evictions and homelessness. Kelly said the money "will go a long way to prevent evictions and homelessness, and ensure Kansans can stay sheltered and secure while we continue to fight" the coronavirus.  Those residents struggling to cover rent and utility payments due to COVID may qualify for up to 12 months of emergency assistance thanks to the new federal relief. Tenants may qualify for assistance if they earn no more than 80 percent of their area’s median income, are experiencing documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID pandemic and may be at risk of housing instability or homelessness without assistance.  

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(Earlier reporting...) 

Evergy: Additional Rolling Blackouts a Strong Possibility

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Evergy reports that current conditions make additional rolling blackouts a strong possibility through 11 am today (WED).  The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has increased its alert level as extended cold temperatures continue to strain the regional power grid.  As a result, Evergy officials say they remain on standby in the event that the SPP calls for additional emergency power outages.  Company officials confirmed Tuesday that as many as 270,000 customers were affected by rolling blackouts, though not all at the same time.  The temporary blackouts were supposed to last between 30 and 60 minutes, but for some Evergy customers, the outages lasted a lot longer.  Residents in Lawrence, for example, were left without power for more than 3 hours Tuesday morning.

Anyone experiencing an outage lasting longer than 90 minutes should call (800) 544-4857.

Evergy Outage Map.

As the severe weather conditions continue throughout the region, Evergy officials say they will post the latest updates to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Continued freezing temperatures have prompted a number of K-12 schools to cancel classes today (WED).  Click here to see the list.

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Cold Prompts Cancellation of Kansas COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County Health Department in Topeka canceled a vaccination clinic Tuesday due to the bitter cold temperatures.  Health department officials also cited the possibility of rolling electricity blackouts in canceling the vaccine clinic at Agriculture Hall.  Vaccination clinics in Johnson County, Jefferson County and other places were also canceled Tuesday and postponed until later dates.  The Shawnee County Health Department will open its planned vaccination clinic Thursday -- three hours early -- to allow people who'd planned to get shots Tuesday to still get them.  

(-Related-)

Missouri Mass Vaccination Events Called Off Due to Extreme Weather

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The snow, ice and bitter cold gripping Missouri has delayed people from coronavirus vaccinations, including those who signed up for mass inoculation events that had been scheduled for this week. The governor’s office says it is trying to reschedule the National Guard-run events, but that registrants should seek vaccinations elsewhere in the meantime. The cancellations followed a storm that dumped several inches of snow in much of the state and sent temperatures plunging below zero, including in Kansas City, where it was 9 degrees below on Tuesday, a new record for the date. The state also reported 481 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three new deaths from the disease, pushing its pandemic totals to 472,143 cases and 7,458 deaths.

Crippling Storm Hampers Vaccinations as FEMA Opens New Sites

UNDATED (AP) - Crippling winter weather is hampering vaccination efforts in swaths of the country and that has forced the cancellation of some mass inoculation events. The weather has also disrupted vaccine deliveries. As part of a wider effort by the Biden administration, FEMA opened its first COVID-19 mass vaccination sites in Los Angeles and Oakland in communities especially hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In two doses of welcome good news, vaccine efforts were increasing to nearly 1.7 million new doses administered per day. And coronavirus deaths and new cases have plummeted in recent weeks.

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100 Million Americans Brace for More Cold, Ice and Snow

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Another winter storm front is blowing through the nation's midsection, where power grids haven't adjusted for the wild weather swings that come with climate change. More than 100 million people live in areas covered Wednesday by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory. Millions remain without power in the record-breaking cold, mostly in Texas. At least 20 people have died. Blame the polar vortex. The weather pattern usually keeps to the Arctic, but it's increasingly visiting lower latitudes and staying beyond its welcome. Scientists say global warming caused by humans is partly responsible for the polar vortex's southward escapes becoming longer and more frequent.

(-Related-)

Millions Endure Record Cold Without Power; at Least 20 Dead

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) — A winter storm that left millions without power in record-breaking cold weather has claimed more lives. They include three people found dead after a tornado hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm. The storm that overwhelmed power grids and immobilized the Southern Plains carried heavy snow and freezing rain into New England and the Deep South and left behind painfully low temperatures. Wind-chill warnings extended Tuesday from Canada into Mexico. In all, at least 20 deaths were reported.

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Missouri Prosecutors Charge Man Still on the Lam in Belton Killing

BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors in western Missouri have charged a man who is still on the lam with murder in the shooting death last week of another man in Belton. The Kansas City Star reports that 38-year-old Charles Baldwin Jr. has been charged with murder, armed criminal action and weapons counts in the Friday shooting death of 39-year-old Christopher Bell. Belton police say officers called around 12:30 am Friday to an apartment complex found Bell in the parking lot with gunshot wounds. Bell later died. Police say they are actively looking for Baldwin and that anyone with information on his whereabouts should call police.

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Kansas City Police Suggest New Strategies for Protests

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Police Department is proposing new policies on use of force during large demonstrations and public gatherings. The proposed policy would limit officers' use of tear gas. It also requires officers to create a buffer zone between them and protesters, and prohibits officers from intentionally escalating confrontations. Chief Rick Smith presented the “First Amendment-Protected Activities” policy Tuesday to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. No official action was taken. The policy comes after police were criticized for using tear gas and other means to disperse crowds during social justice protests last summer.

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Kansas Police Officer Wounded in Shootout Won't Face Charges

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer who was shot in December will not face charges for shooting at the suspect. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Tuesday that Officer Daniel Vance was justified in using force in the December 15 confrontation with Jesse James Flaugher.  Howe says Vance saw a vehicle that was believed to be involved in an earlier hit-and-run. Howe says as Vance waited for backup, Flaugher noticed him and began firing. The officer was later treated and released after being shot in his bullet proof vest and his arm. Flaugher drove away but was later arrested in Edgerton. He is charged with attempted capital murder.

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Woman Charged in Capitol Melee Says Proud Boys Recruited Her

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — The recent arrest of an Arizona woman who prosecutors say was a member of a Proud Boys cell in Kansas City has intrigued experts who study extremist right-wing movements. The Proud Boys is a neofascist organization that describes itself as "Western chauvinists" and has long forbidden female members. Felicia Konold was charged last week with conspiracy, civil disorder and other charges stemming from the January 6 melee at the U.S. Capitol. The Institute for Research on Male Supremacism says there are differences over whether to embrace women. But experts say they're unaware of a situation where a woman was actually recruited to be a member of a Proud Boys chapter.

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Girl Hurt in Crash Involving Former Chiefs Assistant Coach Britt Reid Now Awake

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The family of a 5-year-old girl left in a coma following a crash involving a Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach says the girl is now awake. The news was delivered Monday in a post on the GoFundMe page for Ariel Young. The girl has been hospitalized since the February 4 crash. The crash involved Britt Reid, the son of Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.  Britt Reid was initially placed on administrative leave following the multi-vehicle crash, but now... he's no longer employed by the team. Police say the crash happened near the team’s training complex next to Arrowhead Stadium when Britt Reid's truck slammed into two cars on the side of the road. Police say Reid admitted to having “two or three drinks” before the crash.

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