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Headlines for Wednesday, November 25, 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 Gov. 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. The number of deaths increased by 47 over the past two days to 1,503, according to state health officials. 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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Pandemic Straining Kansas Hospitals Right 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. On Monday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 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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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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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 set to take effect today (WED), 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 the virus: wearing a mask, washing their hands, keeping a safe distance from others and 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. Governor Laura Kelly’s latest effort to require face coverings takes effect today (WED), 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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Sedgwick County District Attorney Seeks to Oust Embattled Wichita Councilman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County district attorney's office has filed a civil petition seeking the ouster of a Wichita city councilman for his role in a plot to frame the local GOP chairman for a false ad against a mayoral candidate. A 20-page filing Tuesday by District Attorney Marc Bennett seeks a court hearing and an order suspending James Clendenin from any duties of office pending a final determination of the case. Bennett accuses Clendenin of misconduct, making false allegations against the county's Republican party chairman and soliciting financial donations to a charity for use in a political campaign. Clendenin hasn't responded to messages seeking comment.

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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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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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Ballot Drop-Off Boxes Here to Stay in Sedgwick County

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Election officials in Sedgwick County say those 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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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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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 January 12. Biden’s inauguration is on January 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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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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Kansas Man Sentenced to Prison for Fatal Overdose Death

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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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 Wednesday. Police say the shooting is not random. No arrests have been made.

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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 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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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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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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