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Headlines for Wednesday, September 8, 2021


Looming Flu Season Worries COVID-Strained Kansas Hospitals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas hospitals are worried about the upcoming flu season because they’re already strained by the surge in COVID-19 cases. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wichita’s four hospitals have been operating for weeks at full capacity, with limited beds and staff. At various points, they have had to ask ambulances to take patients to other facilities. Sam Antonios, the chief clinical officer at Ascension Via Christi, says the prospect of COVID-19 being combined with typical flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses is “alarming.” Lowell Ebersole, the chief medical officer at Wesley Healthcare, also sounded the alarm about the coming flu season. Meanwhile, The University of Kansas Health System said 13 COVID-19 patients died at its facilities in less than a week. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported today (WED) that the total number of COVID-19 cases rose by 5,727 since last Friday, and the total number of deaths from the illness has risen by 63 to 5,693. 


Kansas Plan for Extra Nurses' Pay Stalls over GOP Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A plan in Kansas to allocate up to $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds towards retention incentives for nurses and frontline workers has stalled. Top Republican legislators voiced concerns Wednesday about which hospitals would receive the money and how those funds would be spent. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s bipartisan pandemic-response advisory task force delayed approving the proposal after GOP Senate President Ty Masterson proposed excluding hospitals that require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. argued that the task force should allow hospitals to use the funds to address other pandemic-related issues including mental health.


Kansas Official: Unemployment Claims Grew More Complicated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas Department of Labor official isn’t disputing a legislative audit’s finding that hiring hundreds of workers during the coronavirus pandemic didn’t appear to result in the agency answering more calls from unemployed workers seeking benefits. But Deputy Labor Secretary Peter Brady said Wednesday that calls to the department became more complicated as the federal government created six programs to help workers after COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in the spring of 2020 caused unemployment to surge.  He also said during a meeting on unemployment issues that some of the 500 workers hired by the department sometimes were diverted to resolving problems with individual claims so that people would get benefits.


Nonprofits Argue New Law Disenfranchises Voters

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two national nonprofit groups argued Wednesday that a new Kansas law placing restrictions on out-of-state-groups' ability to mail advance ballot applications disenfranchises voters, but the state countered that the groups’ mailing efforts led to a flood of duplicate applications during the 2020 presidential election. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil issued no ruling on VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law. Both sides will return to court on October 8 to finish making arguments in the case.


Senator Roger Marshall Endorses A-G Derek Schmidt in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall is endorsing Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the Kansas governor's race. Marshall had initially endorsed former Governor Jeff Colyer, who dropped out of the race last week after announcing he has prostate cancer. Marshall says Colyer's decision to leave the race will avoid a contentious GOP primary. With Marshall's announcement, Schmidt now is endorsed by nearly every major Republican political leader in the race against incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. The only exception is Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran, who has a policy of not endorsing candidates in primary elections.


Kansas Abortion Opponents Say They Will Not Try to Copy Texas Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – A new law in Texas which bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy could intensify the fight over a proposed change in the Kansas constitution. Leaders of a major Kansas anti-abortion group say they will not attempt to copy the Texas legislation. Instead, anti-abortion activists say they are focused on changing the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion in Kansas. Voters will decide that issue when they vote in the primary election next August.  Abortion opponents in some other states are already pushing for legislation that would duplicate the Texas law, but Danielle Underwood from Kansans for Life says they are not. She says the group is working to pass the constitutional amendment because it will stop court challenges from overturning Kansas abortion laws. “We have one and only goal,” Underwood says. “That is to support the amendment to protect our life saving laws currently in place.” Critics of the amendment say it could leave no protection for abortion rights in Kansas and could clear a path for more abortion restrictions in Kansas, like the strict Texas law.


Lawmakers Consider Renovation of Docking Office Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) – State lawmakers are discussing what to do with the Docking State Office Building. Legislators are considering several options for the long-delayed renovation of the 62-year-old building in downtown Topeka. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that two proposals are currently on the table. One would renovate the entire building. Another, less expensive, option reduce the building’s size from 13 stories to just six. Many lawmakers say they favor the plan for a smaller building saying it would cost about $15 million less to renovate and would also be cheaper to maintain. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved $120 million in bond sales to fund the overhaul of the building but stipulated that lawmakers approve a plan for the building and start spending that money by 2026. A legislative committee is expected to make recommendations on the proposals next month.


Wichita City Council Forms Environmental Concerns Board

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has formed a board that will advise city leaders on environmental concerns such as climate change. The council voted unanimously Tuesday to support a board that will focus on advancing the city's environmental goals, such as reducing emissions and finding economic opportunities that are environmentally friendly. The vote came after a months long effort by environmental activists. Currently, the plan is for 14 members who would meet four times a year. Some supporters said the board would be too large and should meet more often. Mayor Brandon Whipple called Tuesday's vote a good first step.


Kansas Sheriff's Office Says K-9 Died After Chasing Suspect

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in southwestern Kansas say a police dog has died after being sent to chase a suspect. Television station KAKE reports that the Ford County Sheriff's Office reported on its Facebook page that a police dog named Kyra was called in Monday to help in chasing down a suspect in the county. Officials say the female Belgian Malinois began showing signs of distress immediately after the chase and was rushed to a veterinary clinic for emergency surgery. The sheriff's office says that “despite all efforts, she crossed over the rainbow bridge.” Kyra had served the Ford County Sheriff's Office for eight years as a trained narcotics detection and patrol dog.


Man Fatally Shot in Kansas City Historic District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri say a man was fatally shot in the city's historic 18th and Vine neighborhood early Wednesday.  Investigators are looking for clues and a suspect. Police said in a news release that the shooting happened just after midnight. Officers called to the area were told that a man who had been shot was taken by a private vehicle to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. Police did not immediately release the victim's name, and no suspects in the shooting were immediately identified. The Kansas City Star reports that the killing marks the city's 104th homicide this year, compared with 143 homicides by this time last year.


Police: One Killed, Multiple Others Injured in Wichita Club Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita Police have identified the victim in a shooting at a nightclub just after midnight Tuesday morning. Police have identified the man killed as 34-year-old Preston Spencer, of Wichita. Several other people were injured in the shooting at the Enigma Club & Lounge in Old Town, the city's bar and entertainment district.  Captain Jason Stephens says police were able to determine a suspect after interviewing witnesses and studying video footage. Investigators have identified the suspected shooter as Keshawn Maurice Dawson. Police believe Dawson had been kicked out of the club then returned with a gun and opened fire from the sidewalk through the club's windows.


Police ID Victim, Make Arrest in Kansas City, Kansas, Death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, have made an arrest in the weekend shooting death of a man. Police say the shooting happened Saturday night, when officers called to the scene found 27-year-old Travis Eugene Bowman, of Kansas City, Kansas, with gunshot wounds. Bowman was taken to a hospital, where he died. Police soon arrested 34-year-old Darnell Walker on suspicion of first-degree murder in Bowman's killing. The Kansas City Star reports that Walker is being held in Wyandotte County Jail on $250,000 bond.


Kansas City Police: Wrong-Way Crash on I-29 Killed Two

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say two people have died in a crash on Interstate 29 caused by a wrong-way driver. Police say the crash happened just after 5:30 am Monday when a car driven by a 23-year-old woman was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of the interstate. Investigators say the car then collided head-on with another car driven by a 60-year-old man. Police say the woman died at the scene of the crash. The man was taken to a hospital, where he died a short time later. Police have not released their names.


Spending Federal COVID Aid Proves Tricky in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Spending the latest round of federal COVID-19 aid is moving slowly in Kansas, and one town said it doesn’t want its share because it doesn't need it. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that while most state and local governments across the country saw the influx of money as an opportunity to shore up infrastructure, fight the COVID-19 pandemic and help local businesses, the 2,300-person town of Lakin turned down the $300,000 it was due to receive. City administrator Michael Heinitz said the local economy is humming and the town has ample reserves on hand to handle any new projects which might arise. Lakin is in western Kansas about 25 miles west of Garden City.


Stormont Vail Turns Away 20 COVID Patients Amid Vaccine Protests

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Twenty coronavirus patients were turned away from Stormont Vail hospital in Topeka last week.  The hospital's website reports that six COVID-19 patients were admitted last Thursday, but staffing shortages required the hospital to turn away 20 patient requests from other hospitals. Meanwhile, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that several dozen people gathered near Stormont Vail Saturday to protest the hospital's new COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  The hospital has announced that all staff will be required to receive the vaccine by October 31st.  The Capital-Journal reports that many of the protestors were from out of town.  LMH Health, also known as Lawrence Memorial Hospital, has mandated that all its employees and vendors be fully vaccinated by November 21.


Kansas Prisons Tamp Down COVID Spread

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Correctional facilities were sites of multiple COVID-19 clusters early in the pandemic, but the state's prisons have not seen a spike in cases as the delta variant surges. Kansas correctional facilities had only 63 COVID-19 cases from March through August among a population of more than 8,500 inmates. Low case counts are due in part to inmates having at least a 75% vaccination rate. Statewide, just over half of Kansans have at least one dose. Cases in some correctional facilities did increase in August, but most of those new cases were among staff members.


Four Injured After Driver Flees from Arkansas City Police

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Arkansas City police say four people were injured when a driver attempted to flee from a traffic stop. Police say an officer tried to stop a truck driven by 27-year-old Casiopia Price, of Arkansas City, Tuesday morning because she was believed to be driving with a suspended license. Police say Price drove away and collided with a van. The 46-year-old driver of the van and a 3-year-old passenger were hospitalized in stable condition. A 37-year-old passenger in the van was in critical condition. Police say Price was taken to an Arkansas City hospital, where she is listed in fair to critical condition.


Former Olathe Teacher Found Guilty of Stalking Young Girl

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Olathe teacher has been convicted of reckless stalking of a young girl he taught at an elementary school. Fifty-nine-year-old James Loganbill of Lenexa was found guilty Wednesday after the girl, who is now 12, testified against him. Loganbill admitted to police in March 2020 that he was obsessed with the girl in his classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary School. He took 230 photos and 31 videos of the girl's legs and buttocks. The girl was 10 at the time. Loganbill's sentencing is set for November 3. His attorney said he would try to overturn the conviction on appeal.


Big 12 Quickly Working to Expand Before Texas, OU Departures

UNDATED (AP) — The Big 12 quickly moved into expansion mode with Texas and Oklahoma preparing to leave for the SEC. There will be no perfect replacements for the only two Big 12 teams to win national championships. And there will be no teams coming from other Power Five leagues. Cincinnati, Central Florida, BYU and Houston are four likely expansion candidates. That's a top 10 team, a huge school that recently had a perfect season, an independent with a nationwide fan base and a Texas team in the nation's fourth-largest city. Texas and Oklahoma will start SEC play no later than 2025.


KU the First Power 5 Opponent to Play at Coastal Carolina

UNDATED (AP) – No. 17 Coastal Carolina will host to its first-ever Power Five opponent at home when it takes on the University of Kansas on Friday night. The Chanticleers will look to go 3-0 alltime against the Jayhawks after winning twice in Lawrence, Kansas in the past previous two seasons. Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall looked sharp in the team's opening 52-14 win over The Citadel. He passed 262 yards, completing 16 of 19 passes with a touchdown. KU quarterback Jason Bean played in this stadium as North Texas's quarterback when the Mean Green lost to Appalachian State in the Myrtle Beach Bowl last December.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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