Kansas Governor Recommends Public Schools Close; Some Districts Already Have
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is recommending that all public schools in the state close for at least one week, starting Monday. Many districts have already closed or are on spring break the week of March 16. The governor clarified this is not an executive order to close all public schools, but rather, it is a strong recommendation made it consultation with the Kansas Department of Education, due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly emphasized that the decision to close remains up to each school district or to state and local health officials. For instance, health officials have already ordered schools, libraries and other entities to close in Douglas, Shawnee, Riley, Sedgwick and other counties for the next two weeks.
In a news release, the Kansas House of Representatives also supported the decision to close schools. “The Kansas Department of Education after consultation with superintendents across the state has taken the step of recommending a pausing of the school year for one week in order to develop a plan to keep our children, teachers and communities safe,” it said in the news release. Many school districts have set up grab and go lunches for students during the extended closure.
Meanwhile, in Missouri…
Missouri Governor Urges Cancellation of All Events with 50 or More People
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KPR) – Missouri Governor Mike Parson says all community events and public gatherings with 50 people or more should be canceled. Following new recommendations and guidance released Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Parson said, “I strongly urge the cancellation or suspension of public gatherings of 50 individuals or more with the exception of educational institutions, daycare facilities, and business operations. We encourage local governments and health agencies to provide the same guidance. The new recomendations are designed to stop or at least slow the spread of coronavirus, especially among high risk groups like the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Parson said, “We ask that facilities that attract large concentrations of senior citizens to strongly consider restrictions and closures, in consultation with health authorities, to protect those most vulnerable to this virus. We encourage schools to follow CDC guidelines and consult with local health care providers and public health authorities as decisions are made on whether to keep school in session.”
View the latest CDC guidance on mass gatherings and large community events.
Kansas Health Officials: 8th Case of COVID-19 Confirmed
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials have confirmed the state’s eighth case of COVID-19. The latest case comes from Franklin County in eastern Kansas. No details about the person have been released. The news follows on the heels of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment announcing Saturday morning the state’s seventh case — a woman in her 50s associated with Johnson County Community College. The department says it’s the county’s first known case to have been contracted locally. The release says the woman is hospitalized and “doing well.” Her family members have been quarantined, and those who may have been exposed by contact with the woman are being contacted by the health department.
State’s 8th Case of COVID-19 Reported
Four other COVID-19 cases have been reported in Johnson County. All of those patients became infected while traveling out of state. The woman is hospitalized and “doing well,” the release said. Her family members have been quarantined, and those who may have been exposed by contact with the woman are being contacted by the health department, officials said.
Most people who get infected with the virus experience moderate symptoms, and the vast majority of people recover. Others, including older adults and people with existing health issues, can become severely sick.
Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and other partners in the Kansas News Service collaboration are pooling resources to provide updated information on coronavirus and COVID-19 in Kansas. Find it here: Updated Regularly: What Kansans Need to Know About COVID-19 and Coronavirus
Owner of Wyandotte County Nursing Home Connected Man’s Death Also Runs Washington Facility Where More Have Died
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials say a nursing home resident who become Kansas’ first COVID-19-related death was infected at the Life Care Center of Kansas City, which is owned by the same company that owns the facility in Washington state linked to 22 fatalities. Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman said a focus of the investigation is whether there has been any personnel sharing between the nursing homes in Kirkland, Washington, and the one in Kansas. The state also reported its sixth COVID-19 case on Friday. Norman says no other residents at the Life Center nursing home are showing symptoms. (Read more about this story.)
Kansas Counties Close Schools, Courts Contemplate New Schedules, Hospitals Restrict Access – All Due to Coronavirus Concerns
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR / AP LJW) — Like a number of other schools, Lawrence Public Schools will close for the next two weeks. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that local health officials announced late Friday that Douglas County schools, indoor park and recreational facilities and public libraries will be closed in response to the spread of the new coronavirus. Similar actions have been taken by health officials in other Kansas counties, including Shawnee, Riley, Dickinson and Sedgwick. Several Kansas counties have also banned large public gatherings, or those involving more than 250 people.
- The Kansas Supreme Court also ordered the state’s courts to make a plan to keep critical functions running amid the pandemic.
- The Kansas Department of Corrections has suspended all visitation at all KDOC facilities, effective immediately.
- Several hospitals, including those in Lawrence and Wichita, have announced that they are now restricting access to visitors. Nursing homes are also rolling out new restrictions.
- Numerous events and activities have been canceled.
- Several museums have been closed, including the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas and the National WWI Museum in Kansas City. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will close from Saturday, March 14 through Friday, April 3. During that time, the art museum will halt all events and public access to the museum.
- The Kansas State High School Activities Association canceled the 2020 state basketball tournaments, marking the first time since 1907 that a state champion won’t be crowned.
- Other events around the state have been canceled or suspended, including St. Patrick’s Day parades in Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City. The Harlem Globetrotters game in Wichita has been called off.
- All events scheduled to occur between March 13-29 at the Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka have been canceled
- Kansas Relays (scheduled for April 15-18) at the University of Kansas have been canceled
- All national sporting events have either been canceled or suspended until further notice.
South-Central Kansas Town Loses Its Only Hospital During Coronavirus Outbreak; Sixth Rural Kansas Hospital to Close in Past Decade
WELLINGTON, Kan. (The Wichita Eagle) The Sumner County Hospital in Wellington shut its doors unexpectedly this week just as the country struggles with the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic. “Now’s not the time for anyone to be losing a hospital,” said Wellington City Manager Shane Shields. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sumner Community Hospital abruptly closed Thursday night after years of financial difficulties. According to Shields, those financial difficulties were at least partially fueled by the state government’s indecision on expanding Medicaid in Kansas. The Kansas House of Representatives has approved a bill to expand Medicaid but that measure has stalled in the Kansas Senate. Republican Senate President Susan Wagle, of Wichita, has vowed to block the bill from coming to a vote until the House reverses itself and passes a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn a state Supreme Court decision limiting the Legislature’s authority to regulate abortion.
Sumner Community Hospital joins a list of five other Kansas rural hospitals that have closed since 2010. The others include: Central Kansas Medical Center of Great Bend, Horton Community Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Fort Scott, Mercy Hospital of Independence and Oswego Community Hospital, according to a list compiled last year by Becker’s Hospital CFO Report. Approximately 75 jobs were lost in the Wellington hospital’s closure. The small town is located about 35 miles south of Wichita.
Kansas Price-Gouging Law Now in Effect for Virus-Response Supplies
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – A price-gouging law is now in effect across Kansas. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the law prohibits anyone from profiteering by raising the price on items consumers find necessary because of the coronavirus outbreak. “The Kansas anti-profiteering statute is rarely invoked but is designed to prevent opportunistic greed from overcoming the public need for necessary, virus-response products and services during this time of emergency,” Schmidt said. The law generally prohibits unjustifiably raising prices for goods and services for which consumer demand is likely to increase because of the virus outbreak.
A price increase is presumed unjustified if it exceeds by 25 percent or more the price at which the goods or services were available on March 11 or the price for which the same goods or services are available from other sellers in the trade area. Examples of consumer goods and services governed by the anti-profiteering law include, but are not limited to, food items, sanitary and cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, emergency supplies, medical supplies and services. The law carries a penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. (Read more about this story.)
KC Bans All Large Public Events; Universities Move Classes Online
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City has banned all large public gatherings as cancellations mount around the state – and other states – because of concerns over the new coronavirus. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas made the announcement this week, shortly after organizers canceled a St. Patrick’s Day parade. St. Louis and Springfield also canceled their parades. A similar situation is playing out in Kansas. Topeka and Lawrence called off their own parades. Meanwhile, a number of universities have been moving classes online. Hundreds of universities and colleges around the country decided to simply send students home. The University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Emporia State and Wichita State have decided to hold all classes in cyberspace once students return from spring break.
Missouri Governor Declares Statewide Emergency
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared a state of emergency in response to the new novel coronavirus and said the state has two more presumptive positive cases. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency earlier Friday. The state of Kansas declared a statewide emergency a day earlier. Meanwhile, a number of counties in Kansas and Missouri, including St. Louis County, are banning events with more than 250 people, and some schools have closed early for spring break after Missouri recorded its second case of COVID-19. The University of Missouri System said that in-person classes have been suspended for the rest of the spring semester at its four campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Rollo.
Pedestrian Dies After Being Struck by Train in Kansas City, Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A pedestrian died after being struck by a train while trying to cross train tracks in Kansas City, Kansas. Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say the crash happened shortly after midnight Sunday in southwestern Kansas City. The pedestrian was struck by a westbound train while attempting to cross the tracks. The pedestrian died at the scene. The victim’s name wasn’t immediately released.
Kansas City Police: December Death of 2-Year-Old Girl Ruled Homicide
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say the December death of a 2-year-old girl has been ruled a homicide. The Kansas City Star reports that Stevie Osborn died Dec. 23 from injuries that police have not detailed. Police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina says the homicide determination was made Feb. 20 following a two-month investigation. Becchina says officers and medics were called to an apartment the morning of December 23 for a medical emergency. First responders found the child unresponsive inside the apartment. She was taken to a hospital, where she later died. Police say they have identified a person of interest in the case, but no arrests or charges have been made.
Anonymous Gift Made to Move Topeka’s Tent City Homeless Indoors
TOPEKA, Kan (The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal) — An anonymous $100,000 donation might allow all the residents of a tent city for Topeka homeless residents to move to indoor housing if they want it. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the donation was made last week to the non-profit Valeo Behavioral Health Care. Valeo is among several city, state and private organizations that make up Topeka’s Homeless Task Force. A representative from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said the donation is enough to fund 28 vouchers for six months. The voucher program comes as tent city residents must vacate the land by March 23.
Kansas City Police Shoot, Kill Man Officer Thought Was Armed
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a man shot by Kansas City police officer has died. Police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina says 47-year-old Donnie Sanders died Friday at a hospital. The shooting happened late Thursday after an officer attempted to stop Sanders for a traffic violation. Becchina said Sanders fled from his vehicle and raised his arms “as though he had a weapon.” The officer then told him to get on the ground. Becchina said the officer fired when Sanders didn’t follow the commands. The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on leave, which is routine in such shootings.
Second Man Charged in Westport Shooting that Killed 1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A second man has been charged in a shooting that killed one person and injured four others last month in a popular Kansas City entertainment district. Ernest Jones is jailed on $150,000 cash only bond after he was charged Thursday with unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action charges. in the shooting that left 17-year-old Devin Harris dead. No attorney is listed for Jones in online court records.
Kansas Public Defender Turnover Slows, but Remains High
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has slowed the public defender turnover rate following a pay raise, although it still remains stubbornly high. The Kansas News Service reports that the state lost 13% of its public defenders last year, an improvement from one year earlier when nearly a fourth of them quit. The head of the State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services credits the small pay raise from the Legislature for the slowdown. But Heather Cessna says the agency will need more money to fill jobs that have stayed open for years.
Corps: Mainstem Missouri River Levee System Mostly Restored
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha District says it has reached its goal of having the Missouri River mainstem levee system restored to its full height following massive flooding a year ago that devastated levees in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. The Corps said in a news conference Friday that while there is still much work to be done throughout the region, crews had closed 24 breaches along the main river system, spending more than $400 million to date on the work. District commander Col. John Hudson said crews have moved 4.73 million cubic yards of sand in the effort, “equal to two Empire State Buildings.”
Johnson County Restoring Natural Prairies in a 10-Year Plan
SHAWNEE, Kan. (KCUR-FM) — Johnson County is restoring its natural prairies as part of a 10-year natural resources plan. The county’s goal is to preserve and restore the nation’s last tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The Kansas News Service reports that Johnson County Parks and Recreation District wants to restore and manage 8,700 acres with efforts across the state, nonprofits and government agencies. Supporters from local groups believe that because prairies are a part of Kansas’ cultural heritage, exposing people to something they’d otherwise have to travel to see can help them understand how important natural prairies can be.
Missouri NAACP Calls for State’s Top Election Official to Resign
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri NAACP is calling for the state’s top election official to step down. The NAACP on Friday asked for Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to resign. The organization in part cited Ashcroft’s recent criticism of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. Lucas is black. He struggled to vote Tuesday during the state’s presidential primary and publicly complained about the process. That prompted Ashcroft to criticize Lucas. Ashcroft says Lucas could have voted if he wanted to, and that his complaints might discourage people of color from voting. The Missouri NAACP says Ashcroft was dismissive of Lucas.
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