Kansas News Service

Zach Zimmer’s roommates at Benedictine College had grown accustomed to seeing him stressed.

But on the first Saturday in September, the college junior got them worried. He was running a temperature of 101.5.

“We knew immediately at that moment,” Zimmer said, “that this could be something more serious.”

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — With about six weeks before the election, you might see Republican Amanda Adkins’ team out knocking on doors in Johnson, Wyandotte or Miami counties. Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids’ outreach efforts in her re-election bid are virtual.

It’s just one sign of the differences between the two candidates in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District when it comes to how they say they would respond to economic and health effects of the coronavirus.

TOPEKA, Kansas — It’s little surprise that the candidates for Kansas’ open U.S. Senate seat sharply disagree on taxes, trade, immigration and climate change. What’s unclear is who voters will most agree with in November: Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall or Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier.

Bollier, a retired doctor, believes Marshall’s down-the-line support of President Donald Trump has created an opportunity for her to ride anti-Trump sentiment in the state’s population centers to an upset.

WALLACE, Kansas – Wallace County is at the western edge of Kansas, on the border with Colorado. It’s the second-least populated county in the state, and for the first half of 2020, life here maintained a sense of normalcy while the rest of world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phillips County Retirement Center got a coronavirus testing machine this month from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But it will run out of the sample-collecting kits that came with the device on Monday, just one week after turning it on.

Twenty miles away, the county’s other nursing home is still waiting for its machine.

“It’s been a really big struggle just to even try to find out who knows where it is,” said Teresa McComb, who runs Logan Manor Community Health Services.

Climate change is at the root of this year’s extreme weather events, from the wild swings between flooding and drought in Kansas to larger hurricanes and some of the worst wildfires the West has seen.

And the majority of Americans are starting to take notice, according to the latest survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Wichita State has prohibited professors from notifying their students if a classmate has tested positive for COVID-19 and may have unwittingly exposed fellow students.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — For months, the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth avoided the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. But that’s changed.

Leavenworth has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the entire federal prison system, with 206 inmates and five staff members with the virus. There are currently 1,594 people incarcerated at the prison.

Before the pandemic, Wichita State University didn’t have a federally certified lab capable of handling coronavirus testing.

Now it does. And the new nonprofit outfit is gearing up to churn out hundreds of thousands of tests by the end of the year.

“I know that sounds like a lot,” said Tonya Witherspoon, Wichita State’s vice president of industry engagement, “but we think several labs in the state need to be able to do that much — or more.”

TOPEKA, Kansas — Republican lawmakers agreed to extend Kansas’ coronavirus disaster declaration Friday by a month after demanding assurances that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won’t shutter businesses across the state a second time.

The contentious approval by the State Finance Council is just the beginning of a cycle: By law, the declaration can be extended only up to 30 days at a time.

WICHITA, Kansas — Universities don’t just sell the chance at an education. The whole college experience has been a key tool for keeping students around.

Wichita State University budgeted more than $1 million dollars on ways for students to have fun on campus last year.

The University of Kansas Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital have halted a clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine after a participant in the United Kingdom developed an adverse reaction.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which developed the vaccine along with the University of Oxford, said on Tuesday that it had put Phase 3 testing of the vaccine on hold while it conducts a safety review of the data.

WICHITA, Kansas — A standard school bus can hold as many as 72 students, as long as you pack them in three to a bench. That just isn’t possible during a pandemic.

And according to Wichita Public Schools Transportation Director Lisa Riveros, following the 6-foot social distancing recommendation would “reduce it down to as many as 10, 11, 12 passengers.”

Count busing among the numerous challenges Kansas school districts are facing as they head back to school this week. Some can’t find enough drivers. Others aren’t in the position to add more buses or routes. That’s left districts looking to do everything they can to reduce the number of kids they have to transport.

Wichita, Derby and two other cities in Kansas have submitted proposals to become the site of the future U.S. Space Command headquarters.

When Bob Daniels started telling people he wanted to start a shrimp farm in Sumner County, the response was what you might expect.

"'You're going to sell bait, huh?'" he said laughing while recalling one comment. "In fact, when we started looking to grow the shrimp and look for some financing … the local banker said, 'Well, you're never going to sell this.'

"Now, it turns out, I can't grow it fast enough to sell what people were willing to buy."

Some rural Johnson County families are complaining that stray bullets and reckless shootings are damaging their property and threatening their children.

People began demanding action after a bullet this year nearly hit an 11-year-old girl riding in a vehicle. In another incident, four bullets from high-powered rifles hit a house, including a children’s computer room.

At a Kansas City, Kansas, nursing home, employees tested positive for COVID-19 and went back to work the next day.

Health workers cared for residents who had tested negative for the virus in the same gowns and masks they’d worn into the rooms of those who’d tested positive.

“I wash my hands,” a nurse told inspectors. “But I wear the same PPE.”

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Cottonwood Incorporated in Lawrence helps about 75 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with jobs, assembling things like cargo straps for the federal government and medical kits.

When the day is done, Cottonwood takes them back to their homes in the community. Ettie Brightwell stood outside the building in August, telling people goodbye. Brightwell, Cottonwood’s community relations and development director, even stopped one man to tie his shoe before he boarded a van.

Sedgwick County plans to offer a rapid response saliva test to detect COVID-19 beginning next week.

The test will be available at the county’s drive-thru testing location in east Wichita and at mobile outreach testing sites. The county will also continue to offer the nasopharyngeal swab sampling it has conducted since March.

Deputy County Manager Tim Kaufman says a few other sites like nursing homes will also have the saliva test available in the first phase of the rollout. The plan is to gradually provide the test to health clinics that do COVID-19 sampling.

After this story was published, the Trump administration, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ordered a nationwide halt on evictions through December for people who lost work during the pandemic.

TOPEKA, Kansas — As many as 40 million Americans – including 357,000 Kansans – face the risk of eviction in the next several months.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — When school buildings across Kansas shut down in March, parents and students had to adjust to shorter class times, Zoom sessions and take-home packets.

Meanwhile, families in the foster care system faced extra challenges: keeping up with training sessions, therapy appointments and social worker visits.

LENEXA, Kansas — One lab has helped seven Kansas universities test tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff for COVID-19 for the fall semester. And all anyone needed to do was spit.

Saliva lab work has the potential to dramatically increase testing of asymptomatic Kansans with no known COVID-19 exposure, state health officials say. That’s a critical ingredient for stopping the pandemic.

A 17-year-old female who was fired as a Boy Scout staff member after just 12 days is suing the Kansas City chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, saying she experienced rampant sexual harassment and discrimination.

The lawsuit against the Heart of America Council, Boy Scouts of America, includes graphic descriptions of Boy Scout staff members engaged in drunken party activities, describing the size of their penises and barging in on women as they changed their clothes at Boy Scout camp.

Students who live at four fraternities and five sororities at the University of Kansas must quarantine for 14 days.

Using contact tracing, the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health agency said people in the Greek homes were most likely to have come in close contact with some of the 200-plus students who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Chapter members who live elsewhere are not part of the order.

Half a year into the pandemic, Kansas nursing homes still face uneven access to fast COVID-19 testing through the state’s patchwork of private labs and hospitals. And the prices they pay for it vary widely.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas City, Kansas, says it will no longer cooperate with cases brought by inmates whose phone calls with their attorneys were recorded at the pretrial detention prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

In a notice filed in federal court on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney said that after consulting with the Justice Department, it “has determined that it cannot and will not comply with the Court’s July 27, 2020 discovery order, which the Department has concluded is both unreasonable and contrary to law.”

WICHITA, Kansas — Some students at public universities in Kansas have, or will yet get, the coronavirus.

Football players training over the summer have tested positive. A frat house in Manhattan has an outbreak. And some dorm students elsewhere in the state have gone from just-unpacked to quarantined.

Schools spent the summer preparing. Desks have been moved six feet apart. In-person classes are getting cut back. Masks must be worn.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Johnson County Chief Judge Kelly Ryan has seen some people show up to court shirtless, vaping and country-western dancing.

The county has held more than 25,000 virtual court hearings on the video conference software Blue Jeans since its courthouse closed its doors in March.

Sometimes people need reminders, Ryan said, that a video call is just as serious as attending court in person.

In the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, one of five major trials nationally will be conducted in collaboration with the KU School of Medicine-Wichita Center for Clinical Research along with more than 100 other testing sites nationally.

“We really do want to see if this vaccine is effective at preventing the spread of this disease,” said center director Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, who is a physician and an assistant professor at the school.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says Kansas is at a turning point to get the state's positivity rate under control.

Birx traveled to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, as a part of a multi-state tour to talk with governors and health officials about local efforts to combat COVID-19.

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