Kansas News Service

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.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — In mid-May, Finney County’s top public health physician sent an email to state health officials repeating worries she’d made clear a month earlier to her local colleagues.

Finney County Health Department Medical Director Lindsay Byrnes warned that the coronavirus outbreak at the local meatpacking plant continued to put workers there, and the surrounding community, at risk.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas Department of Labor has struggled to handle an explosion of unemployment filings.

That’s left 25,000 claims waiting for approval — and thousands of Kansans standing by for the checks that could help them stay afloat through a jobless stretch in an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WICHITA, Kansas — Online schooling got off to a rocky start in Kansas, with teachers quickly piecing together virtual offerings. Parents complained about needing to be constantly involved while the work failed to engage their students.

Now faced with sending their children back to a physical classroom this fall, Kansas parents are trying to enroll kids in the state’s virtual schools. Lawrence’s received more than three times as many applicants compared to this time last year, and Wichita Public Schools' Education Imagine Academy filled up in a week.

The government deliberately withheld medical records showing that Wesley Ira Purkey was incompetent to be executed before rushing ahead with his execution last month, Purkey’s lawyers contend in a legal filing in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The document, titled “Plaintiff Wesley Purkey’s Motion To Dismiss on the Ground of Mootness,” says that while Purkey’s claims “have become legally moot, the facts surrounding the circumstances of Mr. Purkey’s execution cannot and must not be similarly extinguished.”

WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas teachers that don’t feel safe going back to crowded hallways as schools reopen could take medical leave or teach online. But at the many districts that don’t have those options, teachers eye another choice: quitting.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Getting married and having your first child is stressful enough. Try making those life changes during a pandemic. As a teacher.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A near sweep by conservatives over moderates in several primary races this week sets up more conflict over the next two years between the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

“There will be a lot of feuding and fighting going on, particularly given the COVID situation,” said Rep. Tom Phillips, a moderate Republican from Manhattan who isn’t seeking a fifth term.

Republican leaders could further limit Kelly’s power to guide the state’s response to the pandemic and power past her objections to reducing corporate taxes.

There’s a lot riding on a Kickoff set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

The Sterling College Warriors are scheduled to take on the McPherson College Bulldogs at home. If that familiar thud of shoe against football and cheer from the stands doesn’t happen, the college that keeps the central Kansas town’s economy humming, that gives it cultural vitality, and that separates Sterling from the hollowing out that defines so many other small Midwestern towns, might not survive.

CORINNE BOYER / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

One western Kansas resident's recovery from COVID-19 was made worse by an unpleasant health care experience.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas’ biggest primary race was one of the first to be decided Tuesday: U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall secured the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, and will face Democratic nominee Barbara Bollier in the November general election.

Officials had cautioned that the record numbers of mail-in advanced ballots — a sign of the times in a pandemic — could lead to delayed results. But by 10:30 p.m., all of the major contests were over.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service

 

What happens when the coronavirus comes between your senior year and dreams of a state championship?

Although both the Democratic and Republican parties ditched their presidential primaries this year, there are still several significant races on Kansas primary ballots on Aug. 4 — and plenty of down-ballot races that need deciding, too.

WICHITA, Kansas — More than 26,000 people in Kansas have contracted COVID-19. Roughly 350 of them have died.

While that’s a low death rate, survivors talk of the brutality of the disease, and how full recovery can prove elusive even months after getting infected.

Spirit AeroSystems announced another round of layoffs on Friday as the Wichita aerospace company continues to get battered by the grounding of the 737 Max and the pandemic.

Spirit said in a news release it will cut another 1,100 jobs from its commercial programs. That represents 450 new layoffs in Wichita when taking into account previous reductions and employees moving to other programs, such as defense. Some employees also previously agreed to take voluntary layoffs.

So long St. Joseph, Missouri. For now. Amid the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the Kansas City area, Chiefs players will undergo testing this week before reporting Friday to the Truman Sports Complex for training camp.

Kansas let foster care children live in group homes with broken windows, mold, exposed electrical wiring, trashed porches and rodent droppings.

That’s according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Federal inspectors dug into the state’s system of group homes in 2018 and 2019, but their final report only came out this week.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Control of the Kansas Legislature could turn on dozens of down-ballot races in the Aug. 4 primary election, in which many of the contests, particularly for the Kansas Senate, pit conservative Republicans against moderate incumbents.

In Republican Senate primaries, moderates facing their first re-election test since 2016 can no longer use former Gov. Sam Brownback as a foil. And while taxes remain an issue, two perhaps counterintuitive issues are at the core of this year’s legislative contests: Medicaid expansion and abortion.

WICHITA, Kansas — Tornadoes aren’t forming at the same pace as usual this year, creating one of Kansas’ quietest storm seasons in recent memory.

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will be tested locally as part of a clinical trial seeking to enroll 30,000 participants nationwide.

The University of Kansas Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital will lead the local effort, which calls for the recruitment of 1,500 participants in Kansas and Missouri.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — For almost three months, people living in a mobile home neighborhood just east of Garden City’s limits haven’t been able to drink their tap water.

Residents could boil their water to drink and cook. But on June 30, a new health order advised households not to use the water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula or brushing teeth.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Hair has been quite the topic during the coronavirus. For the first episode of My Fellow Kansans: People and the Pandemic, we spoke with a salon owner.

Montella Wimbley has owned a combination salon and barber shop in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Wichita for 34 years.

When Kansas shut business down, she had to put down her trimmers and pick up the phone — over and over again, taking weeks to get through to someone at the state’s beleaguered unemployment agency.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Richard “Dick” Bond, a Republican former president of the Kansas Senate who later broke with the party as it grew more conservative, died Thursday.

He was 84 and had been in failing health.

Known for his humor and deft management of the Senate, the banker and attorney had a long political career.

He spent 25 years as a top aide to three members of Congress before serving 14 years in the Kansas Legislature representing a district covering Overland Park. He retired from office in 2001 after serving four years as Senate president.

WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas’ elementary, middle and high schools can reopen for in-person instruction in August, despite Gov. Laura Kelly’s push to delay the 2020-21 school year until after Labor Day.

The Kansas State Board of Education voted 5-5 Wednesday — the tie being enough to reject Kelly’s executive order that would have delayed the start by three weeks. Her order, which affected instruction and all extracurriculars, needed the board’s approval.

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