Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — County health departments in Kansas lacked the resources and manpower to swiftly ramp up “boots-on-the-ground” work when the coronavirus pandemic hit, new research suggests.

The work by researchers at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita sheds light on the state’s preparedness for the pandemic. Local health departments do much of the frontline work gathering test samples from sick people and tracking down others who may have been exposed.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — A unity rally put together by an incoming Garden City High School senior drew more than 1,000 people to downtown Garden City on Wednesday night.

Carmen Robinson said she had the support of the Garden City Police Department for the rally, which was held in a park that filled up with hundreds before the event even started. 

"This is awesome," she said. "This is change."

TOPEKA, Kansas — Pharmaceutical companies and large hotel chains snatched up emergency COVID-19 federal loans meant for businesses typically with 500 or fewer employees.

WICHITA, Kansas — Educators say there was a silver lining when Kansas schools and campuses had to shut down because of the coronavirus: It was a chance to learn how to do remote learning right.

Now with college finals submitted and most K-12 schools in summer vacation mode, educators are reflecting on those two months of online teaching, especially knowing that some universities will have to do it again come fall (Wichita State plans online-only instruction after Thanksgiving).

Here are six things that Kansas professors and teachers say they’ve learned outside of the physical classroom.

WICHITA, Kansas — For the last two months, employees at Walnut Valley Packing in El Dorado have been working extra hours, even Saturdays, to cut, grind and package meat so it can keep up with a sudden spike in demand.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Fed-up with sticker shock from air ambulance bills, one insurer has pressed its case all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Garden City’s hand-dug swimming pool will not be filled for its 98th, and final summer season. The coronavirus is to blame.

However, the western Kansas town won’t be without a pool for long, as city commissioners approved up to $14 million on a new facility at the Big Pool site. It’s still not clear how the new pool will be financed.

Expert Tip Sheet For Pushing Back Against Your Medical Bills

May 27, 2020

Got a medical bill that seems too high? First step: Ask if there’s been a mistake. Next step, fight back.

The tips below come from a dozen experts in law, medical billing and patient advocacy.

PITTSBURG, Kansas — Alvin Letner doesn’t remember signing the form where he promises to pay a medical bill of nearly $50,000 he hadn’t yet seen.

Much of that day in July 2019 is a blank for him. A dog ran onto the highway as he and other motorcyclists on a veterans fundraiser rode by. It knocked him off his antique BMW, breaking his neck, three ribs and an elbow.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas no longer will impose a statewide phased-in reopening plan, Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.

In deciding to veto a bill that would have restricted her powers to respond to the coronavirus, she issued a new emergency declaration.

“This legislation creates more problems than it solves,” Kelly said. She argued it would ultimately delay coronavirus aid from the federal government. “This would only prolong the economic pain of this crisis.”

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Five Republicans running for the U.S. Senate debated farm issues in Manhattan on Saturday. They all described themselves as loyalists to President Donald Trump.

As businesses around Kansas reopen, and restrictions on everyday life are lifted, more people are wearing masks when out in public.

On a recent afternoon, Billy Chadwick is standing outside Tad's Carryout in Wichita, where he’s a cook. He wears a dark-blue mask — something he’s diligent about.

"I have asthma, but I go to other places I see people don’t be wearing them. They think this is a game," Chadwick said. "This ain't a game."

TOPEKA, Kansas — In a one-day marathon session that wrapped up a legislative year upended by the coronavirus, Kansas lawmakers reined in the governor’s powers to respond to the public health crisis.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly sharply criticized the all-night rush that drafted the bill, but she stopped short of threatening a veto. Instead, she said, she will read the legislation carefully and make a decision at a later date.

While most people across Kansas still slumber, trash truck crews start filing into work — and get their temperatures taken.

The people who haul debris to landfills shifted to working in a mask and doing their best to keep COVID-19 at bay a while ago. While the rest of the Kansas economy awakens from the coronavirus lockdown, trash crews already know the drill.

El Kansas News Service (Servicio de Noticias de Kansas) sintetiza lo más importante de los desarrollos claves del coronavirus en el estado.

Esta lista se actualizó por última vez el 8 de enero a las 1:20 p.m.

242.322 casos (ver el mapa de los condados)

7.257 hospitalizaciones

3.148 muertes

TOPEKA, Kansas — Starting Friday, Kansans can gather in slightly larger groups, take in a movie, go to an art museum and bowl a few frames.

But concerts, festivals, summer camps and parades will remain shut down. And you still won’t be able to get a drink at a bar.

At a news conference Tuesday a day before a meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House, Gov. Laura Kelly announced another round of gradually eased restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

Angie Haflich / High Plains Public Radio

Finney County residents will be able to get their haircut or get in a workout in starting Tuesday, despite a rapidly accelerating rate of increase in COVID-19 cases.

Finney County Commissioners — acting as the county’s board of health Monday — decided to follow the state’s reopening plan, which allows hair and nail salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors to open for pre-scheduled appointments. Gyms and fitness centers are also allowed to reopen, but without access to locker rooms or group classes.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — When Kansas lawmakers left for an early spring break in mid-March, the state was projected to have a healthy savings account of nearly $1 billion in reserves come June. They passed an $8 billion budget as the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning, not knowing whether they’d even come back to Topeka.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — During a pandemic, local news coverage means more than keeping tabs on the city council or high school sports. The stories published in a newspaper, broadcast on a network TV affiliate or aired on the radio bring critical information about the public health crisis to communities.

People count on reporters in their town or region to let them know about the latest spread of disease, about what’s safe and what’s not — especially in small meatpacking towns that have become coronavirus hot spots.

Dental offices across Kansas closed for more than a month to make sure they weren’t using up critical personal protective equipment needed at hospitals.

Now many are beginning to clean molars and bicuspids again.

Brian Grimmett of the Kansas News Service spoke with David Lawlor, a dentist, and Julie Martin, the president of the Kansas Dental Hygienists’ Association, to find out what you can expect when you go and how they’re trying to keep patients and employees safe.

A Lenexa lab is marketing coronavirus antibody tests that are not federally approved as a way for nursing homes to figure out which workers don’t pose a threat to residents.

State health officials and medical experts say the claims that the tests would provide facilities peace of mind are “wrong” and “risky.” The president of Great Plains Laboratory Inc., William Shaw, canceled an interview with the Kansas News Service. In an email, he said he had not reviewed the sales pitch before it went out.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — In his 15 years as a corrections officer at a northeast Kansas prison, David Carter witnessed stabbings, worked through riots and broke up more fights than he can count. He was used to risky situations.

WICHITA, Kansas — The summer slide. That’s the annual learning loss that happens when students spend three months away from school.

Now researchers warn about a “COVID slide.”

Students will have spent five months out of the classroom, shuttered because of the pandemic, when they return in August.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — A Kansas man who worked at a correctional facility where there are hundreds of COVID-19 cases died Monday from the virus. Three prisoners from the same facility have died in recent weeks.

George “Bernie” Robare, 61, had worked at the Lansing Correctional Facility in northeast Kansas for more than 35 years. His wife, Susan Robare, told the Kansas News Service that he woke up with a headache and a fever on April 22 and was tested for the coronavirus at the Wyandotte County Health Department.

WICHITA, Kansas — Contact tracing is a key component of stopping the spread of infectious or sexually transmitted diseases, and has been for years. It’s also the linchpin in Kansas counties’ plans to effectively reopen and isolate cases of the coronavirus.

“The volume has become quite a bit larger than anything we’ve really ever dealt with,” Johnson County epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the requirements imposed on nursing homes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Residents and patients in under-resourced nursing homes, where outbreaks have fueled more than half of Kansas’ coronavirus deaths, will likely pay the steepest price for the state reopening its economy.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The economic shutdown driven by the COVID-19 outbreak put Sherri Calderwood out of work.

Then her job waiting tables opened up again.

But that opportunity came with a tough choice, one she shares with millions of other Americans: Somehow manage without a paycheck or risk her health earning a living.

Several years ago, she had a blood disease that required doctors to remove her spleen, a fist-sized organ that helps the body fight infection.

WICHITA, Kansas — It’s a simple, tempting pitch: hands-on training tailored for specific, high-demand jobs.

It led thousands of students to enroll in Kansas technical colleges. But COVID-19 and a collapsing aviation industry undid that promise.

The past couple of decades have been tough on small, rural grocery stores that often struggle to keep doors open as locals forgo hometown stores for shopping sprees in larger stores in bigger towns.

That is until 5 p.m. on March 11, 2020, two days after a historic drop in the stock market, which would only fall further in the days to come.

Jordan White remembers exactly what happened then.

Now that Kansas is slowly reopening, health officials are preparing for what could be a busy few months of COVID-19 investigations.

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