Kansas news

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

A sprawling, low-profile conglomerate based in Merriam, Kansas, owns a pork processing plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, that has become one of the country's latest coronavirus hotspots.

More than 110 workers at the Seaboard Foods plant had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, according to the company.

When Dr. Ashley Olson’s mother-in-law sent her a link to a Facebook page called RVs 4 MDs, Olson didn’t know what to think. Did she really need an RV to quarantine in?

Olson, a third-year chief resident in emergency medicine at Truman Medical Centers, has seen her share of COVID-19 cases lately.

She and her husband live in Parkville. They'd already come up with a routine for what she should do immediately after coming home from her shifts. She felt good about it.

WICHITA, Kansas — Thousands of Reno County voters usually cast their ballots at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, a central location with a high capacity.

Deputy Election Officer Jenna Fager said it’ll look different for this year’s August primary and November general election to avoid spreading the coronavirus. How different, though, she’s not sure.

“We’d have to consult emergency management and our health department and just, kind of, do the best we can,” she said.

New York has been hit hard by COVID-19. As a result, a lot of the news out of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings has been grim.

A poignant moment happened during last Friday’s briefing, though. And it was all thanks to a letter from a retired farmer in Troy, Kansas.

Cuomo was seemingly so touched by Dennis Ruhnke’s letter that he read it in full during his briefing.

TOPEKA, Kansas — With the number of new coronavirus cases still rising steadily and the state’s economy stuck in reverse, Gov. Laura Kelly announced her plans for a phased-in reopening.

The governor’s plan — essentially it lets retailers, restaurants and churches ease into a new normal — comes despite Kansas lagging other states in testing for COVID-19 and growing outbreaks clustered near meatpacking plants.

WICHITA, Kansas — The coronavirus shutdown killed oil prices. That could be a killer for local governments in large swaths of Kansas, places long addicted to the tax money that’s been lost as companies stop pumping crude from the ground.

In some parts of Kansas, counties depend on revenue tied to oil production to cover as much as a fourth of the local property taxes.

With no rebound in prices in a world suddenly awash in a glut of oil, those counties find themselves scrambling to raise taxes elsewhere, slash their budgets, or both.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas law requiring people to prove they are U.S. citizens before registering to vote is unconstitutional, a federal court has ruled.

The decision handed down Wednesday by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel means that no proof of citizenship is needed ahead of this year’s August primary and November general elections.

The Kansas Democratic presidential primary isn’t until Saturday, but turnout is already three times larger than 2016.

For the first time, the state Democratic Party used mail-in ballots due to concerns about COVID-19. Party officials announced Tuesday that they had processed 138,400 ballots -- up from 39,266 in 2016.

Party executive director Ben Meers said he was not surprised by the results.

“COVID presented the point of pivot for us,” he said. “We always thought that voting by mail would increase accessibility for voters and we’ve certainly seen that in 2020."

After six weeks of asking Kansans to stay at home, Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to announce Thursday that the state will start to reopen for businesses and some public gatherings on May 4.

Even if people can travel at-will and previously non-essential retailers can open their doors, the governor likely will leave some restrictions in place and maybe enact new rules.

WICHITA, Kansas — Doctors diagnosed Courtney Buchmann’s breast cancer on March 6, three days before the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kansas.

Buchmann worried, as hospitals braced for an overflow of coronavirus patients, whether the potentially life-saving surgery she suddenly needed would be deemed elective.

WICHITA, Kansas — Gov. Laura Kelly filed a joint motion this weekend with two churches suing her over stay-at-home orders, signaling her first steps to reopen the Kansas economy and tamp down the fight over religious freedom.

The small crew of health care workers at Guadalupe Clinic in Wichita — aided by dozens more who volunteer there — sees nearly 2,000 people a year.

Every one of them is uninsured, and all visits are free.

Guadalupe can’t yet check patients for COVID-19. But emergency federal legislation might help the nonprofit roll out that service to the low-income neighborhoods it serves.

For weeks, hospital workers in the Kansas City area have been warning that the lack of adequate personal protective equipment was putting them at risk when treating COVID-19 patients.

This week, one of those workers, Celia Yap Banago, a registered nurse who had worked at Research Medical Center for more than 40 years, died after caring for a COVID-19 patient, according to the National Nurses United union.

“It’s horrible to find out that she didn’t make it,” says Charlene Carter, a registered nurse who worked at Research with Banago for seven years.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Protesters angry about the stay-at-home order in Kansas and the tens of thousands of people it’s tossed from work rallied at the state Capitol Thursday.

They clogged traffic on the four blocks that ring the Statehouse for more than an hour, honking on horns, calling out slogans on bullhorns and pressing Gov. Laura Kelly to reopen businesses in the state.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic is triggering state budget crises. Kansas is no exception, with tax collections expected to plummet by $1.3 billion between now and June 2021.

“This is more than just a little bump in the road,” said Gov. Laura Kelly, who over the next 15 months (or longer) will have to hash out with the Republican-led Legislature how to stay in the black. That’s because the Kansas Constitution prohibits deficit spending.

Here are the five things you need to know about Kansas’ budget situation.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The more Kansas tests people for the coronavirus, the clearer it becomes that black Kansans are being disproportionately affected — a sobering trend that is true in communities across the U.S.

Black Kansans are three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than white people, and more than seven times more likely to die from the virus. Latinos are also about three times as likely to test positive for COVID-19.

The data mirrors trends seen in across U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit, as well as other states.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — The Finney County Emergency Medical Service department, with its staff of 23, is conserving its N95 masks and only using them when a patient is positive for COVID-19. Like large hospitals, U.S. cities and entire European countries, rural EMS workers aren’t shielded from the medical supply shortage. 

And that’s just one of the challenges rural EMS agencies across Kansas stare down as COVID-19 is being confirmed in their communities. They’re stretched thin, covering hundreds of miles, and seeing the ripple effects from the pandemic that’s shut down communities — something emergency plans hadn’t accounted for. 

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that a grand jury must be convened to investigate a charge that Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016 by choosing not to process online voter registrations, which likely prevented qualified residents from voting in the 2016 election.

Kobach has been viewed as a leading advocate of stricter voter ID laws.

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