Kansas

There will be no March Madness in Wichita next spring.

Hospitals in Colorado and Nebraska are calling Kansas in desperate search of beds for coronavirus patients. But Kansas hospitals are asking them for the same.

November has brought on the strongest surge yet of the coronavirus across the region — and that’s before Thanksgiving gathers families together.

“The entire Midwest is on fire,” said Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

People say that western Kansas is empty and flat — and maybe it seems that way when you’re racing along on I-70. But if you venture off the interstate there are some surprising places that defy the Kansas stereotype.

One such place is Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, Kansas' newest state park.

KMUW's Director of Cultural Diversity for News and Engagement, Carla Eckels, is able to add another descriptor to her title: Trailblazer.

Editor's Note: On Nov. 13, Emporia State University announced that it will provide free tests to students that want one before traveling. 

WICHITA, Kansas — In just two weeks, thousands of college students in Kansas will board planes and hop into cars daydreaming of sweet potatoes and turkey legs.

Most of those students won’t return to campus for the rest of the semester. To cut the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the majority of universities in Kansas will have students finish the fall semester online.

When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, she will be the first woman, first South Asian and first African American to fill the role.

But she won't be the first person of color.

That title belongs to a Kansan — Charles Curtis, member of the Kaw Nation and President Herbert Hoover's vice president.

Curtis was born in 1860 in Topeka while Kansas was still a territory, and he spent his early years living in both white and Native American communities.

WICHITA, Kansas — Charles Bell usually passes on voting. He’s a Democrat in a Republican state and said, “If I vote, it’s not going to count.”

But after seeing Kansans elect a Democratic governor in 2018, he thought maybe the state was changing. And so this year, for only the second time in his 63 years, he voted, hoping Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier might be elected.

Hospital doctors in the Kansas City area have been urgently warning residents that COVID-19 is reaching dangerous and unprecedented new levels, potentially overwhelming their facilities.

Intensive care units, which have remained plentiful through most of the pandemic, are increasingly in short supply, with less than one in five currently available in the Kansas City region.

KU Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Dana Hawkinson said on Monday that the hospital’s capacity to treat patients is less than bed counts suggest.

This year, nurses in southeast Kansas are taking a NASCAR-style approach in the race against the flu.

Imagine a pit crew, said Lori Rexwinkle, head of nursing at a community health center that serves 10 counties. Except instead of speed-swapping tires, this team vaccinates passengers. Got a van full of kids? Just pull it on up.

“We had several different nurses going out to the vehicle at the same time,” Rexwinkle said. “Parents appreciated that.”

LAWRENCE, Kansas — This week’s election set the stage for partisan fights in the Kansas Statehouse over things like redistricting, abortion, Medicaid expansion and pandemic-related aid.

Democrats had hoped to crack the Republican supermajority in both chambers — thus taking away the GOP’s power to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes — but that didn’t happen.

Kansas community colleges should be having a good year.

No crowded, germy dorms. Most of their students don’t need to travel. Plus, community colleges are cheaper and normally thrive in a bad economy.

Instead, they actually lost students. Enrollment fell more than 14% this fall. That’s causing the experts who track the industry to wonder about past assumptions.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Estes will stay in Congress after winning re-election Tuesday night in Kansas’ 4th District.

Democrat Stephanie Byers became the first transgender member of the Kansas Legislature Tuesday night.

She’ll represent parts of south Wichita after defeating Republican challenger Cyndi Howerton in the race for Kansas House District 86. Byers received 54% of the vote in her first run for public office.

Byers is a retired band, orchestra and jazz teacher at Wichita North High School. She taught there for nearly 30 years.

She spoke about her transition and how she explained that to her students in an interview with KMUW in May 2019.

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — Kansas Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall is moving up to the U.S. Senate after surviving a challenge from Democrat Barbara Bollier in Tuesday’s election.

The 60-year-old two-term congressman from Great Bend will succeed Republican Pat Roberts, who is retiring after nearly 40 years in Congress. Marshall’s win also keeps intact Republicans’ winning streak in Kansas U.S. Senate races, a streak that dates back to 1938.

Democrats and Republicans in Kansas will keep their seats in the U.S. House, as Tuesday’s election favored the incumbents and the Republican candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.

Nationally, the House looks to be staying in Democrats’ hands, with Sharice Davids playing a role in that in the 3rd District.

But young GOP rising star Jake LaTurner defeated Topeka’s mayor to replace embattled Congressman Steve Watkins in the 2nd District that covers a vast stretch of eastern Kansas.

A federal judge has ruled in favor of two veterans who sued the government for medical malpractice after claiming they were subjected to unnecessary genital exams while they were patients at the Leavenworth VA.

In separate decisions Monday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled that VA personnel should have “fairly foreseen” the wrongful conduct by physician assistant Mark Wisner but failed to do so.

Multiple patients had complained to the VA about Wisner’s conduct over the years he treated both veterans.

Local civil rights groups are gathering together in support of a new trial for a former University of Kansas student they say was wrongly convicted of rape in 2019.

Albert Wilson was a 20-year-old student at KU when he was accused of rape by a then 17-year-old girl in Lawrence.

According to the Douglas County District Attorney’s office, the teenager met Wilson at the Jayhawk Cafe, a local bar, on Sept. 10, 2016. The victim said Wilson led her away from her cousin at the bar and then home where he raped her.

STILWELL, Kansas — After Doug Reed put his elderly father’s Johnson County home up for sale, the mailbox started to fill up with letters from the Kansas Department of Labor, sometimes 25 or 30 at a time.

“We had two or three big batches of them, and they’ve been dribbling in ever since,” Reed said.

Within a couple weeks, about 130 letters had arrived, all bearing his father’s street address but addressed to different names.

For the first time during the pandemic, Dr. Drew Miller was unable to send a severely ill COVID patient to the intensive care unit.

Miller and other staff at the Kearny County Hospital, in southwestern Kansas, had done what they could last weekend, putting the patient on a maximum oxygen flow. But the closest ICU in the area was one county over — St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City — and it was full. The nearest open ICU bed was in Kansas City, seven hours away.

More than a quarter of the 29,000 provisional ballots in Kansas were rejected in the 2018 general election because of various errors, leaving 7,692 voters out of the democratic process.

Provisional ballots are supposed to be a fail-safe, protecting voters from disenfranchisement due to an administrative error or other problems.

WICHITA, Kansas — The state’s largest utility wants to charge customers with solar panels about $25 a month, even if their homes pull almost no electricity off the grid.

If courts and regulators reject that idea, power-provider Evergy’s backup proposal would charge all customers — not just those harvesting power on their roofs — a minimum of $35 a month just for plugging into its system.

KU Med Resumes Clinical Trials For COVID-19 Vaccine

Oct 30, 2020

The University of Kansas Medical Center has resumed Phase III clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine that was halted last month after an enrollee in the United Kingdom developed an adverse reaction.

“We literally just got released by the FDA on Friday and then yesterday we got released from the IRB [Institutional Review Board], so we couldn’t start actually enrolling until today,” said Dr. Mario Castro, vice chair for clinical and translational research at KU Med and a co-principal investigator for the local trials.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are near all-time highs in the Kansas City area, and local hospital leaders say admissions are being pushed over the top by patients coming from rural areas.

Official data from Missouri shows that hospitals still have plenty of room, but doctors and nurses say their facilities have been reaching capacity, forcing hospitals to turn patients away in some cases.

Health officials say the availability of health care for people in the Kansas City area is now being threatened by this influx of patient from communities that lack mask mandates.

WICHITA, Kansas — Amid a surge of coronavirus cases across rural Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly provided details on her new statewide testing plan Wednesday, adding 400,000 more by the end of the year.

That's nearly double the amount of tests available now, with the goal of reaching a total of 1 million tests. The extra capacity is expected to go to schools and high-risk populations, like those living and working at nursing homes.

LENEXA, Kansas — For months, the people at a Johnson County lab found themselves consumed, running an endless parade of tests on human spit.

The feds hadn’t yet OK’d a single saliva test for COVID-19, but the scientists at Clinical Reference Laboratory were sure they could design something that worked.

Wichita City Council members voted Tuesday to formally denounce one of their colleagues and two other elected officials accused of putting together a false attack ad against the mayor.

For most of the COVID-19 pandemic's duration, Kansas and Missouri have been spared from the overwhelming crush of cases that overwhelmed hospitals and communities on the coasts and in the South.

But the current surge, which has been breaking records for case numbers in both states, is occurring in ways previously unseen in the U.S. and showing red flags for disease experts.

And it's happening as more and more members of the general public have grown increasingly impatient with governments taking steps to control it.

The two candidates running for Kansas' U.S. Senate seat met for a debate Thursday night hosted by KMUW and KWCH Channel 12. Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall and Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier were asked to share their positions on issues such as the government response to the pandemic; health care and the Affordable Care Act; taxes; and law enforcement.

Kansans remain among the most vulnerable in the country to surprise medical bills — charges from outside an insurance network that the consumer only discovers after treatment.

A new research brief from the Kansas Health Institute points to studies suggesting the charges are common in Kansas. It’s part of a shrinking minority of states yet to pass laws reining in the practice.

EL DORADO, Kansas — The culture war issues that are polarizing national politics are also front and center in Kansas’ U.S. Senate contest: race, guns, abortion, climate change.

Supporters of Republican candidate Roger Marshall fear a wave of Democratic victories will trigger radical changes in the nation’s economy and culture; that capitalism will give way to socialism, undocumented immigrants will stream across the U.S.-Mexico border and individual liberties will be threatened.

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