KCUR

Some local businesses that recently began producing facemasks for hospitals and other large-volume customers are now beginning to sell masks to the general public.

In a reversal from its previous position, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week advised people to wear a cloth or fabric mask while in public.

Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation, a health care facility in Kansas City, Kansas, reported an increase in a COVID-19 outbreak on Monday, with four deaths and 37 people testing positive for the virus.

Of those testing positive, 33 are residents and four are staff workers, said Janell Friesen, Unified Government Public Health Department spokeswoman. It’s a significant rise since Friday, when officials reported 19 cases.

Have you been tested for COVID-19 in Kansas, or have you tried? We want to hear from you. We’re also interested in hearing from health care workers about what they’re seeing in their clinics and hospitals, and from patients.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas is struggling to get its hands on the millions of N95 masks, surgical gowns and other protective gear it wants to shield first responders and health care workers against COVID-19.

Gov. Laura Kelly told reporters Monday that Kansas has been pursuing three routes to get more of those supplies, along with testing kits and ventilators.

Rural hospitals face “catastrophic cash shortages” brought on by the COVID-19 crisis and need congressional action to save them, according to a Leawood, Kansas, advocacy group that represents hundreds of rural hospitals.

In a letter Monday addressed to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, the National Rural Health Association asks that 20% of the $100 billion in funding for hospitals in the CARES Act, the $2 trillion coronavirus response bill passed by Congress last month, be set aside for rural providers.  

If Samuel Crumbine were alive today, he’d recognize the precautions that Kansans are taking to limit COVID-19.

There’s little doubt he would approve of the closing of schools, theaters and restaurants.

He would worry about Kansas hospitals and wonder if their staffs are prepared for a crisis.

But mostly, he’d be determining how, once again, the government could persuade the public to take seriously the threat of a global pandemic.

FBI officials say a man they shot and killed Tuesday in Belton was the suspect in a "long-running domestic terrorism investigation" who planned to attack a Kansas City-area hospital with a car bomb.

In a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, the bureau's Kansas City office wrote that Timothy Wilson, 36, had been "actively planning to commit an act of domestic terrorism" over several months, and had considered several targets before settling on an area hospital.

In a ruling that could have implications for criminal cases nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled against a Kansas death row inmate who argued that the state's laws regarding the insanity defense are unconstitutional.

Kansas and three other states — Utah, Montana and Idaho — have banished the insanity defense as a formal mechanism. Alaska also has severe restrictions on its use.

As the coronavirus continues its relentless spread, hospitals are making tough decisions about postponing or canceling elective procedures.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommended that providers consider a range of factors in determining whether to postpone surgery or other procedures. They include patient risk, urgency of the procedure, bed availability, staffing and the availability of personal protective equipment.

With all Kansas public schools ordered closed to slow the Coronavirus pandemic, some people are questioning why child care centers remain open.

One teacher at a private Johnson County preschool told KCUR that she thought keeping preschools and child care centers open didn’t make sense. She said other teachers also worried about whether those environments are healthy.

As federal and state courts cancel in-person proceedings amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, one court remains open for business, albeit not entirely as usual.

The immigration court in Kansas City, the only such court in Missouri, is continuing to hold hearings for detained immigrants, although it’s no longer conducting hearings for people not in custody.

But the confined space of its three courtrooms, located in an office building in Crown Center, don’t realistically allow for the “social distancing” recommended by public health officials.

Normally, most people wouldn’t give much thought to a minor cough or slight fever in March. But March 2020 hasn’t been like other years.

In the midst of a global pandemic, signs of illness can seem alarming, but Dr. Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Health Systems, says a little knowledge and common sense can help, whatever the illness might turn out to be.

If a cough or fever have you worried, here’s what you need to know.

As people across the country stock up on supplies to prepare for weeks of social distancing, Americans are crowding into gun stores, with firearms on their shopping list next to toilet paper and canned goods.

At the Gun Room in Portland, Oregon, owner Shaun Lacasse says Oregonians are buying so many guns the Oregon State Police background check system can’t keep up.

“The whole state was slammed,” Lacasse said on Saturday.

Kansas lawmakers are making contingency plans in case the spread of the coronavirus forces an early end to the 2020 legislative session. A shortened session would lessen the chances of lawmakers resolving their differences on abortion and Medicaid expansion before heading home.

Susan Wagle, the Republican president of the Kansas Senate, is blocking consideration of a bipartisan expansion bill until the House approves a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Attempts by legislative leaders to end the stalemate appear to be making little progress.

Remote rural towns are a good place to be early in a pandemic, as they tend to be more spread out, which potentially means fewer chances to catch a bug. Remote rural areas are also, by definition, way removed from major seaports, airports and often even big highways. So it generally takes longer for new viruses to show up in tiny towns, like Fredonia, Kan.

"I always say it's a hundred miles from anywhere," says Cassie Edson, with the Wilson County Health Department. "It's a hundred miles from Wichita, a hundred miles to Joplin, a hundred miles to Tulsa."

Update: 12:05 noon, March 12.

Following a wave of suspensions, postponements and cancellations in the sports world, the Big 12 Conference announced on Thursday that the men's and women's basketball tournaments in Kansas City have been cancelled as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement by the Big 12 was precipitated by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas's declaration of a state of emergency in Kansas City.

Supermarket chain Hy-Vee is closing its Kansas City fulfillment center, resulting in the loss of nearly 600 jobs.

The West Des Moines-based company said in a notification under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) that it had made “the difficult decision to permanently discontinue all operations” at the fulfillment center, which is located at 8700 Elmwood Ave., effective May 6.  

With Missourians heading to the polls Tuesday for the Democratic presidential primary, the campaigns for the two front runners made a final push for voters in the Show-Me State on Monday.

Jill Biden, former vice president Joe Biden’s wife, swung by Kansas City Monday to tour the Veterans Community Project and speak to supporters at the IBEW Local Union headquarters. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, rallied supporters at a stop in St. Louis.

A federal judge in Washington state issued a temporary injunction on Friday blocking Trump administration rule changes that could allow people to share plans for 3D-printed firearms in person, by mail or email.

The rules would shift oversight for some commercial arms exports from the State Department to the Department of Commerce, which said plans for 3D-printed guns posted online would still require an export license, but plans distributed by mail or in person would not.

TOPEKA, Kansas — If Kansas lawmakers pass a bill allowing student-athletes to make money off endorsements, you might see the next five-star KU or K-State basketball recruits selling cars, shoes or soda.

Dozens of states, including Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, are thinking about changing the rules since the NCAA said in October that it will eventually allow student-athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness. These bills are stopgaps, aimed at putting rules in place should there be a period of time before national rules are approved by the NCAA or Congress.

Update: 2:30 p.m. Monday 

Kansas’ single confirmed coronavirus patient has been admitted to the University of Kansas Health Systems hospital.

The Johnson County woman, who was announced to have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Saturday, was admitted to the Kansas City, Kansas, hospital after self-isolating at home.

The University of Kansas on Thursday responded to NCAA allegations that it was guilty of recruiting violations in its basketball program, insisting it did nothing wrong.

In its official response to the NCAA, KU says the allegations are “unsupported by the evidence and the record.” It adds that “charges leveled against Coach (Bill) Self are not based on fact.”

Randy Brown was barely talking yet when his father shipped out for Vietnam. To close the distance over the course of that deployment, Brown's parents made recordings for each other.

"The first time that he heard my tiny, little voice was probably on one of those little three-inch audio reels," says Brown, who is now retired from the Iowa Army National Guard.

Opposition is growing to the proposed redevelopment of an old hospital in south Kansas City that could be made into a detention center to house immigrant children.

As of Thursday, opponents had gathered more than 4,800 signatures in an online petition opposing the development plan. It will be presented to members of the City Plan Commission at the March 17 meeting.

The story of the pugnacious Kansas sheriff and attorney general Vern Miller, whose antics seemed to be a throwback to the Wild West era but left a surprising legacy.

The University of Kansas has settled an age discrimination suit brought by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year after an employee was fired in retaliation for reporting on discriminatory hiring practices at the university’s medical center.

Under a consent decree filed last week, KU pledged not to discriminate against applicants or employees based on age and to pay Jeffrey Thomas, the employee who triggered the complaint, $144,000 in backpay and damages.

A bitter contract dispute has driven a wedge between the Shawnee Mission teachers’ union and some of the school board members the union has helped get elected in recent years.

After the Kansas Department of Labor intervened last month, tossing out the final two years of a three-year contract the school board approved over the union’s objections, the two sides are trying to come together to negotiate a contract for next school year.

In a major victory for consumers, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, is allowing a lawsuit over EpiPen price hikes to move ahead as a nationwide class action under the federal racketeering statute.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree also is allowing consumers to sue for damages under state antitrust laws.

The ruling was a setback for the main defendants in the case, Mylan NV and Pfizer Inc., which respectively sell and make the potentially life-saving auto-injector device. 

The oldest continuously-operating Latino services center in the United States is right here in Kansas City. 101 years ago, the Guadalupe Center was established to "Americanize" Mexicans who had moved here to work on the railroads. But over the course of a century, Latinos transformed the organization, and Kansas City.

The possibility of the new coronavirus spreading in the U.S. has alarmed many people, but Kansas City-area health officials say they are prepared — to a point.

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