regional news

Unsolicited packages of seeds from China are arriving in mailboxes around the country. More than 20 state departments of agriculture, including Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska are warning that the seeds could potentially be harmful. 

Missouri and Oklahoma are both trying to help reduce the supply chain problems in the meat industry seen during the coronavirus pandemic by directing federal grant dollars to meatpacking plants.

Coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants led to shortages and higher prices.

“During COVID-19, our food supply was tested from farm to fork. Farmers and ranchers saw tight livestock supplies on their farms, while consumers saw their choices of certain cuts of meat shrink or go away,” said Chris Chinn, Director of the MIssouri Department of Agriculture.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates health clinics in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, has offered severance packages to dozens of employees as it reels from a financial crisis caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirty-six employees in communications, development, education, human resources, finance and public affairs were eligible to receive the offers. Friday is their deadline to accept. As of Thursday, nine had accepted.

When Nick Girondo of Rolla, Missouri, first looked at his family calendar this spring, he struggled to find a time to get everyone out turkey hunting during the 22-day season. 

“With sports and other things going on, we probably would have got out one day at the most, the way planning was going with family events,” he said.

But when the coronavirus pandemic came to the Midwest, those events were canceled, so the family went hunting instead.

Sheri Glazier is used to seeing dry conditions on the family farm in central Oklahoma around wheat harvesting time in June. But this year, the heat came faster than normal. She remembers the unusually early heat one day while driving the combine in the wheat field.

Even a couple of months ago, the organizers of Stay Black and Live were hoping to put on a traditional Juneteenth event, complete with a parade and lots of people gathering together to celebrate. “Like a lot of nonprofits and organizations doing signature events, we kept thinking okay, let’s not call it yet, let’s not pivot yet. It could happen,” says Pamela Benson Owens, the acting executive director of Six Square and a member of the team that’s creating the festival.

The Kansas Board of Regents met with Wichita State University President Jay Golden on Wednesday, but took no action over the furor caused by Golden removing a prerecorded message by Ivanka Trump from WSU Tech’s commencement ceremony.

The Regents spent more than four hours in executive session with Golden. They then adjourned and directed people watching the virtual meeting to a statement.

The statement read:

Nebraska’s largest COVID-19 hotspots are meatpacking areas with deep immigrant roots.

After Sandra Bland's death in a rural Texas jail drew outrage across the nation, two Texas lawmakers filed a comprehensive bill to address racial profiling during traffic stops, ban police from stopping drivers on a traffic violation as a pretext to investigate other potential crimes, limit police searches of vehicles and other jail and policing reforms.

Late on Friday, Kansas Athletics announced it had settled a long and bitter lawsuit with former head football coach David Beaty for $2.55 million.

In a relatively short statement, University of Kansas officials said the settlement ends all litigation and disputes between the parties.

After sitting undisturbed for more than 10 years, a treasure chest holding gold nuggets and precious gems has been found in the Rocky Mountains. The box was hidden by millionaire art dealer Forrest Fenn; his only clues included a map and a poem. But after countless quests, the search is over.

"The treasure has been found," Fenn wrote in a statement to a blog run by Dal Neitzel for discussions among Fenn treasure seekers.

Jenny Inzerillo

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."

Rural hospitals have been planning for the arrival of the coronavirus, but the preparations for a virus that may not come are putting some already struggling rural hospitals in danger.

Mike Gruenberg, director of disaster preparedness at Salem Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed critical access care facility, said getting ready for coronavirus patents meant making major changes.

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.

At the start of 2020, the agricultural economy was poised for a good year. 

Then came COVID-19 and like almost every other sector, it tanked. But Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, says that solid footing is still the foundation for an outlook that is not all doom and gloom.

The family of a registered nurse at Research Medical Center who died after contracting COVID-19 is seeking death benefits under Missouri’s workers’ compensation law.


Like many small business owners, Amy Manganelli has taken a financial hit since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. So, a few weeks ago, she decided to apply for a small business loan from the federal government.

If someone gets sick in a seven county swath of the Ozarks of southeastern Missouri, the closest place they can go for care is a clinic run by Missouri Highlands Health Care. Highlands operates in some of the least populated and poorest counties in the state. Now, it’s cutting back.

“We just shuttered our dental clinic. We have three of them operating throughout the organization plus a mobile dental," says Highlands CEO Karen White. She says dental care, a major source of revenue, is now restricted to emergency procedures.

President Trump's executive order keeps beef, poultry and pork processors open by invoking the Defense Production Act.

Thousands of meatpacking workers across the country have contracted COVID-19, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Colorado have closed in response. The order says those closures not only threaten the supply chain but undermine critical infrastructure.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday unveiled a plan to open up the state, as the state's total number of COVID-19 cases reach just over 3,000. 

As of Thursday, the state reported 3,017 total confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 179 deaths and 1,884 recoveries.


It’s planting season across much of the United States, and for some farmers who rely on foreign guest workers for help in the fields, the pandemic is getting in the way.  

Friday, April 17, 2020 Workers at a processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska, have fallen ill with symptoms of COVID-19. The company confirmed its first case of the disease earlier this week. LPP confirmed in a statement the employees are isolating at home with sick pay.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called the coronavirus situation “a marathon – not a sprint," in a press conference in which he also announced that the Stay-at-Home order will not be extended. 

According to a press release from the governor’s office, Polis said sustainable distancing measures are going to continue to be needed in order to open up the state, as the state makes its move from the Stay-at-Home order to a Safer at Home phase (pictured above) in the coming week. 

Moore County Hospital District

While the rate of COVID-19 cases has remained fairly flat in most counties in the Texas panhandle, one county is continuing to see an uptick in cases.

Moore County reported 36 confirmed cases of the disease Tuesday, up from 21 cases reported on Friday, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services dashboard.

Amarillo health officials are asking people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma for treating more seriously ill patients. The Amarillo City Council is also expected to extend the city’s shelter in place order on Tuesday, when the current order expires.

In a press conference broadcast on the City of Amarillo’s Facebook page Monday, Dr. Scott Milton, with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at Amarillo Public Health Authority, asked people who received positive COVID-19 tests – but completely recovered – to donate plasma.

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.

Oklahomans who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been exposed to people who have tested positive for coronavirus are being urged by Gov. Kevin Stitt to get tested. He also urged Oklahomans to continue social distancing measures, as the state expects to see its peak in COVID-19 cases in less than two weeks. 

Several counties in the High Plains region are at high risk for a coronavirus outbreak, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin. The study is being used to provide evidence for policymakers undecided about whether to enact social distancing measures.

The study says, in part, "Early and extensive social distancing can block community transmission, avert rises in hospitalizations that overwhelm local capacity, and save lives.”