Kansas Governor Moves to Help Facilities Hit by COVID Surge
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is easing or suspending Kansas licensing rules for medical personnel and nursing home workers in hopes of making it easier for them to attack staffing shortages during a surge of new COVID-19 cases. Kelly issued two executive orders Thursday. One allows hospital staff to perform a broader range of duties. The other makes licensing of nursing home workers more flexible so homes can hire people whose licenses have lapsed and fill less-skilled jobs with workers who’ve relatively little or no previous training. The governor also declared an emergency for the next 15 days. Her actions come as ambulances struggle to find Kansas City-area hospitals with space.
Kansas Court Ruling Keeps Law Allowing COVID Lawsuits Alive
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is keeping intact a law that allows people to sue counties over mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions and obtain quick trial-court decisions. The court declined Friday to consider whether it’s constitutional for a state law to require judges to rule on such lawsuits within 10 days. It concluded that a Johnson County judge had no business striking down the law in a case that dealt with another legal question. Judge David Hauber’s decision against the law applying to counties was in a lawsuit against a school district’s mask mandate. School districts were covered by another law that’s since expired.
U.S. Supreme Court Weighs Vaccine Mandates Affecting More than 80 Million
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up two major Biden administration efforts to bump up the nation’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 at a time of spiking coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant. The justices on the conservative-oriented court are hearing arguments today (FRI) about whether to allow the administration to enforce a vaccine-or-testing mandate that applies to large employers and a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers. Legal challenges to the policies from Republican-led states and business groups are in their early stages, but the outcome at the high court probably will determine the fate of vaccine requirements affecting more than 80 million people.
In Omicron Outbreak, U.S. Governors Lose Appetite for Mandates
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Governors across the U.S. took sweeping action during earlier surges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are taking a much different approach during the record-setting caseloads caused by the omicron variant. Previously, many of them closed schools or ordered businesses shut down. They issued mask mandates, vaccine requirements and, in some places, quarantines for those who had traveled to hot spots out of state. While governors are now sending help to hospitals, they are displaying little appetite for widespread public orders or shutdowns even as the omicron surge shatters COVID-19 case records. Even Democratic governors who passed strict mandates early on are relying more on persuasion than dictates.
Man Pleads Guilty in Stabbing Death of Leavenworth Man
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old man scheduled to go in trial next week in the stabbing death of a Leavenworth man pleaded guilty to felony murder. Jeffery Samulczyk pleaded Wednesday in the October 2020 death of Joshua Gilson. Gilson’s wife is serving a life term after pleading guilty in August to first-degree murder in her husband’s death. As part of a plea agreement, charges against Samulczyk of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and interference with law enforcement were dismissed. Gilson’s body was found wrapped in plastic in the cellar of his home. Investigators found text messages between Samulczyk and Alexandra Gilson discussing the murder and how they would cover it up.
Substitute Teacher Shortage Continues in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Schools across Kansas can’t find enough substitute teachers in the midst of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic so the state could soon loosen some requirements for people who want to work as substitutes. State education leaders will consider a proposal next week to ease some of the requirements to work as a substitute teacher. Many Kansas schools say the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a nationwide labor shortage, has left their schools struggling to staff classrooms. School districts are asking the Kansas Board of Education to drop some of the requirements for substitutes. Kansas requires even emergency subs to have at least 60 hours of coursework at an accredited college or university. State officials say they could lift that requirement temporarily but would still require subs to pass a fingerprint and background check.
DCF Extending Pandemic SNAP Benefits
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The Kansas Department for Children and Families is extending the emergency food benefits offered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase raises the maximum food stamp benefit through the SNAP program for more than 60,000 Kansas families. Emergency food assistance will continue through July 31 or whenever the federal public health emergency ends. The emergency benefits allowed under the federal rules bring an average of an additional $232 a month for SNAP recipients. The federal government is paying the additional $15 million a month in Kansas benefits. Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard says these benefits are crucial for some families to access food.
Kansas Attorney General Clarifies Laws on Delta-9 Cannabis Products
HAYS, Kan. (KNS) — Some Kansas shops have been selling a cannabis product called delta-8. The product is a molecular variant of the traditional THC compound in marijuana that produces a high. Law enforcement officials have complained that they didn’t know if the substance was illegal. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt now says delta-8 is only legal in hemp products that contain very small amounts. Some shops sell vape oils and other items with high amounts. So far, store owners in at least one city, Hays, have been put on notice. Ellis County Attorney Robert Anderson told shops to give their supplies of delta-9 to local police or they could face legal consequences
Authorities: Beware of Vapes, Gummies in Some Kansas Stores
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Confusion is clouding the legality of vapes, gummies, teas and other products that include a chemical cousin of marijuana’s main intoxicating ingredient. A recent Kansas attorney general opinion, court decision and law change have raised questions for prosecutors and law enforcement as the products, which are frequently sold in smoke shops and even gas stations, proliferate. At issue is a chemical called delta-8 THC that is billed as producing a milder high than the better-known delta-9 THC. Delta-8 is often marketed as being legal even where marijuana is not. That argument stems from the fact that most delta-8 is synthesized from CBD, a popular non-intoxicating chemical that’s prevalent in hemp, a form of cannabis that Congress legalized in 2018.
Agencies to Waive Fees for Replacing Documents for Wildfire Victims
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Governor Laura Kelly has directed state agencies to waive the fees for replacing birth certificates, tax documents, vehicle titles and other vital records for people affected by December’s wildfires. Officials at the Department of Revenue say the goal is to remove any extra burden as farmers and ranchers try to replace documents they lost in the fires. The state will waive the fees until February 28. The Kansas Forest Service estimates that about 165 thousand acres were burned during that fire emergency.
Woman Charged with Helping Man Escape from Larned State Hospital
LARNED, Kan. (AP) – A Ulysses woman is charged with helping a man escape from the Larned State Hospital this week. The Pawnee County Attorney’s Office says 38-year-old Emilia Melinda Brown is charged with aiding escape. Investigators allege Brown drove 43-year-old Isaac Watts away from the Larned campus after he escaped Monday night. Watts and Brown were arrested Tuesday morning at a Garden City hotel. Watts is jailed in Finney County pending any possible charges for the escape. Authorities have not said how he got out of the state hospital. He was the second patient to escape from Larned since June, and state officials are looking for a firm to review security procedures there.
Security Check at Larned State Hospital Accelerated After Escapes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials say they are working to find an independent firm to review procedures after two convicts escaped from Larned State Hospital since June. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Tuesday it is working with the Correctional Leaders Association to find a firm to conduct a comprehensive security review at the facility. The effort began after John Colt escaped from the prison in June. He was not arrested until September in Utah. The governor’s office says the effort will accelerate after another inmate, Isaac Watts, escaped from Larned Monday night. He was arrested Tuesday in Garden City.
Wichita Man Given 4 Consecutive Life Sentences for Child Sex Abuse
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for sexually assaulting a young girl. Jeremiah Orange was sentenced Wednesday for abusing a girl during the summer of 2016 while she and her mother were staying with him. He was convicted in November of two counts of rape and two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The four life sentences each have parole eligibility after 25 years. District Judge Jeffrey Syrios said each of the four sentences represents a separate act against the child.
Wichita Police Find Man Fatally Shot Inside Crash Vehicle
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are searching for a gunman after finding a man fatally shot inside a crashed vehicle. Police say the shooting happened in northwestern Wichita around 2 am Friday, when several people reported hearing shots fired in the area. Arriving officers discovered a vehicle that had crashed into a home’s detached garage and found a man believed to be in his 20s inside the vehicle who had been shot several times. Police say the man died at the scene. Officials did not immediately release his name. Police said no one else was injured in the shooting or the crash, and no information on a suspect or suspects has been released.
Missouri Man to be Sentenced for Killing Wife He Buried
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man who admitted to burying his wife’s body and misleading authorities for more than a year about her whereabouts is set to be sentenced for killing her. Jurors in November convicted 26-year-old Joseph Elledge of second-degree murder in the killing of 28-year-old Mengqi Ji, whom he met after she moved from China to study engineering at the University of Missouri. The jury recommended that Elledge be sentenced to 28 years in prison, and the judge can’t impose a longer sentence than that on Friday. Elledge reported Ji missing in October 2019, prompting months of extensive searches. Her remains were found last March in a park near Columbia, where the couple had lived.
Police: Child Accidentally Shoots Wamego Woman at Home
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Wamego woman was critically injured when a child accidentally shot her. The Wamego police department said first responders who went to a Wamego home early Wednesday found a 31-year-old woman suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. She is hospitalized in Topeka in critical condition. Officials say evidence indicates the woman was shot by a handgun fired by a small child. Chief Michael Baker said a mother, father and child lived in the home where the shooting occurred. No names or further details have been released.
Man Pleads Guilty to Charges in Death of Topeka Woman
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in the 2019 killing of a woman whose body was found in a natural gas-filled Topeka home. Jeremy Lardner pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder charge, as well as aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the death of 36-year-old Brandi Prchal. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says as part of a plea agreement, Lardner’s defense team agreed to a sentence of nearly 49 years on all the counts when Lardner is sentenced on January 27. Lardner remains in custody on $1 million bond. On November 1, 2019, police and paramedics found Prchal’s bludgeoned body and Lardner unconscious in a Topeka home filled with natural gas.
Chinese Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Monsanto Trade Secret While Working in Missouri
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A 44-year-old man from China admitted in court that he stole a trade secret from Monsanto while he worked in Missouri. Federal prosecutors say Haitao Xiang, formerly of Chesterfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Missouri to conspiracy to commit economic espionage. Federal prosecutors say Xiang transferred a trade secret to a memory card for the benefit of the Chinese government. He was arrested after he returned to the U.S. from China. Xiang was an imaging scientist for Monsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 7.
Parents Sue Kansas City Fire Department After Fatal Crash
KANSAS CITY, Mo . (AP) — The parents of a man who died in a crash involving a Kansas City firetruck are suing the city, the fire department and the truck driver. Michael Elwood was one of three people who died when the firetruck hit a car and then struck a pedestrian before crashing into a building in the Westport entertainment district last December. His parents allege in the lawsuit that the firetruck driver was negligent and too inexperienced to be driving the truck, which was responding to an emergency call at the time. A spokesman for the fire department said he would not comment on a pending lawsuit.
University of Kansas Suspends 2 Fraternities Until 2027
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/LJW) — The University of Kansas has suspended two fraternities for five years following an investigation that accused the clubs of fostering a culture of hazing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university on Tuesday informed Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Theta in a letter that they will be removed from KU’s campus until the spring of 2027. The letter says investigations by national fraternity leadership and reviewed by a university panel found the fraternities engaged in a pattern of hazing, including action that hurt students. One instance attributed to Phi Gamma Delta says a pledge suffered a concussion after being thrown against a locker. Phi Delta Theta was also accused of causing harm to pledges through forced workouts and other actions.
Hospitals Overflow with COVID Patients as Staff Members Fall Ill
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Patients are dying in emergency rooms of small Kansas hospitals as larger hospitals that are struggling with soaring staff absences and COVID-19 cases turn down transfers. Hospitals across the state painted a dire picture Wednesday of worsening conditions as the highly contagious omicron variant collides with a delta variant surge. They urged public officials to require masks and impose emergency declarations that could free up more resources, saying they are struggling to keep up with the demand for testing and that surgeries are being delayed and clinics canceled.
Hospital Officials in Missouri Discuss Sharp Increase of COVID-19 Cases
UNDATED (AP) – Hospital and health officials across Missouri say their hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer at University Health, said Wednesday the system’s two hospitals in the Kansas City region are treating 98 patients with COVID-19, an all-time high for the system. In Springfield, the director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said 473 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday, the highest number in the county since the end of 2020. Officials say they are treating the high numbers while also facing staffing shortages and a strong increase in demands for testing.
Kansas School Board OKs $425,000 for Outgoing Superintendent
GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — An outgoing suburban Kansas City, Kansas, school superintendent has secured a $425,000 severance package just days before newly-elected conservative school board members who campaigned on ousting her take office. The Kansas City Star reports that the Gardner Edgerton School District board last month approved the severance package covering the remaining 18 months of Superintendent Pam Stranathan’s contract. Stranathan’s resignation takes effect Sunday. On Monday, new members take office, giving the board a 4-3 conservative majority. That conservative majority was elected on its opposition to Stranathan’s policy of remote learning and mask requirements in the face of a global pandemic.
Conditions Remain Dry Throughout Missouri River Basin
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Conditions remain dry throughout the Missouri River basin, so officials are predicting that the amount of water flowing down the river this year will be below average again. The dry forecast reduces the chance of widespread flooding along the river this spring although some local flooding is still possible if chunks of ice block the flow of water or if heavy rains fall on an area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that last year was the tenth driest year on record in the Missouri River basin. This year, runoff is expected to increase somewhat but it is expected to be only 84% of of the long-term average.
Longtime NFL, College Coach Greg Robinson Dies at 70
UNDATED (AP) – Greg Robinson, who spent nearly four decades coaching in the NFL and college, has died at 70. His wife, Laura, says he died Wednesday from a form of Alzheimer’s Disease. Robinson won two Super Bowl rings as defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s and also served in the same role for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. He succeeded Paul Pasqualoni as head coach at Syracuse University in December 2004. Robinson also was defensive coordinator at Michigan, Texas, and San Jose State. He retired in 2015.
Kansas State Promotes Ex-Heisman Finalist Klein as Offensive Coordinator
UNDATED (AP) – Kansas State University football assistant Collin Klein, who had been serving as the interim offensive coordinator during the bowl season, was given the full-time job on Friday after an impressive performance by the Wildcats in the Texas Bowl. The former Heisman Trophy finalist put together a game plan for LSU that resulted in a school bowl-record 442 yards of total offense in a 42-20 rout of the Tigers on Tuesday night. Klein takes over for Courtney Messingham, who was fired after the Wildcats lost their regular-season finale at Texas. They only managed 27 points combined in Messingham’s final two games in charge.
These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!