Omicron Explosion Spurs Nationwide Breakdown of Services
UNDATED (AP) – The explosion in omicron-fueled coronavirus infections has caused a breakdown in basic functions and services across America. Ambulances in Kansas speed toward hospitals and then suddenly change direction because hospitals are full. Employee shortages in New York City cause delays in trash and subway services and diminish the ranks of firefighters and emergency medical services. Airport officials shut down security checkpoints at the biggest terminal in Phoenix and schools across the nation struggle to find teachers for their classrooms. It’s just the latest illustration of how COVID-19 keeps upending life more than two years into the pandemic.
Kansas Hospital Runs Out of Ventilators as Virus Cases Soar
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A hospital in eastern Kansas ran out of ventilators Friday as the state continued to report a surge in COVID-19 cases. The Lyons County Board declared a local emergency Friday after the Newman Regional Health hospital in Emporia ran short of ventilators. That declaration will help the hospital receive two additional ventilators from the state. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Kansas soared over the past two weeks from 1,109.29 new cases per day on December 24 to 6,543.43 new cases per day on Friday. And in the Kansas City area, officials at the University of Kansas Hospital said they were scrambling to deal with staff shortages as the number of COVID-19 patients they were treating jumped.
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 heard arguments yesterday (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.
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.
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.
Woman Shot and Hit by Car Outside Wichita Party Sunday
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old woman was in critical condition Sunday after being shot outside a party in Wichita and then hit by a car. Wichita police said the shooting was reported shortly after 2 am Sunday in the 2200 block of East 12th Street. Officer Trevor Macy said in a statement that the woman was wounded once when multiple shots were fired. Then investigators believe she was hit by a car as people began to flee after the shooting. No arrests had been announced as of Sunday afternoon and the victim was not immediately identified.
Texas Tech Upsets No. 6 KU, 75-67
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech up-ended the no. 6-ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks by a score of 75 to 67 on Saturday. For the no. 25-ranked Red Raiders, Bryson Williams scored 22 points, and Clarence Nadolny had a career-high 17. Texas Tech never trailed in the second half. For KU, Ochai Agbaji had 24 points with six 3-pointers, and Jalen Wilson scored 20 points. The Jayhawks had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
Chiefs Defeat Broncos and Secure No. 2 in Seed in Playoffs
UNDATED (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have given themselves a chance to move up in the NFL playoff seedings. Linebacker Nick Bolton’s 86-yard fumble return midway through the fourth quarter put the Chiefs ahead to stay in a 28-24 win Saturday at Denver. The Broncos led 21-20 and were driving for another touchdown when Melvin Ingram III darted into Denver’s backfield untouched and stripped the ball from Melvin Gordon. Patrick Mahomes was 27 of 44 for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the 12-5 Chiefs with 54 yards rushing.
The Tennessee Titans defeated the Houston Texans on Sunday by a score of 28 to 25. This secured the Titans the number one seed, a first-round bye and home field advantage for the AFC playoffs. Both the Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs have an 11-5 record, but Kansas City will be the No. 2 seed because of the team’s loss to Tennessee earlier in the season.
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!