Several Wyandotte County students graduate from Emporia State

Several Wyandotte County students were among more than 600 students who recently received academic degrees after completing the spring semester at Emporia State University.

The area students included:

  • Mackenzie Shae Duncan of Bonner Springs, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education
  • Heather Paige Lund of Bonner Springs, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education
  • Ashley Nicole Vest of Bonner Springs, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education
  • Morgan Elizabeth Nichols of Edwardsville, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education
  • Bridget Lynn Frayer of Kansas City, Kansas, Master of Science in Special Education with a concentration in high incidence special education
  • Travon Jones of Kansas City, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in recreation and a minor in coaching
  • Devante Raseem McGee of Kansas City, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in biology with a concentration in health care
  • Jennifer Lynn Mullins of Kansas City, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education
  • Brianna Michelle Shively of Kansas City, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education
  • Maisee Xiong of Kansas City, Kansas, Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education

COVID-19 cases on the rise in KC area

Wyandotte County reported 4,492 positive COVID-19 cases on Aug. 3, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)
A seven-day rolling average of positive cases in Wyandotte County showed the rate is decreasing in recent weeks. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)
The nine-county Kansas City area showed a trend of increasing cases recently, according to this chart from the KC Region COVID-19 Resource Hub. Almost 20,000 cumulative cases were reported in the Greater Kansas City area. (KC Region COVID-19 Resource Hub)
A chart showed statewide COVID-19 cases by symptom onset date. (KDHE chart)

Trend is declining in Wyandotte County

COVID-19 cases are increasing in the community, according to doctors participating in a University of Kansas Health System news conference Monday morning.

The University of Kansas Health System on Monday morning reported four COVID-19 deaths over the weekend. There were 30 COVID-19 patients, including six in the intensive care unit and five on ventilators, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection control and prevention.

Overall, the number of cases is increasing in the community, according to Dr. Hawkinson.

Dr. David Wild, vice president of performance improvement for the University of Kansas Health System, said the patients are slightly younger and are staying in the hospital a shorter time, leading to more patients coming and going.

Those who end up in the ICU are generally very sick and on the ventilator, and most of them are there a longer time, he said.

This past weekend, the youngest COVID-19 patient in the hospital was 19 and the oldest was in the 80s, he added. “There are plenty of 20- and 30-year-olds in the hospital,” he said.

They are now seeing the spread of the disease in the community, and all ages are being affected, Dr. Wild said.

At Advent Health, there were 24 COVID-19 patients in the hospital today, including eight n the ICU and five on ventilators. The numbers peaked about 10 days ago at 30. The hospital is seeing the same experience with a wider range of ages, according to Dr. Larry Botts, chief medical officer.

Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital, reported seven COVID-19 patients, with three in the ICU and ventilators. He said Clay County has seen an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in the past couple of weeks, but not a large increase in hospitalizations.

Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer at Truman Medical Center, said there were 22 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, down from a high of 36 a week ago, with 11 in the ICU and three on ventilators. The length of stay is down.

The hospital has seen about a third of the COVID-19 deaths in the Hispanic population, he said, and has increased its efforts to offer testing to the community.

Dr. Hawkinson said there are still a few weeks to get the community spread under control, and he hopes to see a further drop in numbers before schools reopen. He said people can reduce the spread of the disease by wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, staying home when sick and staying away from crowds.

Wyandotte County reported 4,492 positive COVID-19 cases on Aug. 3, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage.

The Kansas City Region COVID-19 Resource Hub reported 19,945 confirmed cases and 373 deaths Sunday in a nine-county area in Greater Kansas City.

The state of Kansas reported 28,876 positive cumulative COVID-19 cases on Monday morning, an increase of 1,064 since Friday morning, according to statistics from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were a cumulative total of 365 deaths, an increase of seven deaths from Friday.

The KDHE figures stated Wyandotte County increased 124 cases from Friday to Monday morning.

According to KDHE statistics, Johnson County cases increased to 5,252, an increase of 257 since Friday. Sedgwick County, the Wichita area, reported 4,506 cases on Monday morning, according to KDHE.

Free testing offered

Free COVID-19 testing is planned from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at All Saints Parish, 811 Vermont Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.

The pop-up test is offered through Vibrant Health and the Health Equity Task Force.

Free testing also is offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Unified Government Health Department parking lot at 6th and Ann, Kansas City, Kansas.

For more information on who may be tested and what to bring, visit

The KU doctors’ news conference is online at

The Wyandotte County school start order is online at

Wyandotte County is under a mandatory mask order and is in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. For more information, residents may visit the UG COVID-19 website at or call 311 for more information

The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at

Kansas primary election could say a lot about whether the state expands Medicaid

The balance of power may shift in the Kansas Statehouse depending on whether conservative Republicans can win back legislative seats lost to GOP moderates in 2016.

State Sen. John Skubal of Overland Park, seen here on the Kansas Senate floor on the final night of the 2020 session, is one of several moderate Republicans facing primary challenges from more conservative Republicans. (Photo by Jim McLean, Kansas News Service)

by Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Topeka, Kansas — Control of the Kansas Legislature could turn on dozens of down-ballot races in the Aug. 4 primary election, in which many of the contests, particularly for the Kansas Senate, pit conservative Republicans against moderate incumbents.

In Republican Senate primaries, moderates facing their first re-election test since 2016 can no longer use former Gov. Sam Brownback as a foil. And while taxes remain an issue, two perhaps counterintuitive issues are at the core of this year’s legislative contests: Medicaid expansion and abortion.

“Medicaid expansion definitely hinges on this election and there’s no doubt that women’s reproductive rights also hinge on this election,” said Michael Poppa, executive director of the Mainstream Coaltion, a Johnson County group formed in the 1990s to counter “extremism” in politics.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and a majority of lawmakers support expanding Medicaid health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Kansans. But conservative Republicans refused to bring the issue to a vote in the 2020 legislative session because lawmakers didn’t agree to put a proposed constitutional amendment on abortion before Kansas voters.

The amendment was a priority for anti-abortion groups seeking to counter a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said abortion is a protected right under the Kansas Constitution.

And the proposed amendment’s defeat is at the heart of Republican primary battles across the state.

The Senate and the chamber

The race between Sen. John Skubal and conservative challenger Rep. Kellie Warren is among the most closely watched in the primary.

Skubal, a moderate from Overland Park, defeated conservative Jeff Melcher in 2016 by calling for the repeal of tax cuts that triggered a budget crisis under Brownback.

The Mainstream Coalition, the Kansas National Education Association and Stand Up Blue Valley are backing Skubal’s bid for re-election.

Warren, in addition to the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, has the support of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a powerful group that includes Koch Industries among its most influential members.

For the chamber, though, taxes and regulations, not abortion, are most important. President Alan Cobb said in a recent column published in the Topeka Capital-Journal that the organization is backing conservative challengers because current members of the legislature have not reduced taxes on some companies doing business in Kansas.

“We need legislative champions who understand the fundamental role that business plays in the economic health of Kansas,” Cobb wrote.

Recent changes in federal tax laws, Cobb said, raised state taxes for some individuals and companies by a combined total of more than $1 billion. Kelly vetoed attempts to roll back some of those increases, and Republican leaders could not muster the votes to override her.

“These actions are not reflective of what most Kansans want from their state elected leaders,” Cobb wrote.

The chamber and other conservative groups are most active in state senate races because it is their first opportunity to retake seats lost to moderates in the “anti-Brownback election” of 2016, University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller said.

“Conservatives are very much on the offensive,” Miller said, adding that it’s an open question whether moderates can withstand the challenge “without the boogeyman of Sam Brownback to run against.”

The chamber is backing challenges to incumbents in seven GOP Senate primaries. In addition to the Skubal-Warren race, those are:

• Michael Fagg vs. Sen. Bruce Givens in a district that includes portions of seven counties in southeast Kansas.
• Virgil Peck, a former member of the Kansas House, vs. Sen. Dan Goddard in a district that covers the three southeast Kansas counties of Labette, Montgomery and Neosho. Goddard defeated Peck by fewer than 200 votes in the 2016 primary.
• Rep. J.R. Claeys vs. Sen. Randall Hardy in a district dominated by the city of Salina. Claeys, a four-term member of the Kansas House, managed Republican Kris Kobach’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
• Rep. Alicia Straub vs. Sen. Mary Jo Taylor in a district that covers all or some of 11 southwest Kansas counties.
• Mark Steffen vs. Sen. Ed Berger, the former president of Hutchinson Community College, in a district that covers all of Reno County and part of Kingman County.
• Lon Pishny vs. Sen. John Doll in a district that includes Garden City and covers all or part of 11 counties in southwest Kansas. Doll briefly left the Republican Party in 2018 to run for lieutenant governor alongside independent gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman.

Double trouble for moderates?

The moderate/conservative dynamic is in play in a Johnson County district that covers parts of Overland Park, Merriam and Shawnee. Conservative Republican Mike Thompson is trying to hold off a challenge from moderate two-term Rep. Tom Cox.

Thompson, a former TV weatherman, was selected to replace former Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook when she resigned in January with a year left in her third term.

Another member of the Kobach circle faces a challenger in the Topeka-heavy 20th District. Conservative Sen. Eric Rucker was a former top aide to the ex-secretary of state and was selected to fill the remainder of former Sen. Vicki Schmidt’s term when she was elected insurance commissioner in 2018. Rucker is being challenged by moderate Rep. Brenda Dietrich, the former superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn School District.

Dietrich, like many other moderate Republicans, is getting support from American Energy Action, a political action committee formed just this month by companies that operate wind farms in Kansas.

Conservatives are also running to unseat moderate incumbents in a handful of Kansas House races, including a Johnson County district that includes parts of Leawood and Overland Park.

Rep. Jan Kessinger was one of four Republicans whose vote against the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion kept it from passing. And while he has the support of the KNEA, Stand Up Blue Valley and the Mainstream Coalition, challenger Jane Dirks has the backing of the state chamber and Kansans for Life.

The 8th House District is another pivotal race in Overland Park and Olathe. Republican Rep. Chris Croft was elected in 2018 and has endorsements from the chamber and Kansans for Life. His opponent, Clay Norkey, is backed by the same organizations supporting other moderates.

Moderate Republicans are facing a dual threat, said Miller, the KU political scientist. They are vulnerable to conservatives in the primary, especially in rural districts, and to suburban Democrats in the November general election.

Depending on how things play out, Miller said, the legislature could end up “more Democratic, but also more conservative.”

Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org.
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