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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Are you an employee of Stormont Vail or another Kansas health care providers that is reducing pay during the COVID-19 crisis? We want to hear from you.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A major hospital in the state’s capital slashed pay this week for many employees to try to weather financial woes spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County government has started furloughing employees whose office functions are curtailed due to the coronavirus and who can’t work from home. Overland Park is also planning to furlough about 200 part-time employees.

Johnson County's furloughs affect 46 front-line workers in motor vehicle registration offices in Mission and Olathe, which have closed to the public during the pandemic.

Chris Haxel / KCUR 89.3

One day after the Jackson County Health Department told Bass Pro Shops to close its Independence store because it is a nonessential business, officials now say "the situation has changed."

Kayla Parker, a spokeswoman for the health department, said in an email Tuesday that officials are now "working with" Bass Pro Shops. She did not provide further information.

The store remained open Tuesday, with workers limiting customers inside the building to 50 at a time. There was no line outside the store. Inside, employees seemed to outnumber customers. 

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In the past several weeks, as metro Kansas City began working to avoid being overwhelmed by Covid-19 like big cities elsewhere, rural places like Wright County in southern Missouri have been barely touched by the disease.

But Wright County family physician Dr. David Barbe, along with other health care providers who work in remote parts of the state, have been pleading with Gov. Mike Parson to force their patients and neighbors to shelter in place.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

For live theater, the audience is essential. 

"You come to a show, you sit next to a stranger, you guys are laughing at the same thing, or you're intrigued by the same thing, or you're saddened or angry by the same thing," says actress Chioma Anyanwu. "It brings people together and we cannot come together right now. So that's really, really strange to be in that position."

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

As April's rent becomes due across the Kansas City metro, tenants face an uncertain legal landscape subject to the vagaries of the coronavirus and how soon its spread can be stopped.

That's been the case for tenants such as Erin White, who rents an apartment in Skyler Ridge, a 200-unit complex on 115th Street just west of Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.

Courtesy of the National World War I Museum and Memorial

Even when the National World War I Museum and Memorial is open, the majority of its vast holdings aren’t on public display but stored for safekeeping.

Now, with a metro-wide stay-at-home order keeping the Kansas City museum closed until at least April 24, museum employees who usually work with guests are helping transcribe about 10,000 digitized pages from letters, diaries and journals.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Former Kansas City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Alissia Canady has filed to run for Missouri Lieutenant Governor.

Canady served one term representing the city’s 5th district before announcing her mayoral bid in 2018.

Courtesy of KMBC live stream

Although the number of cases of COVID-19 is growing in the Kansas City area, the rate of increase does not appear to be. Still, Kansas City Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer said we must be vigilant.

"Remember about half of folks can get this virus and not become ill enough to seek medical care," Archer said in a press conference Monday on the steps of City Hall. “We know we’ve had community spread without being able to track down somebody who is positive.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Suddenly tossed from their jobs by the coronavirus shutdown, people from across the state continue to deluge the Kansas Department of Labor with a record flood of unemployment claims.

All that instant joblessness is greeted by one small bit of good news: Kansas appears to have squirreled enough money away to cover the surge in unemployment claims for nearly a year.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts says he will not run for re-election in 2020, opening the door to a parade of candidates announcing a run or considering jumping into the race to replace him. Multiple Republicans are eyeing the seat, and it could be the first time Democrats have a competitive U.S. Senate primary since the 1990s.

Here’s the rundown of who’s seeking the seat in Washington: 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Counties throughout the metro have issued stay-at-home orders to protect residents from the spread of the novel coronavirus. But advocates worry that families vulnerable to the dangers of violence and abuse are at greater risk under the stressors of sheltering in place. Intensifying that risk is the loss of community touchpoints for intervention, such as worship services, routine wellness visits at doctors' offices and daily check-ins at school. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A stay-at-home order for the entire state of Kansas will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 30, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Saturday, making it one of at least 20 states to ask its residents to conduct only essential business. 

The executive order, which will last at least until April 19, is meant to slow the spread of coronavirus. Kansas has surpassed 250 cases of COVID-19 — including two military personnel, one from Fort Riley and one from Fort Leavenworth — and has five deaths. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

After initially lagging behind many other parts of the country, the COVID-19 case numbers in Kansas and Missouri are now rising rapidly each day.

While this undoubtedly means more people are getting sick, it’s unclear exactly what the infection trends are in both states. That's due to inconsistent testing and lack of complete numbers.

The two states' total cases, as reported on Friday:

Jodi Fortino / KCUR 89.3

Although it was set to close its retail stores on Friday evening because of the coronavirus pandemic, Nebraska Furniture Mart’s sprawling distribution center in Kansas City, Kansas, will remain open for business.

The 650,000-square-foot warehouse fulfills online and telephone orders and employs approximately 400 people who work in three shifts, with 100 to 150 working at any given time.

Black Sheep + Market / Facebook

Restaurants throughout the metro have been hit hard by the state of emergency in Kansas City. Many have closed, resulting in hundreds of laid off workers. And now, with food service limited to curbside and delivery, waitstaff is losing both hourly wages and tips. Meanwhile, restaurants themselves are facing an existential threat that increases every day the coronavirus epidemic continues. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Dr. Joe Meier’s hospital in Wilson County has 15 beds, no intensive care unit and one ventilator. Two of his neighboring counties in southeast Kansas have no hospital at all, and another two have no ICU either.

So Meier has a plea to the residents of his region: Stay home.

"It's not a matter of 'if' (COVID-19) is going to hit here,' he said. "It’s a matter of when."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Restaurants and bars have closed and gatherings larger than 10 people have been banned. The entire Kansas City metro is under orders to stay at home. Among many profound changes brought by the coronavirus: The interaction between musicians and their audiences at live shows.

"We're shutdown for the foreseeable future, at least two weeks. Could be a month, could be two months, who knows?" said Steve Tulipana, co-owner of RecordBar in downtown Kansas City. "So we're all just trying to figure out ways to keep doing what we do to keep sane, really."

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has barred medical staff from wearing face masks continuously through shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic and has threatened disciplinary action if staff defy the order.

In an internal email sent March 19 and obtained by KCUR, hospital leaders cited guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say face masks should solely be used by people who show symptoms of the coronavirus.

Johnson County

Johnson County Commissioners wrestled with their new reality on Thursday, saying they’re getting calls from constituents worried about the coronavirus, wondering about the costs to society and the economy from all the business shutdowns and stay-home orders.

By the end of their weekly meeting, they’d directed public health officials to develop a logistics plan as soon as possible, with costs identified, to ramp up coronavirus testing in the county, using private labs if necessary.

File photo by Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The Kansas City Council passed a $1.7 billion budget Thursday even though the city does not yet know the full extent of the impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the city’s revenues.

“We are in a most serious time,” Councilwoman Teresa Loar said during Thursday’s four-hour debate. “We should just pass a budget, see where we’re at, and then we will take care of things as we go.”

Andrew Turner

Tens of thousands of people across Kansas and Missouri filed for unemployment benefits as many businesses were ordered to close to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Andrew Turner owns an auction house in the East Bottoms area of Kansas City, Missouri. He had to shut his business down two weeks ago after the city declared a state of emergency. 

“It's just kind of been a nightmare,” said Turner. “There's been zero business, and it's hard to manage with nothing coming in.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As COVID-19 begins to spread in the Kansas City area, health care workers and hospitals say they are struggling with a lack of resources as they try to prepare for a potentially huge demand for care.

Citing concerns about shortage of both medical equipment and staff, the Missouri State Medical Association this week sent a letter to Gov. Mike Parson urging him to issue a statewide “shelter-in-place” order.

File photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

A massive federal coronavirus stimulus package, on the verge of final passage, should bring some welcome relief from the pandemic to the Kansas City metro area, members of the Kansas and Missouri Congressional delegations said Thursday.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the so-called CARES Act on Wednesday night, and the U.S. House is expected to do so quickly on Friday. It then goes to President Trump.

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Amid concerns that prisoners face a heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus, a public interest law firm wants Missouri to release prisoners whose parole has been revoked — in many cases on technicalities.

In an emergency motion filed Wednesday, the Chicago-based MacArthur Justice Center says that prisons and jails are notoriously unsanitary and are not isolated environments, with attorneys, correctional officers, medical personnel and visitors entering and leaving on a daily basis.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

With screens dark in its theaters, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. announced Wednesday that it will furlough employees at its Leawood headquarters, too. A spokesman estimated the move will affect some 600 employees.

AMC said in a statement that the closing of its 1,000 AMC and Odeon theaters worldwide "leaves AMC with no revenue, and substantial fixed costs that continue." The company said it is not terminating any corporate employees, but were forced to furlough workers in order to preserve cash and get the company through the COVID-19 crisis.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri has postponed April municipal elections until June, a decision that could have a long-term impact on metro school districts asking voters to approve bonds for construction projects.

North Kansas City Schools, the state’s third largest school district, needs to replace two elementary schools, build an early childhood center and add on to Staley High School. There’s also a backlog of deferred maintenance at the district’s oldest school buildings. 

Bigstock

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.

Courtesy of Leigh Ann Cleaver

On Wednesday, the first really gorgeous spring afternoon of the year, a couple dozen people were playing pickleball at Meadowbrook Park at 91st and Nall in Johnson County, Kansas.

That was until two Prairie Village police officers showed up to tell the players they were violating the emergency order limiting gatherings to no more than ten people. 

Google Maps

Although only “essential” businesses are supposed to remain open under stay-at-home orders now in effect in the Kansas City area, some businesses appear to have adopted a loose definition of the term.

The 700,000-square-foot Guitar Center distribution center in the Northland is one of them. The sprawling facility employs hundreds of people to fulfill online orders for musical instruments and musical gear.

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