Johnson County | KCUR

Johnson County

Charlie Riedel / AP

It’s officially spring in Kansas City, even with the coronavirus. Around the metro, there are signs Mother Nature is unaware of the pandemic with greener grass, budding flowers and warmer temperatures.

That’s drawing many people outdoors to take a break from being cooped up indoors following stay-at-home orders. Health experts say getting exercise is important, even with restrictions on movement, but people should still try to minimize the risk of spreading the disease.

Here are some tips for safely getting some fresh air and exercise outdoors during a 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.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Segment 1: Adapting Kansas counties, businesses, schools and employees to coronavirus

Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a series of executive orders aimed at safeguarding the health of Kansans during the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked her about criticism that the measures went too far, and whether she’s considering a statewide stay-at-home order.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Segment 1: Adapting Kansas counties, businesses, schools and employees to coronavirus

Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a series of executive orders aimed at safeguarding the health of Kansans during the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked her about criticism that the measures went too far, and whether she’s considering a statewide stay-at-home order.

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.

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. 

Courtesy of Joanna Wilson

As word spread about the ordeal surrounding the first coronavirus death in Johnson County, Kansas, first through Joanna Wilson's Facebook updates and then through media reports, the metro area got its first glimpse of the health care system struggling to keep up — and the pain of necessary quarantine.

"We don't have a clue where he picked this up," Joanna Wilson told KCUR. The couple hadn't traveled recently. "We've gone to church, he goes to Home Depot, we run in Walmart," she said.

Harvesters

Segment 1: Wife's Facebook post seen by hundreds meant one more hospital visit with her husband before he died

Harvesters

Segment 1: Wife's Facebook post seen by hundreds meant one more hospital visit with her husband before he died

courtesy of Kate E. Burke

Kansas City fashion designers, fabric artists, home sewers and crafters are diving into their own supplies to help meet the demand for masks for health care workers.

As is happening elsewhere around the country, health care and first-responder agencies in the metro area have begun asking for donations to overcome shortages as they deal with the spread of COVID-19. 

Erica Hunzinger / Kansas News Service

Update: Sedgwick County has finalized its stay-home order.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Six Kansas counties are ordering residents to stay home unless they’re buying groceries, getting health care or carrying out other essential tasks.

The orders apply in Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth, Douglas, Miami and Doniphan counties. Gov. Laura Kelly said she’s not ready to issue her own statewide shelter-in-place order, but that could change.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

Johnson County, Kansas, has logged its first fatality from the coronavirus, according to officials with the county's health department.

The victim is a man in his 70s who had underlying health conditions, said Barbara Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the department. The man was being treated at a Johnson County hospital. Mitchell declined to say which hospital or release further details.

Courtesy of Kady McMaster

Segment 1: "I'm going to continue to work really hard, I'm just going to do it from home," said U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.

Despite deciding to self-quarantine after potential exposure to the novel coronavirus, Kansas' U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids said she's still working to ensure any stimulus package out of the Capitol prioritizes people who need it most. She also emphasized the importance of practicing social distancing, listening to public health officials and taking the coronavirus situation seriously.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Kansas’ prisons and many of its county jails have suspended in-person visits indefinitely to keep down the risk of coronavirus spreading among inmates. The only exception is lawyers, who will be allowed to visit their clients.

Correctional facilities’ close quarters and lower health care quality means there’s a higher likelihood of COVID-19 virus spreading, though state and county facilities say they are doing what they can to keep things clean — asking for frequent hand washing, wiping down transport vehicles and phones and frequently scrubbing prison dining halls and gathering spaces.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Update: 7:30 p.m.

A 70-year-old man who lived in a long-term care facility in Wyandotte County is the first known death from the new coronavirus in Kansas, state officials said Thursday night.

Kansas also has declared a state of emergency, which gives the government more power to marshal resources and triggers the state's response plan.

Segment 1: Lenexa, Kansas, is reconsidering its rules around homeless shelters.

Zoning restrictions in Lenexa caused a stir this winter because they precluded the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church from operating a homeless shelter on their campus, which is an old school. A temporary solution was reached, but now the city is taking another look at how it regulates shelters. With possible changes on the horizon, advocates for those experiencing homelessness share their thoughts on the process and its outcomes.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Did that just happen?

Financial markets and oil producers delivered a double whammy Monday that left the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 7.8% — its worst drop since 2008.

Ten Kansas City-area public companies tumbled even more than the benchmark average. In just a day, the 10 local companies saw their combined market cap fall $8.25 billion.

Segment 1: Inequality in the story of lead contamination and lead removal.

Homes in Kansas City's oldest and one-time affluent neighborhoods are now lived in by people without the resources to remove the lead paint commonly used before its dangers were known. Plus, how the rise and fall of lead mining has affected a part of Missouri known as the Lead Belt. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

Update: 2:30 p.m. Monday 

Kansas’ single confirmed coronavirus patient has been admitted to the University of Kansas Health Systems hospital.

The Johnson County woman, who was announced to have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Saturday, was admitted to the Kansas City, Kansas, hospital after self-isolating at home.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A bitter contract dispute has driven a wedge between the Shawnee Mission teachers’ union and some of the school board members the union has helped get elected in recent years.

After the Kansas Department of Labor intervened last month, tossing out the final two years of a three-year contract the school board approved over the union’s objections, the two sides are trying to come together to negotiate a contract for next school year.

Segment 1: Kansas State University could be a testing ground for rebranding white nationalism, a new report says.

A report from the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights concluded that white nationalists are attempting to mainstream their image and ideology, and they're using college campuses to do so. Not only are college campuses full of people ready to learn about different ideas, they're also notable platforms for protecting free speech.

Segment 1: Is it time for voters to select Johnson County's election commissioner? 

In the four most populous counties in Kansas voters do not select their election commissioner. Johnson County is one of those where the position is filled by appointment by the secretary of state. County commissioners explained why that is, whether that process should continue and what some alternatives would look like.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to cybersecurity, most Kansas counties are behind. Overall, only eight county websites end in .gov, a domain extension that’s only given to governments.

Most of Kansas’ 105 counties have websites ending in .org or .com. And 60 counties don’t use a basic security protocol called SSL; their website URLs start with “http” rather than the more secure “https.” Both make it easier for hackers to impersonate websites in an effort to install malware, trick citizens into giving out personal data or sway elections.

Associated Press

Kansas health officials are waiting for test results after a patient in Lawrence reported symptoms of the coronavirus.

Local health officials are now more closely monitoring the possible spread of the virus.

"Diseases are just an airplane ride away,"  said Nancy Tausz, health services division director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said the test kit from Lawrence has been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

While we’re glued to the news gushing daily out of Washington — impeachment, immigration, health care — the truth is we should be paying just as close attention to what local governments are up to.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Once again, Kansas City, Missouri,  finds itself in the midst of a climb in homicides.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Buzz about new housing and development in the metro has focused on downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The past two decades saw former warehouses and old buildings converted to lofts at lightning speed.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Negotiators for the Shawnee Mission School District and the teachers union are at an impasse and will now present their cases to a neutral party.

On one side are teachers who feel overworked and underpaid. On the other side are school administrators who say the union’s demands will ultimately put the district in the red. It’s a dispute with deep roots in the Great Recession and all the years Kansas seriously underfunded schools, happening amidst a national conversation on teacher pay.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Over the past decade, the number of newspaper reporters has dropped by half. But in Johnson County, Kansas, one news site is bucking the trend, adding reporters and subscribers.

The Shawnee Mission Post, which covers about a quarter-million people from a small house on a tree-lined street in Prairie Village is on track to triple the size of its newsroom by embracing the much-maligned paywall.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

For Willie Vader, the Johnson County Courthouse can't be demolished soon enough. 

"That is the single biggest thing that could help downtown Olathe, what goes in there after that building comes down," Vader said. 

He owns Vader's Bar and Deli on Cherry Street, just east of the courthouse. The courthouse is nearly 70 years old and will be replaced by a bigger, more up-to-date one that's currently being built a block north. The new courthouse is expected to open in early 2021, and the plan is to tear the old one down shortly after. 

Pages