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Slow return to normal for some Kansas schools, bars

Kansas City metro area health officials are grappling with how to handle continuing case count increases after reopening businesses more than four months ago. What you need to know:The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Monday the state has 247,502 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and there have been 3,255 deaths since the outbreak started. Kansas is now only updating COVID-19 data on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Tuesday there have been 427,117 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak and 6,155 deaths.WEDNESDAY9:15 a.m. — The Jackson County, Missouri, Health Department has issued a new, more relaxed health order, still aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Officials announced today that the department is loosening restrictions on bars and restaurants. READ MORE9 a.m. — Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System said the hospital is treating 110 total COVID-19 patients with 60 acute cases, including 25 that are in the ICU and 11 on ventilators.8 a.m. — Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is expected to extend the city’s emergency orders to control COVID-19. A formal announcement is expected at a noon news conference. The current order is set to expire in four days. READ MORE7 a.m. — Students in Wichita are resuming in-person learning and some bars and restaurants in the Kansas City area are extending their hours as the bumpy COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues.The Wichita district, which is the state’s largest with about 47,000 students, is bringing elementary students back on Wednesday. These young students had been sent home late last year because of a lack of substitutes and rising COVID-19 cases. The district also plans for middle and high school students, who have been remote learning since the start of the academic year, to return later this month in a hybrid mode. That means they’ll be in-person part of the time and at home the rest. The shift comes as government leaders in Wyandotte County announced that bars and restaurants in the county can remain open past midnight starting Wednesday.Mayor David Alvey said in a statement that the goal was to help businesses succeed and contain the spread of coronavirus.“To the extent employees and patrons continue to mask up, maintain social distancing, disinfect, and limit gatherings, the relaxation of these orders can be accommodated — encouraging business activity and protecting public health,” Alvey said. “Each of us must strive to neither get, nor give the coronavirus.”Bars and restaurants will still be limited to 50% of their normal operating capacity, and patrons will still be required to wear masks unless actively eating or drinking, The Kansas City Star reports.The vaccine rollout has been slowly gaining momentum in Kansas but hit a hiccup in Topeka, where Stormont Vail Health is looking into whether anyone not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine may have received one.During a media briefing held Tuesday afternoon via Zoom, Robert Kenagy, Stormont’s president and CEO, addressed news that individuals not associated with the health system took advantage of an online vaccination scheduling tool provided to the system’s health care workers, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.He said it is possible someone not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine — based on the state’s vaccine rollout guidelines — may have become vaccinated. Meanwhile, the Kansas Department of Labor is warning that people who are using automatic phone dialers in an attempt to reach someone with the agency about their unemployment claim are jamming the system and making it difficult for others to get through, The Wichita Eagle reports.Auto dialers don’t work with the phone system at KDOL and won’t allow a caller to connect with someone at the department, said Ryan Wright, special assistant to the acting secretary of labor and former secretary. It also creates problems for callers who aren’t using the automatic dialers.In early December, Wright said most people were able to reach a live human within the first few times of calling in. That changed when call volumes grew larger and more claimants began to use automatic dialers.The problems unemployed Kansas have reaching KDOL staff also come at a time when the agency is working to implement new federal unemployment programs signed into law last month, like additional weekly payments and extended benefits for some. More people have called to ask questions about the new programs, too.“What we’re seeing right now is kind of a perfect storm,” Wright said.[ COVID-19 IN KC: TRACKING CASES, DEATHS AND LATEST RESTRICTIONS ][ FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT THE COVID-19 VACCINE ] TUESDAY10:30 p.m. — Kansas City, Kansas school board members voted 6-1 Tuesday to allow some students to return to in-person learning starting Feb.22.Those included are kindergarteners…

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