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Nick’s Picks | 10 Stories to Watch This Holiday Week

Wrapping Up the Year

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

With Christmas on Saturday, it’s going to be a short work week for many Kansas Citians, but definitely not all. Here are 10 stories to keep an eye on this holiday week.

Running Out of Beds

Let’s hope you don’t have any kind of accident or illness in the next few days. Kansas City area hospitals say they’re out of beds this holiday week. 

Surging COVID cases are bringing a 2020 feel to the end of 2021.

Local hospital leaders held a dire video conference call on Friday.

This is what we know so far: HCA Midwest currently has 43 patients waiting for beds. That’s the hospital chain that runs Research, Overland Park and Menorah Medical Centers.

At AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Hays says: ”The beds are not the issue, it’s the nurses to staff the beds.” She says staff are burned out.

Several hospitals in Kansas and Missouri have announced they’re now postponing elective surgeries, turning away transfer patients and desperately trying to hire traveling nurses.

We’re not there yet, but Ohio just became the latest state to summon the National Guard to help overwhelmed medical facilities. Officials in Nebraska are considering a similar move.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is scheduled to address the nation Tuesday night to outline new steps his administration is taking to deal with the omicron variant.

Holiday Humbug

Will this latest wave of COVID cases lead to cancellations of the remaining performances of “The Nutcracker” at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts or “A Christmas Carol” at the Kansas City Rep?

Around the country scores of shows are being canceled. 

In New York, the Rockettes Christmas show was scratched for the season, and some Broadway shows canceled performances because of outbreaks among cast members. Over the weekend, “Saturday Night Live” aired without an audience, and most of the TV show’s cast and crew were sent home in the interest of safety.

Will COVID Disrupt the Chiefs?

COVID is upending professional sports again.

In the last week, the NBA postponed five games and the NFL rescheduled three matchups. More than 120 NFL players are currently on the COVID list, including four from Kansas City.

Could the virus affect the Chiefs this weekend as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium?

With so much uncertainty around the NFL right now, anything can happen.

The Chiefs-Steelers game is scheduled to be played on Sunday. Kickoff is 3:25 p.m.

Chiefs flag waves in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs play the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. (Courtesy | Kansas City Chiefs)

Unsettling Week for Cerner Workers

It’s going to be an unsettling week if you are one of the 23,000 local workers at Cerner Corp. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that tech giant Oracle is in talks to buy Kansas City’s largest private employer.

Oracle is expected to formally announce its $30 billion acquisition deal today.

Based in Austin, Texas, Oracle designs and sells hardware and software products. It is on the Fortune 500 list as the 80th most profitable company in America.

It’s unclear what a takeover would mean for Cerner’s local workforce. But mergers almost always mean job losses at the firms that are acquired. 

Case in point: When Oracle bought the human resources software firm PeopleSoft it slashed 5,000 jobs, just weeks after the $10 billion sale.

But a lot can still happen to derail the deal. Cerner’s board of directors can still say no. Another big tech firm could step forward to outbid Oracle. And any takeover will require federal regulatory approval.

And mergers don’t happen quickly. 

Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile was announced on April 29, 2018. The deal was completed on April 1, 2020, almost two years later.

No Deal on Build Back Better

Speaking of deals, America’s biggest and most-talked about deal has fallen apart.

Hopes of passing President Biden’s $2 trillion social safety net bill are now dead for the year after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Sunday he cannot back the measure.

Your local members of Congress are now heading for home, leaving the president with an empty Christmas stocking. 

The White House says it will resume negotiations when Congress returns in January.

Housing Help

After more than two years of pressure from housing activists, Kansas City renters facing eviction will now get free legal help.

Mayor Quinton Lucas will sign the new measure into law during a City Hall ceremony later today.

“The Tenants Right to Counsel” ordinance provides a free lawyer to any renter in eviction court who asks for one. The program will cost $2.5 million a year. The first two years is being funded by federal money. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 90% of landlords have legal representation in court, while only 10% of tenants are represented by an attorney.

The program will begin next summer.

Troubled Kansas Lawmaker Heads to Court

A Democratic state lawmaker from Wyandotte County heads to court this week to face domestic battery charges.

Kansas Rep. Aaron Coleman has rarely been out of the headlines since he was elected to his Kansas City, Kansas, seat last year.

On Wednesday he will appear in a Johnson County courtroom. He is accused of assaulting and spitting on his brother during a dispute at his grandparents’ home.

Coleman was also arrested last month on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The 21-year-old lawmaker has also racked up a long history of accusations of abusive behavior toward women.

Members of his own party at the Kansas Statehouse, including Gov. Laura Kelly, are trying to oust him from the legislature.

Let’s Go Bowling

It’s holiday week and it’s time to go “bowling.” 

A record 42 college football bowl games will be played between now and the first week of January.

Missouri heads to the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday. MU takes on Army at 7 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas.

The only other local team in postseason play is Kansas State University. The Wildcats face LSU at the Texas Bowl on Jan. 4t.

Shake Shack Opens

It was big news when Shake Shack first opened in Kansas City. It was even crazier when Whataburger opened its first local store last month. But is it still newsworthy when these cult eateries open their second or third locations?

Just to be clear, I’m not lining up at any of them. But if you still think it’s a big deal, Shake Shack is opening its third local store in Lee’s Summit today.

The restaurant, in the Streets of West Pryor at 12051 N.W. Lowenstein Drive, plans an 11 a.m. opening with giveaways for customers including Charlie Hustle T-shirts, Shack swag and holiday ornaments. The restaurant will also donate $1 from every sandwich sold to the KC Pet Project.

Weston in the Spotlight

One of our local town’s is going to be in the national TV spotlight this week.

The picturesque Main Street in Weston, Missouri, is the backdrop for the latest Christmas movie on the Lifetime Channel.

It’s called “Rebuilding a Dream Christmas” and lots of fake snow had to be brought in to turn Weston into a winter wonderland, particularly in August. That’s when the film was shot last year in 90 degree heat. 

Hundreds of locals also sweated it out in winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves to keep the holiday magic alive.

“Rebuilding a Dream Christmas” airs this Thursday at 9 p.m. on the Lifetime channel.

Year in Review

Time Magazine just named Tesla founder Elon Musk as its Person of the Year. If you were picking the Person of the Year in Kansas City, who would you choose?

On a holiday edition of “Week in Review” Friday on Kansas City PBS we reveal our local Person of the Year, the metro’s biggest winner and loser and the most over-reported and under-reported stories of the year.

Plus, we gaze into the crystal ball to look at what you can expect in metro Kansas City in 2022.

Watch the “Kansas City Week in Review” year in review special this Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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