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Nick’s Picks | 10 Things You Really Need to Know in KC This Week COVID-19 Responses And All The Rest

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

Here are 10 local stories and trends you need to know this week

1. New Pandemic Restrictions

Will every part of the Kansas City area be under new public health restrictions this week? 

Starting today, Johnson County implements a midnight curfew on bars, restaurants and nightclubs and a 50-person limit on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

While county commissioners say they’re responding to the concerns of health officials, I’m struggling to see how much difference the new rules will make in containing the virus. 

Just look through the order’s fine print and you’ll notice a long list of exemptions.

Shops, restaurants, bars, gyms, schools, churches and funeral homes do not have to abide by the gathering limit. 

The emergency order also doesn’t apply to private gatherings. 

What’s left you might ask? Not much. 

That doesn’t mean some restaurants and bars won’t be affected. I was surprised to hear how many drinking places in Johnson County stay open past midnight. The owner of  KC’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Merriam told 41 Action News that he brings in up to 25% of his business between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m.

On Thursday, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners is expected to meet again to discuss how to enforce the new health order. A new $500 fine is being proposed for individuals refusing to wear a mask and on businesses that don’t follow time and building capacity limits.

2. Kansas City’s Response

While Johnson County is the first to move on a new emergency order, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says he plans to announce additional restrictions at a press conference with health leaders as early as today. 

It’s unclear what those rules will look like, but it’s certain to center on drinking establishments. There’s been a push to stop alcohol being served after 10 p.m. While there might be nothing magic about that time, health leaders say people’s decision making abilities diminish the later it gets in the evening.

Douglas County, which is home to the city of Lawrence and the University Of Kansas, also is starting new coronavirus restrictions this week. The county is now limiting public gatherings to no more than 15 people.

3. New Wave of Business Closing?

What will be the impact of this latest round of health restrictions on local businesses? Many restaurants and bars already have been hanging on tenuously in hopes of making it through the pandemic.

Will these latest health rules be the last straw for dozens of Kansas City bars and restaurants? Even help from the federal government is now fading. Talk of a second round of stimulus checks is caught in a political stalemate.  

4. Universities Adjust

Will more area colleges follow the lead this week of the University of Missouri? 

This Friday marks the start of Thanksgiving break on the Columbia campus, but Mizzou administrators are instructing students not to return until the start of the spring semester in January. 

5. Schools in the Spotlight

Local school districts are also responding to rising COVID-19 cases. The Blue Valley School District in Johnson County is now ending in-person school for middle and high school students. The Blue Springs School District has made the same decision. Will other districts follow this week? 

The Shawnee Mission and North Kansas City school districts are reporting staff and substitute shortages that threaten their ability to stay open.

The Independence School District will continue with in-person instruction but students are getting an extended Thanksgiving break starting Monday to allow more time to sanitize classrooms.

6. No More Elective Surgeries? 

According to figures just released by the Mid-America Regional Council, there are now fewer than 100 open beds in metro area hospitals. Is this the week that all elective surgeries are canceled? 

The University of Kansas Health System is already postponing some elective surgeries to free up bed space at the hospital. 

Administrators at several other area medical centers say they’re monitoring which patients can safely delay surgery without compromising their health.

Meanwhile, Research Medical Center is now bringing in nurses from New Orleans to supplement staff on its patient floors. It’s an interesting turn of events. At the start of the pandemic, Kansas City was sending nurses to New Orleans, which was then one of the country’s worst hit cities. 

7. Lessons from South Dakota

We can learn a lot this week about the ripple effects of COVID-19 from what’s happening in a state we may have given little thought.

This week, a youth soccer team has been blocked from taking part in a tournament in Kansas because the players are from South Dakota. With the second highest infection rate in the country, South Dakota is now on the Kansas travel ban list. 

Could Kansas and Missouri residents be facing similar travel restrictions if we don’t turn things around soon?

But that’s not the only reason you should care about what’s happening in the Mount Rushmore state. With no available hospital beds, news reports say some South Dakota residents are now being directed more than 10 hours away to Kansas City hospitals. 

And that’s forcing state officials in South Dakota to change their medical rules. Apparently, the crisis is so bad that the state is now allowing COVID-infected nurses to continue working to help ease the demand for medical care. 

Could that be our fate in Kansas or Missouri a week from now? Or two weeks from now if we don’t turn things around?

Interactive COVID-19 Case Mapper

8. Pandemic Lawmakers 

There’s a member of our TV production staff at Kansas City PBS who insists on yawning in my earpiece anytime I mention the Kansas or Missouri legislature. While it may be boring to some, the work of your state lawmakers can have a huge impact on your life. 

This week, look for the Missouri Senate to vote on a $1.2 billion COVID package. The state has already received that money from the federal government and if it doesn’t spend it by the end of the year it will lose all of that cash. 

Does that mean lawmakers are getting ready to cut you a personal check? Don’t hold your breath, even though it has been proposed. 

Instead, the money is mostly being used to replenish the state’s unemployment fund. Additional cash will fund school lunch programs and the National Guard, which has been helping with the state’s pandemic response.

Also be on the lookout this week for a possible new Missouri law that would shield businesses such as nursing homes from COVID-related lawsuits.

9. Panic Buying?

Say it isn’t so…but are people hoarding toilet paper again?

This weekend, every roll of bathroom tissue had been cleared off the shelves at my local Target store. And a number of viewers sent me pictures of empty aisles where they live. 

I am reluctant to point out this trend because the last time we reported on this unsettling phenomenon at the start of the pandemic, we were accused of fueling panic buying. 

So let me just say this. Just because COVID-19 cases are spiking, please know there is no health expert in Kansas City or across the country who recommends you go out and buy one hundred packages of Angel Soft or Charmin Ultra. 

I’m told if we all keep our heads, the grocery industry has your backside covered.

 10. Earthquakes in KC

While the Kansas City Chiefs are dominating local sports coverage, let’s not forget our hometown soccer team is heading into the playoffs this weekend. 

Sporting KC takes on the San Jose Earthquakes this Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. 

After finishing on top of the Western Conference, Sporting KC is now setting its sights on hoisting the MLS Cup. 

Some tickets are still available for Sunday’s single elimination game. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. 

Nick Haines tracks the metro’s most important local news stories on “Kansas City Week in Review.” Watch Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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