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Nick’s Picks | Pandemic Recovery, Medicaid Fight and Baseball Returns Boys in Blue Play Thursday

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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

If you live in Kansas, it no longer matters how old you are, what you do for a living or your medical history. If you want the COVID vaccine, you are now eligible. Starting today, anyone 16 years of age or older can get the shot. 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she’s putting her foot on the accelerator now that the state has been promised large new shipments of the vaccine and amid concerns that some counties don’t have anyone left to vaccinate. 

It probably also doesn’t hurt Kelly’s reelection campaign. Having been ranked dead last in the country for vaccine distribution, it will be helpful to say she was one of the first governor’s in the country to make the coveted shot available to everyone. 

Last week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced that all adults in Missouri would become eligible for the vaccine on April 9. 

In the meantime, another large group of Missourians gains access to the COVID shot, starting today.  Included in this latest phase are construction and manufacturing workers, the financial services sector and employees at universities and colleges. The state also is making the vaccine available to anyone who is homeless and to disproportionately affected populations. In Missouri, that means if you are Black, Hispanic or Native American of any age, you are now eligible. All three groups have been overrepresented in COVID death rates. 

As it stands this month, 13% of Kansas residents and 12% of Missouri residents have been vaccinated.
Access to COVID-19 vaccine continues to expand in Kansas and Missouri. (Canva | Collage by Vicky Diaz-Camacho)

All Kansas Schools Reopen

Many parents and teachers are still worried about COVID. But that has not stopped the Kansas Legislature from requiring every school in every district to return to in-person learning by Wednesday of this week. 

Most large districts in our area are already back. But this new law is putting a squeeze on the Kansas City, Kansas, School District, which never reopened after the first lockdown order more than a year ago.

Rather than fight Topeka, the district has announced it’s accelerating plans and is promising to reopen classrooms on Wednesday. 

Under the new Kansas law, students can still work remotely if they choose, but full-time face-to-face instruction has to be provided. 

Ending Mask Mandates

Last week, St. Joseph, Missouri, voted to remove its mask mandate. Now Sedgwick County, home of the city of Wichita, has dropped its mask order. Will more follow this week?

On Wednesday, a mask mandate in the state of Kansas is set to expire. While Gov. Laura Kelly says she intends to extend the face covering requirement, Republican leaders say they’re already working on plans to overturn it. 

Missouri Medicaid Expansion Roadblock

Last year, Missouri voters approved expanding the state’s Medicaid program to provide health care coverage to about 275,000 low income residents.

But are state lawmakers about to scuttle the measure by refusing to fund it? 

Last week, the House Budget Committee voted against allocating any money to the expansion effort. This week, we’ll learn whether that was a symbolic move or a concerted effort to undo the wishes of Missouri voters. 

Expanding Medicaid comes with a $1.6 billion price tag. But most of that is paid for by Washington. Missouri is on the hook for about $130 million.

Some lawmakers say the state can’t afford to take on that cost following a tough pandemic year. And they argue this is not a one-off payment but a yearly commitment. 

Proponents of Medicaid expansion aren’t buying it. They say even after a rocky 12 months, state revenues are running higher than expected and the federal government just sent Missouri a $2.8 billion windfall check. 

For those keeping score, 37 other states have already approved Medicaid expansion. Neighboring Kansas isn’t one of them. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has proposed paying for it with revenue from legalizing medical marijuana. But the idea has so far been opposed by the state’s Republican controlled legislature.

Resign or Not?

Should an elected leader resign if they are charged with felony crimes?

It’s a question that will weigh heavily on lawmakers’ minds this week in Topeka.

One of the top legislative leaders in Kansas is defying calls for his resignation after being charged with drunk driving and felony fleeing from police, while traveling 90 miles an hour in the wrong direction on Interstate 70. 

Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop evaded a police roadblock and a tire deflation device before being apprehended by state highway troopers.

Suellentrop announced he was stepping back from his political duties after his arrest, but fellow Republicans in the legislature say he’s still taking part in high-level meetings and scheduling and negotiating bills as usual. 

Will the pressure build this week in Topeka to force Suellentrop out?

Remembering Sister Corita

Funeral services are this week for Sister Corita Bussanmas. She’s the trailblazing nun who some have called “a living saint” after caring for thousands of Kansas City’s most impoverished children. She died over the weekend at the age of 87.

Sister Corita and Sister Berta Sailer co-founded “Operation Breakthrough” in 1971. Today, it is the largest low-income day care center in the region. The facility at 31st Street and Troost Avenue remains one of the few quality child care options for Kansas City’s working poor.

Operation Breakthrough is hosting a virtual “celebration of life” event for Sister Corita this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. 

The Arts: Making a Comeback

Shuttered for more than a year by the pandemic, local arts groups are now tentatively attempting a comeback. They’re being extra cautious.

This week, the Grammy winning Kansas City Chorale is returning for an outdoor concert on the grounds of the National World War WWI Museum and Memorial.

The socially distant and masked singers will perform “Spring Song” this Saturday, April 3, at 2 p.m.

Pack up some sandwiches and perhaps a bottle of wine. The concert is totally free with your RSVP at


This Wednesday is a public holiday in a number of places around the country. It’s Cesar Chavez Day. In California and in Phoenix, Arizona, all government offices and schools will be closed. 

The holiday celebrates the legacy of the influential civil rights and labor movement activist who helped improve working conditions for migrant farm workers. He died in 1993.

This Tuesday marks 40 years since the Reagan shooting. On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot and wounded as he was returning to his limousine after a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel. John Hinkley Jr. said he shot the president to impress actress Jodie Foster. Reagan died in 2004. Hinkley is still alive. He was released from a mental hospital in 2016 and is now living in a modest house overlooking a golf course in Williamsburg, Virgina. 

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. Most churches will be celebrating Easter in person for the first time in two years, after the pandemic closed their doors for the holy day in 2020.

Would you feel comfortable going? 

A number of churches are advertising a mix of virtual, outdoor and limited capacity indoor services to make worshipers feel more at ease. But there are still some churches that have yet to reopen, more than a year after the first lockdown orders went into effect.

Baseball is Back

This week the Kansas City Royals make their long-awaited return. Thursday is the home opener at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals will take on the Texas Rangers at 3:10 p.m.

Due to COVID restrictions, 10,000 fans will be allowed inside the stadium to watch the game. That means there will be no more fake fan cutouts in the stands or piped-in crowd noise.

Royals shirts
Get your Kansas City Royals gear on for opening day on Thursday. (Dan Calderon | Flatland)

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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