The Latest: Wichita schools move to remote learning

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ largest public school district has scrapped plans to allow its middle and high school students to attend some in-person classes amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the state.

Three counties also have imposed new restrictions inspired by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kansas is seeing its largest numbers of new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since the pandemic reached the state in early March. The state health department is now reporting more than 103,000 cases and 1,181 deaths. Public health officials say people aren’t wearing masks enough and are letting their guard down at gatherings, including family events such as birthday parties and baby showers.

In Wichita, the state’s largest city, the local school board decided Monday that middle and high school students will continue to take classes remotely until the end of the current semester. The district had planned to allow them to have in-person classes twice a week, starting this week.

Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located, imposed new restrictions on gatherings, as did neighboring Harvey County. Jefferson County in northeast Kansas imposed a mask mandate.



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GILETTE, Wyo. — The son of a Wyoming state representative who opposed COVID-19 public restrictions says his father was positive for the coronavirus when he died.

The Gillette News Record reports Roy Edwards, 66, died Nov. 2 at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper after being hospitalized for more than a week with an undisclosed illness.

Mitch Edwards says his father was initially told he had a sinus inflammation and did not need to be tested for COVID-19.

Edwards continued to oppose public restrictions resulting from the pandemic during his recent campaign to retain his House seat. He was reelected the day after he died.


SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon health officials warned Tuesday of the capacity challenges facing hospitals as COVID-19 case counts continue to spike in the state.

The Oregon Health Authority recorded a record 285 confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals Tuesday — a 57% increase in just the past week and an 83% increase in the past four weeks.

Currently, out of Oregon’s 703 listed intensive care unit beds, 27% are available and about 18% of non-ICU adult hospital beds in the state are available, based on data on from the health authority’s website.

The previous record for hospitalizations in the state, outside of November, was 179 in October.

Prior to the end of October, the record of COVID-19 related hospitalizations was 165 in July.


TORONTO — The top health official for Canada’s largest city says the spread of COVID-19 has never been greater in Toronto so she’s using her powers to continue to prohibit indoor dining in Toronto.

Toronto had been due to lift some restrictions this coming weekend but Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa says there are 533 new cases in the city on Tuesday.

She says the test positive rate is now a high of 5.9%. She is urging people in Toronto to limit social gatherings to only the people with whom they live.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says unprecedented actions are necessary.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Authorities at a county jail in Colorado have said 859 of the 1,246 inmates in custody last Sunday tested positive for COVID-19 along with 66 employees.

The El Paso County sheriff’s office says two of the employees were hospitalized over the weekend as coronavirus cases surged at the facility.

The Gazette reports that spokeswoman Deborah Mynatt did not disclose the status of the two employees who were hospitalized or if they were civilian employees or deputies, citing privacy concerns.

Officials first reported the outbreak on Oct. 26 when eight inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

Mynatt compared the outbreak to a wildfire and said officials are trying to control further spread.


DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that she will require that people wear masks if they join indoor gatherings of 25 or more people as Iowa sees a surge of coronavirus infections that is threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

Reynolds said she signed a proclamation taking effect Wednesday that would require masks for the indoor gatherings and for outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people. The governor continued the requirement of 6 feet of distance between groups in bars and restaurants and limited groups to eight people unless they’re all members of the same household. She said the new rules don’t apply to school districts — nearly all of which already have the option of shifting to online-only learning because of the high positivity rate throughout the state.

Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said her department has approved for 24 school districts to move to some level of online instruction since Nov. 1 including the state’s largest district in Des Moines, and is reviewing three more applications.

The Republican governor has repeatedly refused to impose a statewide mask mandate and was among the first governors nationally to remove most limits on gatherings that were imposed in the spring when the virus first began to surge.

Separately the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order postponing jury trials until Feb. 1 unless the jury is sworn in by Nov. 16.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported on Tuesday 4,441 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, the fourth consecutive day new case counts surpassed 4,000. There were 27 additional deaths, raising the state total to 1,872. Hospitalizations grew to 1,135.


SANTA FE, N.M. — After three weeks of trying to make in-person learning work, Santa Fe Public Schools are calling it quits.

With the city posting its own record numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospital beds filling up, Superintendent Veronica García says it is time to pump the brakes.

Around 200 elementary school students had been allowed in-person learning thanks to 58 school teachers and other staff who volunteered to teach.

Starting Nov. 20, the district will return to remote-only classes. The news comes as more students in Santa Fe and around the state are failing at least one class.


MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota bars and restaurants must stop serving at 10 p.m. and attendance at weddings, funeral and social gatherings will be limited under new restrictions Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday to try to slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus.

The new rules, which take effect Friday, are aimed at young adults, ages 18 to 35, who are often carriers of the virus without showing symptoms and are among the primary spreaders in the state.

While young adults don’t usually get very sick with COVID-19, they can transmit the virus to people who do. The new limits will kick in shortly before college students return home for Thanksgiving, a popular time for reunions with friends.

The new restrictions come after record-setting highs in recent days in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday reported 4,906 new cases to raise the state’s total to 189,681, and 23 new deaths for a total of 2,698.


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota health officials acknowledged Tuesday that they include intensive care unit beds designed for infants in their total count of hospital beds available in the state — a key metric that the governor has used to defend her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 607 on Tuesday, marking a new high for the fifth day in a row. The Department of Health reported that about 37% of general-care hospital beds and 32% of ICU beds are available.

State epidemiologist Josh Clayton said the number of neonatal ICU beds is much smaller than the total number of ICU beds, but did not immediately provide the number of neonatal ICU beds included in the count. The Department of Health receives a total count of ICU beds from hospitals and the number of neonatal ICU beds is not separated in the count, according to Clayton.

He also pointed out that adults could receive medical care in pediatric units if necessary.

Health officials have repeatedly guided people to the Department of Health’s website that tracks the percentage of hospital beds available statewide. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has insisted the state is doing well by pointing out the percentage of COVID-19 hospitalized patients against total beds.

Hospital systems have scrambled to make beds and space available for COVID-19 patients. But the hospital systems’ capacity also depends on doctors and nurses being available to staff the beds.


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Hospitalizations from the coronavirus continued to climb in Maryland, as the state reported Tuesday morning that 54 more people were hospitalized compared with the previous day.

The total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to a total of 761, the highest since June.

Maryland also reported 1,338 new cases. It marks the seventh straight day the state has had at least 1,000 cases. Maryland has confirmed more than 156,000 virus cases since the pandemic began. The state also reported 12 more deaths. Maryland has reported a total of at least 4,084 virus-related deaths.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. Tuesday. Last week, Hogan warned of a surge. On Monday, he wrote on Twitter that the state has reached a “critical turning point” in the fight against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the state health department announced the launch of a new app for people with smartphones to receive notification if they might have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“MD COVID Alert complements our traditional contact tracing efforts to notify users of possible exposure to help contain the virus,” said Health Secretary Robert Neall. “I encourage Marylanders to use MD COVID Alert to help protect the people around them, including those they might not know directly.”

Starting Tuesday, state residents with an iPhone or Android smartphone will receive a push notification inviting them to receive exposure notification alerts. IPhone users will be able to opt in by enabling exposure notifications in their phone’s settings and selecting Maryland as their region. Android users will be prompted to opt in by installing the MD COVID Alert app from the Google Play Store.

The app is available at no cost and is voluntary. Users can disable exposure notifications at any time.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee counties that have not required wearing masks in public are on average seeing COVID-19 death rates double or more compared with those that instituted mandates, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine study focused on three groups of counties: 11 early adopters with mask mandates as of July 10; 17 late adopters with mandates implemented after July 10; and 67 that never adopted a requirement.

Researchers found the early and late adopting groups saw death rates that had been increasing start to drop within a few weeks of implementing requirements, while the group with no requirements continued to see death rate increases.

The early adopters on average had a rate of about 1 death a week per 100,000 people as of the first week in October; late adopters’ death rate was about 2; and the counties without mask mandates had a rate of 4, according to the report.

The analysis comes as new case counts rise in Tennessee, where Republican Gov. Bill Lee has opposed a statewide mask mandate, stressing personal responsibility. He has instead allowed counties to decide whether to require masks.


O’FALLON, Mo. — Twenty-eight employees of the election board in one of Missouri’s largest counties are sick with the coronavirus.

A director believes they most likely got infected from voters, though local health officials aren’t convinced.

The Jackson County Election Board’s Republican director, Tammy Brown, said Tuesday that eight full-time and 20 part-time employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Most are doing well and recovering at home, but two part-time workers are hospitalized, including one in intensive care.

Brown says thousands of voters came into the offices to pick up absentee and mail-in ballots, vote, and to drop off ballots.

The employees also worked a drive-thru line for voters with the coronavirus and people in quarantine.


INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is continuing its record-setting increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections, state health officials said Tuesday as the state once again surpassed 4,000 new cases and reported 63 more deaths.

The newly reported deaths raised Indiana’s pandemic death toll to 4,731, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections, the Indiana State Department of Health said in its daily statistics update.

The 4,879 new infections reported Tuesday were Indiana’s second-highest daily count of newly reported COVID-19 cases and marked the sixth straight day the state reported more than 4,000 new cases.

Indiana’s seven-day rolling average for newly confirmed cases rose to 4,490, according to Tuesday’s daily update of the state’s coronavirus dashboard. That is the highest level Indiana has seen during the pandemic.

Indiana’s hospitalizations were also at an all-time high, setting a record for the eighth straight day with 2,336 patients admitted. Of those hospitalized, 599 were in intensive care — the most since April 25.


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