Latest updated blog: The weekend is here! Rain chances, and severe weather season. -Doug

Good Friday night!  We made it to the weekend.  I am ready for a pretty nice Saturday.  Alright, first off, we started talking about severe weather season last night.  So lets continue.  We will discuss aspects of this years severe weather season next week as well.

The Heady Pattern this year has most of the action in the northern Plains or extreme SE KS, southern MO, eastern OK points east.  I expect this to be the target zone for severe weather.  I expect about average amount of events.  But I do think most of us our in the higher threat to have bigger events.  Here is the reason why.  This pattern has numerous waves that roll either south of us or right over us.  Because this is a recurring pattern, this won’t change.  This will put us in the fire zone for some bigger severe weather events.  This doesn’t mean we will have a tornado.  It does me that this pattern will give us a higher potential of seeing one in our area.  I will keep digging into this next week.

Watch out for some patchy fog tonight.  Saturday, looks good for the most part.

Clouds will increase late in the day with some scattered showers by evening.  These will pick up a bit over night due to a cold front passing through.  Now, I don’t think the rain will be heavy, but some scattered showers.

Rainfall amounts will be light.

Sunday, a lot of clouds and cooler.  Saturday is definitely the day to get out and enjoy it.  Have a great weekend!


Next Friday-Saturday: Cooler Friday with some morning showers.  Saturday looks pretty good as we should be dry and mild.

March 7th-13th:  Mild start with rain chances on Monday.  Cooling down a bit Tuesday but back to mild temps by Wednesday.  Showers and thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday.  Cooling down and drier for the weekend.

March 14th-20th:  We start the week with rain or snow chances on Sunday.  The cycle before this system produced 1″ of snow.  With cool temperatures for Sunday, we’ll watch it.  Mild temperatures return for Tuesday and Wednesday with rain chances on Wednesday and Thursday.  This system gave us severe weather with some tornado warnings on January 30th, lets watch this one!  Cool for Friday before we turn milder for Saturday as we start a dry weekend out.

March 21st-27th:  We’ll be mild for Sunday and Monday before we turn briefly cooler for Tuesday. A brief jump to a mild Wednesday before we stay cool for the rest of the week. We’ll watch for slight rain chances on Monday and better rain chances for Wednesday and Thursday.

March 28th-April 3rd:  Cool temperatures for Sunday and Monday. We’ll briefly turn mild for Tuesday and Wednesday before we cool back down for the rest of the week. We’ll watch for rain chances on Sunday, slight rain chances on Wednesday, rain chances on Thursday and rain/snow chances to start the weekend out.


Parsons, Kansas extends mask mandate to May

PARSONS, Kan. – Gloria Cunningham Talbot and Wendy Bush may be sisters, but that doesn’t mean they have the same opinions.

The biggest difference in opinion they have right now has to do with face masks mandates.

“I feel like it should be a personal choice,” says Talbot.

“I did have COVID in October. Thankfully it wasn’t one of the severe cases. I do not want to be responsible for giving it to someone else,” says Talbot, explaining she can understand both sides of the argument.

Talbot owns Gold and Silver Exchange in Parsons, and Bush works with her every day. Every day since July, 2020, they’ve had to wear masks all day because of a city wide mask mandate. And there’s not much end in site.

On Thursday, the Parsons City Commission voted 4-0 to extend the face mask mandate for the third time, putting the new end date at May 17th.

“They were one of the first ones to pass it. They always are taking the safety of the citizens into consideration when they make these decisions,” says Jim Zaleski, the Public Information Officer with the City of Parsons.

Zaleski explains there has been a recent decrease in coronavirus cases in the community. We reached out to Labette County Health Department to see what the cities trends have been, but did not hear back today. Zaleski says even though their numbers are looking great, city officials don’t want to see the numbers spike back up.

“With fingers crossed, we are watching those numbers and those cases go down. But, you really want to be on the side of caution. You want to be on the side of safety and the health of the citizens,” says Zaleski.

Bush doesn’t like the idea of the ordinance being extended — even though she will continue to wear a mask at work and when going out with her sister Talbot.

“Everybody abided for the first time that they wanted everybody to. We all listened to what they had to say. After that, I feel like it should be a personal choice,” says Bush.

And Talbot understands why Bush and other residents would be getting fatigued after several months of the mandate. But she will continue to do what she needs to do.

“I personally will wear it. It is still mandated in our city. So, we should keep doing it.”


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US consumers rebound to boost spending 2.4% as income jumps

WASHINGTON – Bouncing back from months of retrenchment, America’s consumers stepped up their spending by a solid 2.4% in January in a sign that the economy may be making a tentative recovery from the pandemic recession.

Friday’s report from the Commerce Department also showed that personal incomes, which provide the fuel for spending, jumped 10% last month, boosted by cash payments most Americans received from the government.

The January spending increase followed two straight monthly spending drops that had raised concerns that consumers, who power most of the economy, were hunkered down, too anxious to travel, shop and spend. Last month’s sharp gain suggests that many people are growing more confident about spending, especially after receiving $600 checks that went to most adults last month in a federal economic aid package.

The government also reported Friday that inflation by a measure preferred by the Federal Reserve rose a moderate 0.3% in December. That left prices up 1.5% over the past 12 months, well below the Fed’s 2% target.

Besides receiving cash payments, many Americans who have managed to keep their jobs have also been saving money for several months. That could bode well for the economy later this year, once consumers feel more willing to spend, vaccinations are more widely distributed and some version of President Joe Biden’s new economic aid proposal is enacted.

Concerns that a strengthening economy will accelerate inflation have sent bond yields surging. On Thursday, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note moved above 1.5% – a level not seen in more than a year and far above the 0.92% it was trading at only two months ago.

The move raised alarms on Wall Street and ignited a deep selloff in the stock market. Some investors fear that rising interest rates and the threat of inflation might lead the Fed to raise its benchmark short-term rate too quickly and potentially derail the economy. The tame inflation figure in Friday’s report from the government shows that so far, price increases are mostly mild.

In testimony to Congress this week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell downplayed the inflation risk and instead underscored the economy’s struggles. Layoffs are still high. And 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that erupted nearly a year ago. That’s a deeper job loss than was inflicted by the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Still, despite the weakened job market, key sectors of the economy are showing signs of picking up as vaccinations increase and government rescue aid works its way through the economy. The Fed’s ultra-low-rate policy is providing important support as well.

Retail sales soared last month. Factory output also rose and has nearly regained its pre-pandemic levels. And sales of newly built homes jumped in January.


Conversation with the mayor: Why Joplin will let a face mask ordinance expire

JOPLIN, Mo. – On Thursday, the City of Joplin announced that the city wide face mask mandate will be expiring at the end of the month.

The mandate went into effect on November 20th, 2020 just before the holiday season.

Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley told us today that he feels confident the city is ready to relax some of the restrictions that have been in place.

“When we put the ordinance in in November, our case numbers per day were around 53 per day. They’re now at seven per day. Our hospitalization at it’s peak right around that time was 107 in our local hospitals. And right now it’s at 26,” explains Stanley. “It just kind of feels like we have leaned into that mask ordinance and it’s done its job. But also at the same time, we’re not at the same level of risk and danger and need for those government required activities. And now we’re shifting to a more government encouraged activities.”

When it comes to encouraging the wearing of masks, Stanley feels like some residents will continue to wear masks, but he’s sure others will stop wearing one in public places since there will no longer be a requirement.

“I do believe there’s a good number of people that wore them because we asked them to. And I would hope that helped form a good habit and made the mask wearing not near as big of a deal as maybe some people would make it to be,” says Stanley. At the same time, I would be hesitant to lift it if I thought the risk level was elevated. But we’re watching the risk level severely dissipate. Not just here, but everywhere. And so, I do feel like we’re at a point where we can kind of step forward with opening things up a little bit more.”

“We probably will see some impact to our numbers from the ordinance lifting. I think the ordinance added value to that. What is different today from what was there in November is we have a vaccine that is rolling. I do think that it’s clear that we have a degree of herd immunity that’s being built up in the community. Also, it’s hard to convince someone that there is a risk, there’s a danger, if the numbers aren’t supporting that,” says Stanley.

The mask ordinance is a document independent of the City’s Response and Recovery Plan. Stanley also explains some people in places of public accommodation like hair salons, where close contact is unavoidable, are still expected to wear masks. At the same time though, he explains the city council plans to discuss those and similar restrictions, like restrictions on outdoor gatherings, at the city council meeting on Monday, March 1st.

There was not a public meeting held to discuss the mask ordinance before the announcement was made. Stanley explains there were no discussions between members of city council regarding the mask mandate — instead, saying he asked council members if they wanted to hold a meeting to take up the issue.

“We did not have enough interest in council members that wanted to call a meeting, so it was basically a default that the ordinance was gonna expire,” explains Stanley. “Why not have a public meeting? If there’s aren’t enough votes to push a mask ordinance through… you kind of need to have the votes to support it, and there didn’t look like there was gonna be a majority where council was gonna support extending the ordinance. Those meetings create a lot of division in the community. Those meetings create a lot of frustration on both sides. And why would we create division, why would we create frustration, if it’s pretty clear on the direction council wants to go?”

If coronavirus case numbers start to increase in the city, Stanley says they would potentially look at reinstating the mask mandate.

We also reached out to Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital. Both health systems sent us statements.

“Like everyone, we are encouraged by the significantly lower numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations we are seeing in the Joplin area, and by the arrival of vaccines. Both of these things offer hope that the end of the pandemic is near. However, we believe this is not the time to let our guard down as a community. The coronavirus is still present and still a threat, and there are also numerous variant strains whose effect on the pandemic isn’t yet known. We’re all tired of it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, especially if we keep following best practices for a little while longer. We urge everyone to please wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.”

— Mercy Health System.


“I understand that many people, for various reasons, are opposed to the mask ordinance in Joplin.       However, there is a great deal of science to support the effectiveness of masks, along with other precautions such as frequent hand washing and social distancing.   We have been successful in flattening the curve of COVID-19 and we do not want to lose our momentum.  People are still contracting the illness, so we cannot relax the preventative measures that have proven to be effective.   There are still many people who have not received the vaccine.  It is important for each individual to protect not just themselves, but all those around them—especially the elderly and vulnerable populations.    An added benefit of the masks is that the influenza cases are down dramatically from where they have been in previous years.  We believe this to be due, in large part, to the precautionary measures people have put in place, especially masking.”

— Paula Baker, Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer.


Third US vaccine could raise question: Which shots are best?

WASHINGTON – The nation is poised to get a third vaccine against COVID-19, but because at first glance the Johnson & Johnson shot may not be seen as equal to other options, health officials are girding for the question: Which one is best?

If cleared for emergency use, the J&J vaccine would offer a one-dose option that could help speed vaccinations, tamp down a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the U.S. and stay ahead of a mutating virus.

“I think it’s going to be huge,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the public health department in Marion County, Indiana, which includes Indianapolis. She expects the easier-to-use vaccine will give local officials more flexibility for mobile vaccination clinics or pop-up events.

The challenge will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines.

Two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66%.

“I don’t think it’s a second-tier vaccine, but we’ve got to avoid that perception,” said Dr. Thomas Balcezak of Yale New Haven Health System.

The J&J shot was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That wasn’t the case last fall, when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it’s not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants.

Importantly, the Food and Drug Administration reported this week that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes. By 28 days after the injection, there were no hospitalizations or deaths in study volunteers given the J&J shot, compared with 16 hospitalizations and seven deaths in those given a dummy shot.

Independent advisers to the FDA will recommend Friday if there’s enough evidence to allow widespread use of J&J’s vaccine, setting the stage for a final decision within days.

If it rolls out next week, U.S. officials expect to have only a few million doses to divide between states in initial shipments. But by the end of March, J&J has said it can supply enough to vaccinate 20 million people – a much-needed boost to stretched supplies.

The bottom line: “Whatever vaccine is being offered is what you want,” said University of Pennsylvania immunologist E. John Wherry.

Still, the nuances of the vaccines raise ethical questions.

At Yale, Balcezak is struggling with how to make the best use of the J&J shot’s advantages without appearing to target it to underserved populations. For example, it’s a logical choice for homeless shelters where people may have moved on before their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“I’m very worried about how that would be perceived,” Balcezak said.

The J&J vaccine is also easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen.

Balcezak said the Yale system has been working with pastors and other “cultural ambassadors” to answer vaccine questions from minority communities, and likewise will discuss the J&J shot’s possibilities.

In Washington state, health officials see some clear need for one-and-done vaccinations – including sailors in the maritime industry, who can spend months on cargo and fishing vessels.

“This is the ideal vaccine for them,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist of the Washington State Department of Health. With the two-dose vaccines, the state “had to send second doses onward to the next port of call.”

Other parts of the world already are facing which-is-best challenges. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, for instance, is cleared for use in Britain and Europe after data suggested it was about 70% effective. Italy’s government recently decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate the AstraZeneca vaccine for younger, at-risk workers, sparking protest from the country’s main teachers’ union.

In the U.S., health officials say it’s critical for the government to send a clear message.

“Right now, it’s not vaccine against vaccine, it’s vaccine against virus,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


US Army crowdsources ideas to combat sexual assault crisis

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Sgt. Taylor Knueven always knew sexual assault and harassment plagued the U.S. Army. But the combat medic’s own assault early last year opened her eyes to the broken system surrounding one of the military’s most infamous problems.

Earlier this week, Knueven and six other soldiers went before a panel in the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to present ideas on how the Army can revamp the way it deals with sexual assault and harassment.

The Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, also known as SHARP, has been the subject of much scrutiny, especially following the slaying of Spc. Vanessa Guillen by a fellow soldier inside a Fort Hood, Texas, armory last April.

The proposal Knueven presented to the panel Monday would address gender and military bias by reworking the composition of offender separation boards. She said her attacker went before a board consisting of three men and no women.

Knueven described in detail events on the night she says she was assaulted by a fellow soldier at a concert. And she recounted how she felt about reporting the incident and what went through her mind when she said she learned he would remain in the Army and ultimately face little punishment.

“I thought it was a total slap in the face to myself,” Knueven said.

Last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at his first Pentagon news conference that reducing sexual assault is one of his top priorities and that he would introduce stronger efforts to fight it.

“We have been working at this for a long time in earnest, but we haven’t gotten it right,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Shameka Dudley wants to see stale SHARP training PowerPoints replaced with virtual reality scenarios that would offer soldiers a glimpse at assault and harassment scenarios through the eyes of survivors, aggressors and bystanders.

“We have this same training and it’s really not changing much,” Dudley said. “The numbers are still going up.”

The 28-year-old mother of five handed out virtual reality glasses to the panel as she recounted the success she’s seen the method play in the treatment of veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For her, it’s about understanding and empathy.

“The majority of people learn from doing, from seeing, from being able to be there,” Dudley said.

Dudley says soldiers who have experienced sexual trauma can opt out of the training as it may serve as a trigger.

The presentations were made as a part of the 18th Airborne Corp’s “Dragon’s Lair” series, a “Shark Tank” like competition that sources innovative ideas from within the Army’s ranks.

“This is an amazing effort to connect our best and brightest directly to senior leaders who are ready to take action. It just feels different this time,” Lt. Col. Scott Stephens, who presented to the panel, tweeted Monday.

The Corps says parts of all seven presentations will be implemented across the Army. Some ideas, like Knueven’s will be easier than others and involve simple policy changes, according to Col. Joe Buccino, Public Affairs Officer for the 18th Airborne Corps.

The Corps has already begun conversations with a film producer to bring Dudley’s idea to life, according to Buccino.

“I am confident, very confident, we will implement all ideas,” he told The Associated Press.

Knueven hopes that’s the case. She sighs when asked if change is coming to the Army. “I don’t know, I sure hope so.”


FAA seeks $27,500 from passenger it says hit air attendant

WASHINGTON – Federal officials are seeking a $27,500 civil penalty against an airline passenger who allegedly struck a flight attendant who asked the passenger and a companion to leave the plane after a dispute over wearing a face mask.

The confrontation on board a Delta Air Lines flight departing from Miami International Airport for Atlanta began when the passenger’s companion refused to wear a mask, secure his tray table or fasten his seatbelt, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday. Delta, like most airlines, requires most passengers to wear masks except when eating or drinking.

Pilots returned the plane to the gate, and the pair was asked to disembark. The first passenger began yelling at the flight attendant and other passengers, then hit the flight attendant under her left eye.

The FAA did not identify the offending passenger or say whether they were a man or a woman. The person has 30 days to respond to the proposed penalty.

The FAA announced tighter enforcement of rules against disturbances on planes after several rowdy incidents in early January on flights to and from Washington.