BBB says gift card scams on the rise

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Better Business Bureau says gift card scams are on the rise. A victim in Missouri lost nearly $15,000 from the scam.

Janet Wray, Gift Card Scam Victim, said, “You feel held in hostage. My daughter when she called me she was afraid there was someone in the house holding me hostage, well there was, but it was on the phone.”

Just after Halloween in 2020 Janet Wray got a phone call from someone claiming to be from Apple. They told Wray her Apple cloud had been hacked and she needed to give them gift cards to recover her account.

“On the way to Walmart I began thinking this doesn’t sound right. He sent me all sorts of information saying he was an employee of apple so I read all that and thought well okay this is legitimate.”

She started buying gift cards in $500 increments at Walmart, Walgreens, and Target using her credit cards. Credit card companies were flagging her purchases because they thought her cards had been stolen.

“I got a call from one of the credit card companies and said Janet you are being hacked this is bad do not use these cards anymore.”

The Better Business Bureau says its common for scammers to use fear tactics to get their victims to cooperate.

Stephanie Garland, BBB Regional Director, said, “That’s how scammers make their money. They try to prey on your heart they’re trying to make your mind shut off and so that way you’re just going to be acting on emotion.”

Scammers ask the victims to take a photo of the back of the gift card and immediately steal the money. The BBB says victims are losing a median of $700. Wray had $14,500 stolen through gift cards.

“Believe me I’ll never buy a gift card again,” said Wray.

The BBB says education and communication with your loved ones can stop scammers in their tracks.
They say to ask a lot of questions and hang up on anyone who is asking for gift cards as payments.

Joplin Regional Airport seeing more travelers

JOPLIN, Mo. — 2020 totals at the Joplin Regional Airport show more and more passengers are returning to air travel.

The year ended with an average of about 4,000 passengers a month. That’s much lower than the start of 2020, when monthly numbers doubled that. But the pandemic dropped that to just 601 in April, leveling out to more stable numbers mid-Summer. The Airport Manager says he expects a very different year in 2021.

Steve Stockam, Joplin Airport Manager, said, “It’s kind of difficult to say this is what it’s going to be. And what is going to be today may be changing in 60 days.”

The airport ended 2020 with a total of 98,856 passengers.

Missouri Senate backs compromise gas tax hike bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators have given initial approval to a gas tax hike, despite Republican division over tax increases.

The bill would raise Missouri’s gas tax of 17 cents per gallon for the first time in two decades.

It stalled Tuesday after hours of Republican infighting, but a compromise that lowered the increase from 15 cents to 12.5 cents per gallon by 2025 passed in a voice vote on Wednesday.

The bill advanced two days after the Senate failed to adopt a bill that would have gradually eliminated the personal property tax, which is strongly supported by the GOP conservative caucus.

Around Town with Deja Brown – Hideout Harley Davidson

In this edition of Around Town with Deja Brown we’re at Hideout Harley Davidson in Joplin. Need to blow off some steam? Is learning to ride a motorcycle part of your bucket list? Visit the Hideout, start learning, and take it to the open road.

You can visit their website’s page for new riders or their Facebook page for more information.

Bigfoot bounty passes $2 million if captured unharmed

(MYSTERY WIRE) — For many the idea of capturing a mythical creature is unthinkable, let alone unbelievable. But for some, the idea is not only alive and well, there’s now more than $2 million on the line.

Oklahoma State Representative Justin Humphrey (R)

At the end of January Oklahoma State Representative Justin Humphrey (R)  filed legislation to establish what he hoped would be a boon for local tourism – a Bigfoot hunting season.

Over the next few weeks the bill died in committee. But that hasn’t stopped some from continuing the effort to encourage someone to capture Bigfoot.

State Rep. Humphrey has since told the Enid News & Eagle newspaper said he’s OK with his bill not making it out of committee. Humphrey said the exposure his bill received did exactly what he wanted it to do, to promote interest and tourism in Southeast Oklahoma.

Humphrey and others have claimed this area of Oklahoma has the ninth most sightings in the world of Bigfoot.

Humphrey is now working with state officials to set up rules for a “Sasquatch Quest.” He’s quick to point out the idea is to not kill anything, but to capture Bigfoot unharmed and without breaking any Oklahoma laws.

According to the Enid News & Eagle, Humphrey’s original plan suggested lawmakers set aside a $25,000 bounty for Bigfoot’s capture, but he said an upcoming Hollywood Bigfoot movie pledged around $2 million, while another private business promised an additional $100,000. That eliminated any need for state funding.

Humphrey hopes the state tourism campaign would include branded license plates, decals, and an annual commemorative tracking license. He says the state should also include a proper map showing people-recommended areas to spot Bigfoot.

The profits from the Bigfoot tourism campaign would be used for lake, park, and road improvements.

“We’re having fun with it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it. But at the same time, I know a lot of people thought I was crazy. But, I think if people chill out, (they could) see that this could be a serious deal bringing in a lot of money, a lot of tourism.”

Humphrey said his ultimate goal is to draw in tourists by providing safe, affordable fun. “I hope people get here and ride 4-wheelers and do fishing and go to the restaurants and sleep in motels,” he said. “Come to Oklahoma, have an adventure. Enjoy yourself, tell your friends and come back.”

Below is a summary of the original bill released by the representative’s office:

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, this week filed legislation that would establish a Bigfoot hunting season.
House Bill 1648 would direct the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Division to promulgate rules establishing the annual dates of the season and creating any necessary specific hunting licenses and fees.
“Tourism is one of the biggest attractions we have in my House district,” Humphrey said. “Establishing an actual hunting season and issuing licenses for people who want to hunt Bigfoot will just draw more people to our already beautiful part of the state. It will be a great way for people to enjoy our area and to have some fun.”
Humphrey said he doesn’t want people to actually kill Bigfoot, so he will be working with the state wildlife and tourism departments to craft final language for his bill that specifies only the trapping of Bigfoot. He also hopes to secure at least $25,000 that can be used as a bounty for the first person to trap the creature.
“A lot of people don’t believe in Bigfoot, but a lot of people do,” Humphrey said. “Just like some people like to go deer hunting, while some don’t.”
Humphrey said he’s filed numerous pieces of legislation this year on more serious matters, such as censorship, protecting the beef industry and others. But to him, tourism is just as important to his House district for the amount of dollars it draws. HB 1648 has the potential to increase that presence and the resulting dollars to boost the local economy, he said.
Humphrey said the town of Honobia, OK, already has an annual Bigfoot festival each October, so the hunting season ideally would coincide with that.
“Having a license and a tag would give people a way to prove they participated in the hunt,” Humphrey said. “Again, the overall goal is to get people to our area to enjoy the natural beauty and to have a great time, and if they find Bigfoot while they’re at it, well hey, that’s just an even bigger prize.”

Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office needs help with identifying woman killed on I-44

MT. VERNON, Mo. — The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in identifying a Jane Doe.

According to a Facebook post from the Sheriff’s Office, this person was killed on Saturday, March 6, 2021, after running into oncoming traffic on I-44 in Lawrence County.

The Sheriff’s Office shared pictures of multiple tattoos on the Jane Doe.

She also had blonde/strawberry hair and gray/blue eyes.

If you have any information on who this might be contact the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office at 417-466-2131.

Branson lawmaker faces complaint for saying ‘China virus’

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A complaint on Wednesday was filed against a Missouri lawmaker for describing COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.”

Kansas City Democratic Rep. Emily Weber said in a statement said she filed a complaint with House human resources against Rep. Brian Seitz, a Branson Republican.

Seitz used the phrase during a House floor discussion Tuesday over state revenues and a bill that would allow the state to collect sales taxes from online retailers that don’t have a physical presence in the state.

“While the zombie apocalypse has seen a shortage of revenue for the state, I remind the body that the Chinese virus has not shut down one business,” Seitz said. “Government has shut down businesses and created this shortfall.”

Seitz did not immediately return an Associated Press request for comment Wednesday.

Weber said the term “denigrates, stigmatizes and dehumanizes people who look like me.”

Weber was born in South Korea and adopted and raised in Kansas. She moved to Kansas City after college.

“Representative Seitz’ repeated use of the phrase ‘China virus’ in House proceedings perpetuates a singularly harmful new racial stereotype specifically designed to point blame for this crisis at a particular nation and community,” Weber said.

She said she hopes the chamber’s human resources department takes action against Seitz for using a phrase that “puts the lives and well-being of Missourians of Asian descent at risk.”

Seitz is not the first Missouri lawmaker to describe the virus as Chinese, and the term is also often used by Republicans in Congress.

Bigotry toward Asian Americans spiked as cases of the coronavirus spread in the U.S., fueled by the news that COVID-19 first appeared in China and former President Donald Trump’s use of the term “China virus.”

Some initial evidence suggested the virus began in bats, which infected another animal that may have spread it to people at one of Wuhan, China’s “wet markets.” Such markets sell fresh meat, fish and vegetables, and some also sell live animals, such as chickens, that are butchered on site to ensure freshness for consumers.

The information quickly got distorted in the U.S., spurring racist memes on social media that portrayed Chinese people as bat eaters responsible for spreading the virus, and reviving century-old tropes about Asian food being dirty.

Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups, issued a report in August stating that it had received more than 2,500 reports of hate and discrimination across the country since the group was founded in March, around the time the outbreak began to seriously worsen in the U.S. The group said it received data from 47 states, with 46% of the incidents taking place in California, followed by 14% in New York.

Change in Individuals Qualifying for COVID-19 Vaccine Coming Up

MISSOURI — The State of Missouri will soon activate the next tier of their COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Beginning March 15th, Missouri will allow residents in the ‘Phase 1B – Tier 3’ category to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Tier 3 will add the following individuals:

• Teachers and other staff in pre-K- 12 schools
• Faculty and staff of state licensed facilities providing care for children
• Employees at public, private or nonprofit organizations that provide communications
• Employees that provide services in the dams sector
• Employees that provide energy services, regardless of energy source
• Employees of certain food production and processing facilities
• Elected officials required for the continuity of government
• Employees that provide IT services
• Employees in the nuclear materials sector
• Employees in the transportation sector
• Employees in the water or wastewater sectors

Those in earlier tiers still qualify for vaccination such as those in the health care field, people over 65 years of age, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

The Jasper County Health Department recommends that individuals requesting to be
immunized register on the states Vaccine Navigator by either calling (877) 435-8411 or online here. If you are over 65 and need assistance registering please contact the Area Agency on Aging at (417)781-7562.

Quapaw Nation and Downstream Casino Resort host mass vaccination events March 17 and April 13

Quapaw Nation and Downstream Casino Resort officials will hold two vaccination events. First event is for Quapaw Nation and Downstream Team members and Family ONLY, second event will be open to Joplin and surrounding area.

March 17, 2021 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. open to all Quapaw Nation tribal members, tribal employees, casino team members and family members
April 13, 2021 | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. open to everyone living in the Four States Region and surrounding area

The Pavilion at Downstream Casino Resort
69300 E. Nee Rd. | Quapaw, OK 74363

Quapaw Nation Business Committee members
Downstream Casino Resort officials
Northeastern Tribal Health System partners

QUAPAW, Oklahoma – The Quapaw Nation and Downstream Casino Resort have partnered with Northeastern Tribal Health System (NTHS) for two mass COVID-19 vaccination events at the Pavilion at Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, Oklahoma on March 17 and April 13. The goal is to vaccinate as many Quapaw Nation citizens, employees, their family members and the surrounding communities as possible. The nation hopes this mass vaccination event will help speed up the downward trend of Coronavirus cases and begin the return of a sense of normalcy to the community.

“Our Nation has been extremely hard hit by COVID. We all want to get back to our dances and our traditional ceremonies, but many of us have held off until it’s safe to gather with our elders,” said Joseph Tali Byrd, Quapaw Nation Business Committee Chairman. “Getting ourselves vaccinated gets us one step closer to that goal. But we know viruses don’t respect tribal citizenship or state lines. That’s why it’s important to stop the spread in the larger community around us. When our entire community and the communities around us are safer, we’re all safer, so it’s a service we’re happy to help provide through a partnership with Northeastern Tribal Health System.”

The first mass vaccination event on March 17 will provide the Moderna vaccine to individuals associated with the Quapaw Nation and business entities in Ottawa County. Northeastern Tribal Health Systems has been pushing to get everyone in the county vaccinated, as Ottawa County is one of the least vaccinated counties in the state with less than 7 percent of the under-65 population being fully vaccinated and only 18 percent of the over-65 population receiving both doses of the vaccine, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s latest weekly epidemiology report

Anyone who is at least 18 years old and a Quapaw Nation citizen, employee, an employee of one of the Quapaw Nation’s three casinos or other businesses, or a family member of one of those individuals, can make an appointment for the March 17 vaccination event by calling (918) 919-6238

Moderna vaccines will be administered by Northeastern Tribal Health System at the Downstream Casino Resort Pavilion Event Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each person should bring his or her valid photo identification. An existing chart with NTHS is not necessary. The Pavilion at Downstream Casino Resort is located at 69300 E. Nee Rd. in Quapaw, Oklahoma.

On April 13, vaccines will be administered to any local resident over 18, including non-Natives and those residing across the state line in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. The hours and location of the public vaccine administration will also be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Pavilion Event Center at Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw. No appointments are necessary for the April 13 event, but vaccines will be available to local residents in the Four-States area only while supplies last.

“Northeastern Tribal Health System (NTHS) is proud to partner with the Downstream Casino Resort in providing community members with the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine to any adult aged 18 or over,” said J. Tink Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Northeastern Tribal Health System. “NTHS believes that providing COVID vaccinations sends the message to our community that we are gaining control back, getting back to normal and protecting each other from this virus.”

The Pavilion at Downstream, better known for its entertainment, live music and galas, is more than 20,000 square feet, providing plenty of space for social distancing. Even with the spacious area, masks are required to ensure the utmost safety of the staff and others receiving the vaccine.

“Downstream Casino Resort isn’t just a leader in the gaming market, we want to be a leader in the community, so we’re proud to offer The Pavilion and our team’s time for this mass vaccination event,” said Stuart Grayson, General Manager for Downstream Casino Resort. “There are no small parts in a global pandemic, so we all have to do our part where we can. We can’t wait to see the excitement on everyone’s faces as they come through to get vaccinated and experience with them that joy of finally turning a corner and getting their lives back after such a long, difficult road this past year. We’re looking forward to a couple of truly special events.”

While reactions are rare, recipients are required to be monitored for 15 minutes following their shots in the event of an adverse reaction. The Moderna vaccine is a series of two shots, administered one month apart. Health care providers will give directions for follow up shots at the time of the first dose. Women who are currently pregnant or nursing, or anyone with previous health-related issues, questions or concerns about the vaccine should contact their primary care physician prior to arrival.

This allotment of vaccines does not affect doses allocated to Northeastern Tribal Health Systems, which are currently assigned to people in Phases 1A and 1B priority groups. For additional questions on obtaining the vaccine directly from Northeastern Tribal Health System, please call (918) 332-4478.

Joplin COVID-19 hospitalizations near single digits

Joplin’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers continue to see improvement, nearing single digits completely, at Joplin hospitals, comprising of Freeman, Mercy, and Landmark. As of Wednesday, March 10, there is a 15-hospitalization occupancy of COVID-19 patients in Joplin’s hospitals. This is nine less than the occupancy number from last week on Sunday, February 28. 

This number reflects the number of patients currently being treated with COVID-19 at the three previously mentioned hospitals. The 15-hospital occupancy includes residents outside Joplin city limits. As of March 10, there are two Joplin residents hospitalized due to COVID-19. This is two less than, the number from Sunday, February 28

According to the Joplin COVID-19 Dashboard, last updated Wednesday, March 10 at 10 p.m., there have been a total of 5,889 cases due to the Coronavirus in the city. Joplin has 32 active cases, an increase from last week’s 30 cases. There are 5,733 inactive cases in the city and 124 deaths, which is no additional deaths since last week. This week’s death count continues to be the lowest number of deaths due to COVID-19, reported in a week’s time via the dashboard. There have been nine new cases of COVID-19 in the last day, 31 cases in the last seven days, and 68 cases in the last 14 days. 

The dashboard’s graph shows the downward trend of COVID-19 cases in Joplin over the last month is continuing. Residents in the age group 20 to 29 continue to have the highest number of Coronavirus cases in Joplin, with 1,252 cases—20 more cases than last week. Those in the age group 30 to 39 are second-highest, with 866 cases—eight more than last week. And those under 20 are close behind, with 833 cases—six more than last week. 

This update comes 11 days following the expiration of Joplin’s mask mandate, as the mandate expired Sunday, February 28. Though, the city is still in Phase 2—Step 4 of the Joplin Plan for Response and Recovery. 

Joplin is also still in Phase 1B—Tier 1 and Phase 1B—Tier 2 of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Missouri residents who fall into these two tiers of Phase 1B and the previous phase, Phase 1A, are eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Though, those within Phase 1B–Tier 3 will soon also be eligible, starting March 15. Those in this group are individuals considered “critical infrastructure,” or those who “keep the essential functions of society running, such as those in education, daycare, the communications sector, government, and multiple of there sectors.

The City specifies on their vaccine infographic that “supplies are limited.” The following vaccine phases include Phase 2 then Phase 3. Vaccine distribution will advance in line with vaccine availability. The state of Missouri ensures that the COVID-19 vaccine will be free to all Missouri residents, including those without health insurance.       

For more information regarding Missouri’s vaccination plan, visit their COVID-19 website, which also provides a map of current and future vaccinators within the state.