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Nick’s Picks | St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and the Vaccine Chase

Busy Week Ahead in Kansas City

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

Kansas City will turn green on Wednesday. But for the second year in a row, it will be a no-parade St. Patrick’s Day in Kansas City.

Despite improving health numbers, the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out almost every major St. Patrick’s Day event. 

But not all.

The city of Leavenworth is moving forward with its annual parade. It starts at noon on Wednesday and runs through the city’s downtown.

On “Kansas City Week in Review” I asked our panel of reporters if there were any plans to postpone St. Patrick’s Day parades until later in the year when pandemic restrictions might be lifted. I was met with dismissive answers.

But I might have been on to something. North Kansas City says it’s going to time shift its Snake Parade. It will now be held around Halloween and renamed the Spooky Snake Parade. 

Beyond parades, there’s a smattering of other events going on to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in our metro.

Starlight Theatre is hosting the National Dance Company of Ireland in an online event on Wednesday.

The Kansas City Irish Center is presenting a St. Paddy’s Day “Pints on the Patio” experience with socially distant liquid libations, live music and food offerings. 

And you can take the family to the Kansas Zoo on Wednesday for a leprechaun scavenger hunt.

Around town, a slew of bars and restaurants are creating special menus featuring green drink and food concoctions. 

In the meantime, you can check out Flatland’s taste testing of Kansas City’s Irish red ales. 

And on Kansas City PBS Wednesday night, we take you to Ireland for a music showcase with some of Ireland’s biggest performers. And it’s all shot in some of the most beautiful places on the Emerald Isle. “Music in Ireland” starts at 9 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Expanding Vaccinations 

A large new group of Missourians becomes eligible for the COVID vaccine this week.

Gov. Mike Parson says that starting today, teachers, childcare employees and grocery store workers can get the shot.

So can critical infrastructure workers. So what does that mean?

According to the state, that group includes government employees, communication workers, those who work in information technology, the dams sector, the energy industry and in food and agriculture jobs. 

It represents more than 500,000 people, plus lots of other folks who will have no qualms about claiming they work in one of those employment areas just to jump the line. These really are wide job categories, so it’s going to be hard to prove who is eligible and who is not. 

If you live in Kansas, you still have to wait.

Gov. Laura Kelly says the state won’t open up Kansas to the next phase of vaccine eligibility until April.  Remarkably, if you’re under 65 and have a critical health condition like cancer, a heart condition or diabetes you are still not eligible to get a COVID shot in Kansas.  By way of comparison, that high-risk group has been eligible for the vaccine in Missouri since Jan. 18.

Arrowhead Vaccination Event

We all know by now that there’s a big difference between being eligible for the vaccine and actually getting it. It’s still tough to snag a shot on both sides of the state line, but several big events this week are likely to sharply cut the long and frustrating wait lists. 

Arrowhead Stadium will be the site of the largest mass vaccination event to date.

As many as 7,000 people will get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a two-day event run by the Missouri National Guard.

It runs all day Friday and Saturday.

I should point out that you can’t just show up at the stadium. Appointments are required.  And you currently have to be registered on the Jackson County Health Department’s waiting list.

Right now, that’s more than 100,000 people. 

It’s apparently going to be a, “don’t call us, we’ll call you” situation. After you’ve signed up, you will get a call, text or email notifying you of your appointment. 

Priority is being given to low income residents and those most at risk of contracting the virus. The state is also working with the Urban League of Greater Kansas City to reach out to underserved communities.

Starting April 1, Missouri will be holding two weekly mass vaccination events in the Kansas City area.

In the meantime, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is turning its entire facility into a vaccination clinic today. Every Monday until further notice, the museum at 18th and Vine will partner with Hy-Vee to get as many shots in people’s arms as they can. 

Appointments are required. You can sign up on the museum’s website at NLBM.org.

If you live in Wyandotte County, then congratulations. You now have the easiest, most open vaccine process available anywhere in our metro.

Starting today, if you’re 65 or older, you can now walk into any of the county’s mass vaccination facilities and get your COVID jab. You heard that right. No sign ups, appointments and complicated online registration. Just show up. You only have to show proof that you live in Wyandotte County.

COVID Hospitalizations Tumble 

After a pandemic year that has tested the limits of our health system, is it conceivable that we won’t have a single local patient hospitalized for COVID this week?

Last week St. Joseph Medical Center announced zero hospitalizations for the first time in 12 months. KU Hospital reported just five patients. 

Hospital officials say the numbers continue to “look great,” but circumstances can change fast. They argue now is not the time to let up on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Stimulating Checks

At least two viewers have contacted me to say they’ve now received their third round of stimulus checks. And they were both surprised that they got more money than they were expecting.

That’s because for the first time, adult dependents are eligible for the cash help, including college students.

What about you? 

According to the Department of Treasury, tens of thousands of checks have already been directly deposited into bank accounts around the country. More will begin padding bank accounts starting today.

Paper checks will start landing in Kansas City mailboxes next week. 

If you’re wondering what happened to your $1,400 check from Uncle Sam, you can now track its status on the government’s official payment tracker.

It’s called the “Get My Payment” tool. You can find the link on the very top of the IRS website at IRS.Gov.

Local governments also are getting big money. Based on new calculations, Kansas City will get $195 million. That’s $14 million more than previously estimated. Other cities are seeing bumps in final payments too.

But with more cash comes more fights over who gets the money.

In Kansas, state lawmakers are already arguing over whether some of its $1.6 billion in aid money can be spent on a tax cut. There’s a dispute over whether language in the federal aid bill prohibits such a move. Expect more squabbles in the weeks ahead.

Blunt Perspective

Will this be the week Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas makes up his mind? Mayor Lucas says he’s been meeting with family and close aides to decide whether he should be a candidate for the U.S. Senate next year. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt surprised many last week when he announced he will not seek reelection, after serving 24 years in Congress.

Anyone with political ambitions would salivate over the opportunity to run in a race with no incumbent to beat. There are undoubtedly scores of Missourians who looked in the mirror over the last few days and saw a senator looking back at them. Among them is former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2019.

But the number of well-known names who have said no is equally surprising.

Jason Kander, who came close to unseating Blunt in 2016, says he has no interest in the race. Former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill wants nothing to do with elected politics again. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has said no and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has also declined to run.

By the way, If Quinton Lucas decides to enter the race he could still maintain his current job. He doesn’t run for re-election until 2023. 

March Madness

The NCAA Basketball Championship gets underway Thursday in Indianapolis. Three local teams will compete for college basketball’s greatest prize, the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri and Wichita State University. 

This year, all of the games are taking place in Indianapolis to reduce COVID exposure. 

But here’s a big question: How many teams will survive the tournament’s rigorous COVID testing? Last week, KU pulled out of the Big 12 Championship after a third player tested positive for the virus. Two other teams, Duke and Virginia, were also forced to withdraw from conference tournaments after positive COVID tests.

Also this week, the nation’s best small-college basketball teams are headed to Kansas City as the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Championship gets underway. The tournament starts Thursday at Municipal Auditorium. Among the team’s competing for the NAIA trophy is MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe.

Bunch of Bulls

Having hosted the Big 12 Championship game over the weekend, T-Mobile Center is now pulling up the hardwood floors to lay down several hundred tons of dirt.

This week, college basketball makes way for 40 of the world’s top bull riders. 

The PBR Unleash the Beast Caterpillar Classic starts Saturday. Just over 3,000 fans will be allowed inside T-Mobile Center. Even more will watch from home. It’s being televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.

No More Pixie Dust

If you’re a Disney fan, you may want to make a beeline today for Oak Park Mall. The clearance sale is now underway at the Disney Store, which is closing after more than a quarter of a century in the Overland Park mall.

Currently, there’s a 30% off sign on the windows. That discount will get larger as the store comes to its official closing on March 23. 

The Walt Disney Co. is closing 60 stores around the country. It’s been a tough time for retail as shopping trends change. 

Do you remember when KCPT had its own store at Oak Park Mall? It was called the KCPT Store of Knowledge. In fact we had two locations, the other was on the Country Club Plaza.

It was at a time when there was an explosion of similar concept stores. There was the Discovery Store, the Nature Store and The Museum Company. 

All have now gone.

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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