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Nick’s Picks | Your Guide for a Busy Week, and Holiday Season Ahead

Striking a Balance of Work and Mirth

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

With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, how did we do? Did holiday gatherings and Black Friday shopping crowds create super spreader events in Kansas City?

Later this week we’ll get a better indication of that. But experts warn the numbers may initially appear lower because testing centers have been closed for a few days. And as our public health leaders like to remind us, the thing about COVID-19 numbers is they are not pictures of present transmission. They are pictures of past transmission. Like, from two weeks ago. 

That means we probably won’t see the full impact of Thanksgiving until around Dec. 11.

NFL Orders Shutdown at Arrowhead

Fresh from their sixth straight win over the weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs have now been ordered to shut down all in-person activities for the next two days. 

In a memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Chiefs are instructed to conduct all activities virtually on Monday and Tuesday with the exception of essential medical treatments and rehab. Players and staff also have been told they are prohibited from hosting or participating in any private gathering. 

The NFL cites concerns about an increasing COVID-19 positivity rate across the country and an understanding that many players and staff members celebrated Thanksgiving with guests from out of town.  

The notice went out to NFL franchises across the country.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum 

If you’ve been meaning to visit Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, this is definitely not the week to do it. The attraction at 18th & Vine streets is now shut down, at least temporarily, after two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The museum will be closed for the next 10 days. It’s scheduled to reopen Dec. 8. 

Cost of Doing Business

This week, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas will try to head off threats of legal action from bar and restaurant owners by proposing a new relief package for struggling businesses.  

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, the mayor is scheduled to introduce a plan to ease the costs of operating a business in the city. 

Annual licenses, liquor cards and restaurant inspection fees are all recurring expenses, some costing hundreds of dollars. Lucas’s plan would defer, decrease or, in some situations, waive those fees.

It’s not certain whether the mayor’s proposal will be enough to head off lawsuits from some business owners who claim the city’s new health restrictions go too far. The mayor says he’s confident his new emergency order will survive a legal challenge. 

Johnson County leaders are also trying to help out small businesses this week. If you have fewer than 50 employees and have lost revenue during the pandemic you can qualify for a $10,000 relief grant. The Johnson County Commission has set aside $13.5 million for the business relief program. Applicants will be reviewed on a first come-first served basis.  Here’s a link to the application

Santa Claus is Coming… Safely

Here’s a question for you to ponder this week: Would you allow your children or grandchildren to sit on Santa’s lap this year? 

At a time when close personal contact is frowned upon, snuggling up to an overweight senior may well be considered one of the worst breaches of COVID-19 health protocols. 

But jolly Saint Nick is not going away. You’ll just have to navigate temperature checks and Plexiglas screens if you want to see him.

Crown Center, Oak Park Mall, Zona Rosa and Independence Center are all reinventing the holiday tradition by offering appointments to talk to Santa at a safe distance.

At Bass Pro stores in Independence and Olathe, Santa sits behind an acrylic barrier called a “Magic Santa Shield.” At other places around town, children sit six feet away on gift-wrapped plastic benches. 

Almost everywhere, Santa is now wearing a clear face shield over his bushy white beard. And kids and their families are required to wear face masks even when their photo is being taken. 

Does that seem like too much of a hassle? Remember, you still have to pay for the privilege of getting that priceless pic of your face covered cherub. Those snaps don’t come cheap. Photo packages with Santa start at $17.95.

Virtual Fairy Princess

While you can still physically see Santa this year, the Fairy Princess has gone totally virtual. 

The holiday tradition from the Kansas City Museum is now a Facebook Live experience. Your children and grandchildren can interact with the Fairy Princess on her gilded throne this Sunday at 6 p.m. on the museum’s Facebook page. The streamed event is free.

Soul of Santa

You can experience the Soul of Santa this week in what is now one of the few in-person events in Kansas City. It’s the 18th and Vine Jazz District’s holiday celebration. While the festivities are being scaled back in response to the pandemic, you can watch the outdoor Christmas tree lighting. They are flipping the switch at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Checkmate

What’s Santa’s most requested gift this year? For the younger set there is something called Poopalots. It’s an interactive pet toy that as the name suggests you get to feed. But you also get to clean up afterwards when it does its business. 

Another surprising hot seller this year is, get this, a chess set. In fact, the game has become so popular that some stores in the metro say they’re sold out. 

Industry experts say there’s two big reasons why a 1,500-year-old game is now topping holiday wish lists.

Firstly, people are spending more time at home during the pandemic. And secondly, there’s the surprising popularity of that Netflix show, “The Queen’s Gambit,” a fictionalized account of a female chess prodigy.

Apparently, after the show premiered this fall, sales of chess sets climbed 87% in the United States. And books about chess are up 603% over last year. 

Did you know the World Chess Hall of Fame is in Missouri? Did you also know that the world’s largest chess piece is in Missouri? And did you also know that since 2009, the U.S. Chess Championships have also taken place in the Show Me State? 

It’s actually all in the same place. The World Chess Hall of Fame is in St. Louis, home to a 20-foot high king piece and the home of the nation’s top chess tournament. 

It’s also open every day of the week with the exception of major holidays. And it’s totally free. It’s funded by Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield, a chess fan who’s best known for bankrolling anti-tax ballot questions around the state, including the push to eliminate the earnings tax in Kansas City.

Legislative Finish Line

Will Missouri lawmakers cross the finish line this week after a virus outbreak halted their special session just before Thanksgiving? 

Three things are set to be decided as lawmakers reconvene in Jefferson City.

One is a $1.2 billion COVID-19 budget package. It’s money from the federal government that the state will lose if it isn’t spent by the end of the year. Most of the cash is being set aside to replenish the state’s unemployment benefits fund. Some money will also go to help schools with meal costs and to the National Guard, which has been helping with the state’s pandemic response efforts.

Other items on the agenda include finding money to finance a new pre-trial witness protection program and a bill to shield nursing homes and other businesses from pandemic-related lawsuits. And one St. Louis area lawmaker is lobbying the governor to extend the session to pass a bill allowing the state to override local public health orders.

Stimulus Checks

Your local members of Congress are also heading back to business this week. One of the top items on the agenda in Washington is whether to approve a second pandemic relief package. 

Before you start dreaming about what you’re going to do with the extra cash, know this is no slam dunk. A second stimulus package is still in limbo and even the most optimistic political observers say it’s unlikely the government is going to cut you another check for $1,200 or more. 

The biggest sticking point is whether the federal government should give financial help to cash-strapped cities and states. The president and a number of leading Republicans say they’re not interested in bailing out poorly run and mismanaged local governments.

Still No Juries

Earlier this summer, I hosted a program on one of the least reported casualties of this pandemic, jury trials.

It’s not commonly known, but there have been virtually no courtroom trials since the virus hit in March. 

This week, we’ve learned they will be delayed even longer. The Jackson County Circuit Court has announced it will not hold any jury trials until at least 2021.

The Municipal Court in Kansas City, Kansas, is shutting down this week and will remain closed until Jan. 18.

Pandemic Parties

Here’s another question for you. If your company decides to put on a big staff holiday party this year would you go?

In one recent poll of Human Resources directors, only 23% said their company was moving forward with an office holiday bash, and of those, three out of four would be virtual.

I bring this up because I’ve been surprised by how many Kansas City businesses are preparing to host in-person office parties in the next couple of weeks. I got a call from one viewer who said her company was not only having a party but the owner said it was going to be even bigger this year to make up for all the pandemic stress. She said they were even allowed, for the very first time, to bring a guest.

While this boss may be trying to curry favor with burned out workers, there’s perhaps a better way employers can show their appreciation. 

A new YouGov survey of 1,000 American workers finds most would prefer cash. 

What do you think? Should bosses just cancel the party and just give money this year? And if so, how much?  

I’ve heard of some local companies that are giving holiday bonuses from $20 to as high as $10,000. Can you imagine that?

At this point, I would settle for a subscription to the “Jelly of the Month” club. Just for the record, “Christmas Vacation” has always been my favorite holiday movie.

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