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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 3.17.20: IA Emergency Declaration, SD Update, Election Advice and Blood Shortage

Associated Press


Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued an emergency declaration today concerning COVID-19.

She ordered restaurants, bars, fitness centers, theaters and casinos to close for two weeks as part of a public health emergency plan designed to ease the community spread of the illness.

Reynolds also prohibited mass gatherings and events of more than 10 people including parades, festivals, conventions, and fundraisers.

Senior citizen centers and adult day care facilities have been closed.

The closures are intended to last through March 31.

In response to the Governor the city of Sioux City plans to close all facilities to the public starting at 4:30 this afternoon until Tuesday, March 31st.

That includes City Hall, Long Lines and the Convention Center.

The City remains fully operations and in limited cases people may schedule appointments with staff.

Emergency services will continue and there are no changes in service at the Sioux Gateway Airport, City Transit or the Landfill.

Woodbury County officials announced precautionary changes.  Starting tomorrow most county offices will require an appointment to conduct business.  They would like people to use online services if possible.

As of noon, on Tuesday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Woodbury County.

Siouxland District Health recommends people adhere to social distancing, hand washing, covering your cough or sneeze and staying home if you feel sick.

Western Iowa Tech Community College will close to the public starting tomorrow until April 13th.  All events scheduled at the college have been cancelled until then.  However, the college is still operating and providing on-line learning for students.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has announced this afternoon, South Dakota public schools will be closed for another week.

Health officials say there is one new case of coronavirus related to travel but no community spread in the state.

The state of Nebraska issued a statement today telling people that drinking water remains safe to use during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The CDC reports the virus has not been found in drinking water and filtration and disinfection should remove or inactivate the virus.

A news release from the state also says the public should consider maintaining a supply of bottled water.

That’s because if people are sick and have to isolate in their own homes, it is easiest to use bottled water rather than sanitizing water glasses that might be shared with the rest of the household.

Officials say eight people from Nebraska who were on a cruise ship forced to sit idle off the California coast have returned to the state.  They will isolate themselves for 14 day after being quarantined at a military facility in California.

The Grand Princess pulled into the Port of Oakland on March 9 with more than 3,500 people aboard — 21 confirmed to be infected with the new virus.

Eight of them flew back to Nebraska on Monday.

Four more will be arriving in the coming days.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission canceled all events and activities through May 31 to help limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

LifeServe Blood Center provides blood to more than 120 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Community Relations Coordinator Claire DeRoin says with so many planned blood drives now off the calendar, LifeServe is collecting less blood than expected.

“We are already down about 1400 units of blood and we unfortunately expect to use thousands more from our kind of forecasted collection schedule."

The American Red Cross says blood drive cancellations are creating a “severe blood shortage.” Both groups encourage healthy donors to still give blood. The coronoavirus now spreading has not been transmitted through blood transfusions.

Iowa counties and cities that have upcoming special elections are encouraging people to vote by mail because of COVID-19.

Woodbury County has an April 14th election to replace County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor.

The county auditor’s office says it will only have two vote centers open, and wants people to vote by mail.

Pat Gill is the county auditor and elections commissioner. 

“We ask that you protect yourselves and our precinct election officials by simply completing a postage paid absentee ballot request form and returning it as soon as possible.”

Officials are looking at putting a box outside of the courthouse so people can drop off absentee ballots. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has signed legislation that will kick in over $6.4 million to state programs including a new radio system for first responders and several new programs at state universities.

The biggest-ticket item was $5.1 million to upgrade the radio system used by police, firefighters and other first responders.

The Republican governor also immediately made $450,000 available for partial tax refunds for low-income people over the age of 65 or people with disabilities.

The organizations that collect blood from donors and get it to hospitals are bracing for lost donations  could cause major shortagse. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed businesses, schools and other locations where blood drives were scheduled.

A Sioux City man who ran a stop sign and caused a fatal crash last summer has been given 10 years in prison.

Court records say Julian Espinoza was sentenced yesterday in Sioux City.

He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by driving recklessly, causing the crash back in July.

Ronald Hacker of Sioux City died three days later.

A charge of vehicular driving while intoxicated was changed and a charge of child endangerment resulting in bodily injury was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Espinoza's young son was in his pickup truck at the time of the crash.

A wind-whipped winter storm is expected to blast the Nebraska Panhandle later this week.

The National Weather Service says in a blizzard warning issued Tuesday morning the storm is likely to hit the area Wednesday night.

A light glaze of ice will be followed by snow accumulations of up to 6 inches by Friday morning.

Wind gusts as high as 50 mph are expected, making travel hazardous. Conditions are forecast to be less severe east of the Panhandle.