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News and resources regarding COVID-19

NEWS 5.1.20: Surge in C-19 Cases, Election Lawsuit Settled and Trucker Appreciation

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Iowa Department of Public Health
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SPM NEWS 5.1.20 - 4:30 PM

The state of Iowa reports a surge of 740 new COVID-19 cases and 8 deaths for a total of 170 deaths and almost 7,900 positive cases in all.

The governor says the increase correlates with more testing done in high-exposure areas.

The governor admits there is a backlog in getting test results, but the state lab should catch up this weekend so she expects even higher numbers of confirmed cases.

The number of positive cases in Woodbury County topped 1,000 on Friday with 183 new cases.

About 20% are considered recovered and out of isolation.  

Fifty are in the hospital. 

Almost 3,000 test were conducted in Woodbury County.

Even more testing will be done starting on Monday with a TestIowa site on the campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College.

Dakota County reported 164 positive cases on Friday for a total of 942.

Woodbury County Election Commissioner Pat Gill announced he plans to open five polling places for the June Primary and Special Election for the Supervisors in July.

Gill had wanted to do most of the voting through mail to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

The move is in response to a lawsuit filed by former state lawmaker Rick Bertrand.  Bertrand, a Republican, wanted all polling locations opened. He claimed more Democrats usually vote by absentee ballot.

There will now be a polling location in each of the five state representative districts including Oto, Sergeant Bluff, Moville, downtown Sioux City and the northside of Sioux City.

Gills plans to take extra steps to minimize exposure.

Tyson hasn’t responded to a story by the Sioux City Journal that 669 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The plant that employs more than 4,300 plans to be idle through Monday for deep cleaning and more testing of employees.

Siouxland Public Media news reached to a Tyson spokesperson for comment but hasn’t received a response yet.

Local health officials haven’t disclosed the names of businesses impacted by the virus.  They say it’s against privacy laws.

The Journal says a source “close to the situation” disclosed the information used in their story.

A union representing employees a Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls says it will partially reopen on Monday.  It was shut down for more than two weeks after an outbreak infected more than 800 employees.

The United Food and Commercial Workers local chapter says about 250 employees have been asked to report to staff two departments, ground seasoned pork and night cleanup.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she is considering meeting with employees of the Smithfield processing plant.

A group of organizations advocating for employees at the plant has sent a letter to the governor’s office, asking her to meet with them.

The letter points out that racial minorities have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.

The governor says she is hoping Smithfield opens soon, while still protecting worker safety.

She did not say if she would enforce safety measures at the plant though. 

Former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver is urging Gov. Kim Reynolds to back off policies that he says will force employees to be in unsafe workplaces with coronavirus outbreaks.

Culver says in a letter to Reynolds that workers should not have to risk serious illness or death or face the loss of their unemployment benefits.

He warned that her policy choices “will affect Iowans’ quality of life for generations to come.”

Culver, a Democrat served from 2007 to 2011.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is expressing confidence in the new coronavirus tests the state purchased through a no-bid contract with a small Utah startup firm after a local newspaper raised questions about the accuracy of the company’s results.

Ricketts says state officials will work to ensure that the tests administered through the TestNebraska program are accurate to avoid giving a false negative result to people who have coronavirus symptoms.

His comments came in response to questions rising from story in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says the state lab is checking to see how accuracy of the tests.

Nebraska state health officials say the state has seen a jump in COVID-19 deaths following technical difficulties with the state's coronavirus tracking portal in recent days.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says the state saw 13 new deaths from the virus on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 68.   A major of the deaths come from the Grand Island area.

The Sioux City farmers market will open May 6, but vendors will be taking extra precautions this year because of COVID-19.

Roger Caudron is the secretary and treasurer for the nonprofit board that oversees the farmers market.

He says the vendors will be wearing masks and gloves, and they’ll be the only ones allowed to handle the food.

So somebody will point out which tomato they want, the gloved hand will pick it up, put it in a plastic bag and then a second person for the individual vendor will actually collect the money. 

The farmers market bought 3,000 gloves and a hundred masks for vendors. Caudron says they’ve also added more handwashing and hand sanitizer stations throughout the market.

Truckers on I29 just outside of Sioux City received some special attention today.

The Siouxland Chamber of Commerce and Great West Casualty Corporation teamed up to say thank you to the truckers.

The truckers received a free  meal, along with sanitary wipes, and hand sanitizer.

The Iowa Department of Transportation allowed the handouts at weigh station from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

COURT UPDATE:

Sentencing for the man convicted of killing a South Dakota woman in 2018 has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Joseph Lloyd James, of Norfolk, Nebraska was initially scheduled to be sentenced next week for killing Phyllis Hunhoff in 2018.

James earlier pleaded guilty to in federal court to kidnapping, and killing the 59-year-old  from Yankton.

Sentencing is now scheduled for late June in Omaha.