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News 5.21.20: Reopening Nebraska, Test Iowa for All and Sioux City Shooting and Robbery

Associated Press

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts plans to ease more restrictions for public gatherings for a majority of the state on June 1st.

The move does not include Dakota County a spot impacted by an outbreak at the Tyson Foods plant in Dakota City.

Nebraska will let bars, zoos, movie theaters and swimming pools reopen and allow small concerts and auctions to resume.

Ricketts says  he’s trying to strike a balance between public health and the need to move back toward normal life as people grow restless.

Ricketts made the announcement as state officials reported six more deaths and 276 new cases as of Wednesday night, bringing the statewide totals to 138 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported one of the deadliest 24 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic as the Governor eases more restrictions on Friday.

There were 19 more deaths released on Thursday at 10 a.m. for a total of 400 people. 

Siouxland District Health Reports three more deaths due to complications of COVID-19; two older men between the ages of 61 and 80 and one middle-aged man.  There have been a total of 25 deaths in Woodbury County. There were 55 new cases reported on Thursday for a total of more than 2,400.

Dakota County reports 3 new cases for a total of almost 1,600 cases.  Deaths stayed steady at 15 people.

Governor Kim Reynolds says the state will expand the TestIowa program so that anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19 can be. She said the criteria used to schedule a test would will be updated by the end of the day.

Up to now, the program gave priority to essential workers, but Reynolds says broader test access will help more businesses decide when to reopen.

“As we start to open things up and get Iowans back in the workforce this allows us to provide that opportunity to them as well as the various businesses as well.”

Reynolds says 200,000 tests are available. Anyone who wants to be tested must fill out the assessment form at TestIowa.com. Even people who have filled it out before must do it again to qualify for scheduling.

There are currently eight TestIowa sites across the state including Western Iowa Tech Community in College in Sioux City, Storm Lake and Denison.

Iowa Workforce Development reports 13,040 more workers filed new unemployment claims last week, including people who work in Iowa but live outside the state.

Manufacturing was the industry with the largest number of claims, more than 4,000. Self-employed and health care workers were also near the top of the list.

After increasing for seven consecutive weeks, the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits fell slightly to just over 187,000.

Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were closed by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them.

That is fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees’ lives at risk.

Extensive guidance issued last month by OSHA and the CDC calls for the companies to put in physical barriers, enforce social distancing and install more hand-sanitizing stations, among other steps.

But the guidance is not mandatory.

OSHA’s general guidance plainly says the recommendations are advisory and not a regulation or a new legal obligation.

Sioux City Police investigating a robbery and shooting this morning in the Greenville neighborhood.  It happened around 6:30 in the morning  near 1st Street and Linn a couple blocks north of Gordon Drive.  The victim says he was in a car with another person he knows when that person showed a gun and demanded money  The victim was shot during the incident and went to MercyOne with non-life threatening injuries.

Extra News Stories from the Associated Press:

A new survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states inched upward in May from April's record low, but still remained profoundly low as efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the rural economy. The overall index for the region rose slightly to 12.5 from April's record low of 12.1. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says nearly three of every four bankers surveyed reported restructuring farm loans to deal with weak farm income. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

A Nebraska lawmaker who’s worried about the spread of the coronavirus is calling for a legislative rule change that would allow state senators to vote on bills remotely when this year’s session resumes on July 20. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, of Lincoln, sent a memo to her fellow lawmakers arguing for the change. Legislative leaders have said the Nebraska Constitution requires state lawmakers to vote in-person. Pansing Brooks made a similar argument in March, just before lawmakers briefly reconvened to approve emergency state funding to fight the coronavirus.

Nebraska's governor says he's “very pleased” with a coronavirus testing program established by out-of-state contractors. Gov. Pete Ricketts' words of confidence in TestNebraska came Wednesday despite uncertainty that the program will meet a goal of 3,000 tests per day by the month’s end. Nebraska announced the $27 million, no-bid contract with Utah-based Nomi Health and other firms on April 21. The state's chief medical officer says Nebraska tested 1,197 people on Tuesday. Ricketts says the problem stems in part from residents who qualify for a test after filling out an online questionnaire, but don’t show up as scheduled.

Six more residents have died from the coronavirus in Nebraska and the state confirmed another 276 cases as of Wednesday. The new numbers bring the total number of deaths statewide to 138 and the number of confirmed cases to 11,122. Nearly 75,900 people have been tested. The number of new patients has been trending downward since a peak of 677 new cases on May 7, but public health officials say it’s precautions such as social distancing remain vital. Nebraska’s hospital capacity for treating patients with the virus is fairly stable.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday she is appealing to President Donald Trump’s administration in her standoff with two American Indian tribes over coronavirus checkpoints they set up on federal and state highways. Noem says she sent affidavits and video to the White House, the Department of Justice, the Interior Department and her state’s congressional delegation, asking for help resolving the dispute. The tribes set up the checkpoints last month to keep unnecessary visitors off the reservations. Earlier this month, Noem threatened to sue the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe if they did not remove highway stops within 48 hours. She backed away from that plan last week, offering to negotiate if they would take them off of U.S. and state highways.