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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 6.11.20: C19 Update, Tyson Plant Death, Absentee Ballot Reaction and IA Budget Battle

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SPM NEWS 6.11.20 - 4:32PM
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One more person has died in the Sioux City metro area due to complications of COVID-19.  However, Dakota County Health Officials aren’t releasing any information about the person’s age or gender.

There have been a total of 69 deaths total in Dakota and Woodbury counties and almost 4,700 positive cases.  There were 10 new cases in Dakota and six in Woodbury reported on Thursday.   

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 10 more deaths due to COVID-19 and more than 330 new cases in a 24-hour period.  There have been 639 deaths and almost 22,900 positive cases.

A longtime employee of Tyson Foods in Storm Lake has died of coronavirus as an outbreak centering around the pork processing plant devastates the region.

An attorney representing his estate says 60-year-old Ken Jones died last week after spending about two weeks in a hospital.

Jones, a resident of Alta, was a maintenance employee who worked at the plant for 12 years.

He leaves behind a wife and two children, one adult and one 9-year-old.

Tyson announced last week that 591 employees at the Storm Lake plant have tested positive for the virus out of more than 2,300 who were tested.   There have been four deaths in Buena Vista County and almost 1,400 positive cases (1,392).

One more person has died from COVID-19 in South Dakota, and 81 more people have confirmed cases. The state has seen a total of 69 people die from COVID-19.  The total number of COVID-19 cases in the state stands at more than 5,600 (5,604).

The last report from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported a total of 195 deaths and more than 16,000 (16,025) confirmed cases of COVID-19.

At least five soldiers and one police officer who helped with crowd control at recent protests in Omaha and Lincoln have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Nearly 600 members of the Nebraska National Guard were assigned to assist law enforcement agencies beginning May 31 following protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

The National Guard said earlier this week it would test all personnel who were on duty at the protests after two members tested positive. The National Guard said Tuesday that five soldiers in total have tested positive. The Lincoln Police Department says one officer is also infected

The Iowa secretary of state would not be allowed to send applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters under a bill passed Wednesday by Republicans in the Iowa Senate.

Typically, voters have to request a mail-in ballot application or find it online. For the June 2 primary election, Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate decided to send mail-in ballot request forms to all registered voters to promote voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

Iowa ended up setting a new record for primary election turnout in the state.

Republican U-S Senator Joni Ernst weighed in on legislation in the state legislature that would prevent Iowa’s Secretary of State from sending applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate did that for the primary earlier this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Iowa had a record turnout.

“I, in light of COVID-19, don’t have a problem with what Secretary Pate did. I am very hopeful that by the fall that we can return to operations as normal.”

Senator Ernst said on a call with Iowa reporters today (Thursday) that any voter should be able to request an absentee ballot. Ernst is on the ballot in November. Her Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield, says the bill passed by the State Senate is unacceptable and wrong.

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives are proposing a mostly status quo budget for the next fiscal year. Their proposal gives broad budget guidelines and directs the department of management to determine the details of how state and federal taxpayer dollars are spent.

Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City is the top Democrat on the House budgeting committee. He says that approach is a problem.

“In 16 pages the legislature is entirely abdicating its responsibility to make a budget and it is allowing for the governor’s office and executive branch to have an unheard of amount of authority whether we are in emergency times or not.”

Republicans say they’re not giving up their budgeting responsibilities, and that this approach makes sense amid the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. The House still has to work out a budget deal with the Senate.

Iowa Workforce Development reported Thursday that more than 10,000 (10,112) people filed initial claims in the week ending June 6.

That's compares with more than 6,900 (6,920) people who filed in the previous week.

There were almost 16,000 (159,966) continuing weekly unemployment claims last week.

The largest number of claims came from people employed in manufacturing. Nationally, nearly 1.5 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau says the state potentially faces nearly $3.7 billion in agricultural losses from the coronavirus pandemic if economic conditions do not improve.

This number does not account for any financial assistance farmers and ranchers receive from COVID-19 relief programs. A senior economist with Nebraska Farm Bureau says  the analysis “clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the financial challenges currently facing farm and ranch families."  He says that impact could be felt across the broader rural economy. 

Meat production has rebounded from its low point during the coronavirus pandemic when dozens of plants were closed, but experts say consumer prices are likely to remain high.

They also say it will take months to work through the backlog of millions of pigs and cattle that was created this spring, creating headaches for producers.

The U.S. Agriculture Department says beef, pork and poultry plants were operating at more than 95% of last year's levels earlier this week.

That was up from about 60% in April at the height of plant closures and slowdowns at the height of the plant closures and slowdowns.

Marijuana legalization advocates have kicked off their campaign to convince South Dakota voters to vote to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in the November general election.

South Dakota, where marijuana is currently illegal, would be the first state to approve both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time if voters pass a pair of initiatives on the November ballot.

Marijuana advocates started their campaign by touting the support of a former U.S. attorney for South Dakota and a former staffer for a Republican president and senator. But they will likely have to overcome the opposition of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

The organizers of the Woodbury County Fair say they are tentatively planning to have a 4-H Fair and details are still being discussed.  They released a statement saying they are saddened to hear Wednesday’s news of the Iowa State’s Fair decision to postpone this year’s fair, however, they understand the decision.  Woodbury County hasn’t decided if fair favorites, such as the carnival and venders will be part of the 2020 fair.

The Iowa State Fair is the biggest attraction in the state drawing more than 1 million visitors who check out the butter cow. Savor all kinds of food on a stick and stroll through 445 acres of barns and attractions.  Fairs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana have also cancelled their events this year.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported the first sustained reduction in new cases of HIV since reported started in 1998.

New diagnosis fell in most categories by about one-third during the past three years.

Officials say this trends shows the value of early testing and access to good health care.

The North High Basketball Team received a statewide award for work helping raise awareness about food insecurity. The Sioux City team competed against 150 others for the Iowa Pride Challenge. The initiative recognizes schools for community service projects. Only five received the honor in Iowa. North High's service project called "Everyone Eats" included a can food drive where students handed out information about food insecurity and to help the hungry locally. The canned food items the players collected were donated to the school's food pantry. North High received an award of $500 for their efforts to help the community.