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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 6.19.20: C-19 Update, Hospitalizations Fall, Juneteenth and More


SPM NEWS 6.19.20 - 4:04PM

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported three additional deaths in 24 hours due to COVID-19 for a statewide total of 681 people and almost 400 additional cases.  The current total is almost 25,300 positive cases.

There were almost one dozen new cases of COVID-19 reported in Woodbury and Dakota counties on Friday for a total of 3,052 in Woodbury County and 1,751 in Dakota County.  There have been a total of 75 deaths.  There are still 113 cases in Union County and no deaths.

The state coronavirus website is now tracking more information about fatalities in Iowa and new data shows more than 71% of deaths involved someone who suffered from a preexisting condition.

There are almost 200 Iowans in the hospital being treated for COVID-19 with 60 in intensive care.

The number of patients being cared for in Sioux City’s two hospitals continues to fall.  There are now 32 COVID-19 patients being treated at MercyOne and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s.  In late May, the hospitals saw 95 patients.  In early June there were more than 70.  On Wednesday there were 42 patients at the two facilities.

Nebraska is reporting six new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total statewide to 240 since the pandemic began.

State officials have now confirmed more than 17,400 (17,415) positive cases.

Of the current positive cases, 149 are currently hospitalized. That number has trended downward since late May.

Nebraska has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate in May after taking a big hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.2% last month.

That’s down 3.5 percentage points from the rate of 8.7% in April, when unemployment soared due to coronavirus-related social-distancing restrictions. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was 13.3%, a decrease of 1.4 percentage points. The second-lowest unemployment rate was in Utah, with 8.5% unemployed. Wyoming came in third, with 8.8%.

Iowa’s unemployment rate was 10% in May, down from April but still high as many businesses and organizations curtailed operations due to the coronavirus. Iowa Workforce Development reported Friday that the May unemployment rate was down from 11% in April but was more than triple the 2.7% rate in May 2019.

The director of the agency, noted the number of unemployment claims has declined, indicating more people are returning to work. The number of unemployed Iowa residents dropped from 188,000 in April to 168,100 in May.

A bill Iowa Republican lawmakers passed that would offer broad protection from coronavirus lawsuits for doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, meatpacking plants, restaurants and other businesses was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The measure, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, was vigorously opposed by Democrats, who tried repeatedly to amend it to offer protections for meatpacking plant workers and residents of nursing homes.

Republicans defeated those efforts. Similar efforts to curb what supporters consider frivolous lawsuits are underway in Congress and several other states.

As Iowans continue to grapple with effects of the coronavirus, the state is making free remote counseling available.

Teresa Zilk is a media specialist for the COVID Recovery grant. She says counselors can help Iowans build coping skills as coronavirus-related disruptions continue.

 “There’s just a lot of anxiety about, what’s next? What’s gonna happen next? So many people have been impacted in terms of no longer having employment. Even farmers are having difficulties. You have parents who are home with children more than they were before.”

Spanish language services are available, and counselors can also refer people to other services. All Iowans can seek free confidential counseling at Covid recovery iowa dot-org.

The organizers of RAGBRAI announced a shorter ride for the fall.  A post on Facebook today says cyclists should save the dates of October 2, 3rd and 4th for “The Great Iowa Fall Ride” with the location of Iowa Falls.  More information will be released on Saturday, July 25th which was to be the final day of RAGBRAI.  The annual event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  


The state is making free remote counseling available to Iowans as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Teresa Zilk is a media specialist for the COVID Recovery grant. She says they want to reach Iowans “from all walks of life.” Those who lost their jobs, are now constantly home with their families, people with disabilities, and Iowans struggling with anxiety surrounding all this uncertainty. 

“It’s requiring a different set of coping skills for everybody involved. So we’re there to give them different types of coping skills and strategies to help reduce the sense of loss and stress that they’ve experienced.”

“There’s just a lot of anxiety about, what’s next? What’s gonna happen next? So many people have been impacted in terms of no longer having employment. Even farmers are having difficulties. You have parents who are home with children more than they were before.”

Everyone can qualify for counseling, and Spanish language services are also available. Iowans can get more information at Covid recovery iowa dot-org.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says Iowa is recovering strongly from the coronavirus pandemic and that its economy is set to grow. Her comments Thursday came even as some counties reported spikes in infections. Reynolds says the rate of Iowans testing positive has fallen, hospitalizations are down and 21 long-term care centers are coming off an outbreak list. Iowa has 24,738 positive cases Thursday and 678 deaths. That’s about 500 additional cases since Wednesday and eight more deaths. Reynolds has named several business executives to a recovery advisory board that she says will help chart a course for an economic comeback.

The Des Moines City Council is set to consider a resolution supporting the decriminalization of marijuana in the city. The resolution is on the council's agenda for its meeting Monday and would be the first step toward decriminalizing marijuana in Iowa’s capital city.  If approved, the move would create a six-person task force to study the issue and provide recommendations to the council by Oct. 1. The resolution is sponsored by City Council members Josh Mandelbaum, Connie Boesen, Carl Voss and Joe Gatto. Decriminalizing marijuana in Iowa is among the priorities listed by Black Lives Matter, which is seeking passage of a ban on racial profiling by Des Moines police.

On Monday night, the Sioux City Superintendent of Schools plans to release a draft Return-to-Learn plan for students in the Sioux City Community School District.

Dr. Paul Gausman sent out messages Friday afternoon by phone and email inviting parents to listen in Monday night at 6 p.m. on-line when he presents the plan for the fall to the school board. 

Gausman says extensive work has gone into developing the Return-to-Learn plan through focus groups and surveys.  The Iowa Department of Education would need to approve the district’s plan.

Masks will be required for students, employees and visitors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall, under a policy that took effect yesterday.

All those on campus will be required to cover their faces with masks inside buildings and in some outdoor spaces.

People can remove masks while eating as long as they observe social distancing rules, and they won’t be required for those alone in a room or vehicle, inside their on-campus residence or while working on some research tasks. The mask policy doesn’t apply to Memorial Stadium.

Former Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor told the Sioux City Journal he is considering running for another supervisor seat in November.

Taylor resigned early this year after a residency controversy.  There are three seats on the board up for election and currently Supervisor Marty Pottebaum, a Sioux City Democrat has no opponent in District 3.  Taylor lives in that district.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem proclaimed today as Juneteenth Day in the state to mark the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans

The proclamation does not carry the weight of making the day a state-recognized holiday as it is in most other states.

A spokesman for the governor, says only an act of the Legislature can do that.

Democrats plan propose legislation next session to add Juneteeth to the list of state-recognized holidays.

Communities across Iowa are celebrating Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery in United States. The holiday has gained broader awareness following widespread protests against racism and police violence.

Des Moines hip-hop artist, MarKaus, is an organizer of the annual Iowa Juneteenth Observance which is taking place virtually because of COVID-19.

MarKaus said Juneteenth deserves to be celebrated alongside other national holidays.

“It’s a pinpoint on a time in America where our country grew up and decided to try and attempt to carry itself in a manner that it proclaims to.”

Markaus says there will be no Juneteenth parade in Des Moines tomorrow, so organizers are holding a virtual Neighbor’s Day with musical performances streamed online by D-S-M TV Live.

The Woodbury County Democrats are hosting a Juneteeth event tonight on-line.  Their Affirmative Action Chair Flora Lee is hosting a panel of Iowa leaders to discuss Juneteenth and the issues making headlines today.  Check out the Woodbury County Democrats Facebook page on how you can register for Zoom gathering tonight at seven.


Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.