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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 7.7.20: Special Election Confusion, Major PPP Loan Recipients, Sioux City Fireworks and More

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Siouxland Public Media News, July 7, 2020 - 4:32 p.m.

Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill reports confusion at the polls today in a Special Election to fill an opening on the Board of Supervisors.

Gill says as of 11 this morning, 184 people cast their ballots in person at a total of 7 polling spots in District 2.  However, almost the same amount of people have showed up to vote, forgetting they already filled out an absentee ballot for the same election.

The Special Election was originally set for April 14th and Gill says more than 10,000 people requested absentee ballots and more than 8,000 were returned over the next several weeks.

Secretary of State Paul Pate then moved the election to July 7th because of the COVID-19 concerns.  Gill says he told Pate not to move the election because he felt it would cause massive voter confusion because of the primary in June.

Gill says phones have been ringing off the hook at his office as precinct election officials have been calling as voters arrived to the polls discovered they already cast absentee ballots. 

Voter have been offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot.  However, the provisional ballot will not be counted if there is already an absentee ballot counted.

Gill says keeping the integrity of elections in Woodbury County is of the utmost importance so he encourages voters to come to the auditor’s office to view their affidavit envelopes for their absentee ballots.  He says some voters have already done that.

Polls close tonight at 9.  On the ballot are Democrat Tim Kacena and Republican Justin Wright.

Health officials in Dakota County report one more death due to complications of COVID-19 for a total of 38.  There were four new confirmed cases for almost 1,800.  In Woodbury County, there were three new cases and no new deaths for a total of 44 deaths and 3,259 positive cases.

Governor Kim Reynolds says the increase in coronavirus cases among younger Iowans is concerning. She says even if they don’t get severely ill, they can put more vulnerable people at risk.

That’s after Reynolds has repeatedly said 80% of COVID-19 cases are, quote, “mild,” and older Iowans or those with underlying health conditions need to stay home.

She’s urging all Iowans to take public health precautions to protect themselves and others as the state’s daily confirmed cases are increasing.

“People have been locked down, they’re ready to get outside they’re ready to get together with friends and family. I don’t think it’s entirely surprising that we’ve seen a little bit of an uptick, so now we need to dig into the details we need to figure out why and then talk about maybe what we can do.”

Reynolds hinted at bars being a potential driver of increasing infections, and says she may consider putting some restrictions back in place.

Today, Gov. Kim Reynolds also announced that $50,000,000 in federal funds allocated through the CARES Act will be invested in Iowa’s mental health care system. Watch Governor Reynolds’ announcement on Facebook here

The federal government says about 6,000 Iowa businesses received loans of $150,000 or more from the Paycheck Protection Program, requiring them to list their business names and addresses. The list released this week by the Treasury Department also includes churches, manufacturers, car dealerships, farm-related organizations and hospitals.

Siouxland Public Media took a look at the PPP database and found that one Sioux City business received a loan of between $5 and $10 million.  That was Thompson Electric Company.  The money was used to support 317 employees.  Entities receiving between $2 to $5 million include Aventure Capital LLC, Family Health Care P.L.C., Palmer and Company, Premiere Services INC, SCE Partners LLC (affiliated with the Hard Rock), Sioux City Foundry Company, Sioux City Truck Sales INC, State Steel Supply Co. and Tip Top Tux LLC.  Sixteen Sioux City businesses and nonprofits received $1 to $2 million.  Several medical facilities in counties all across Siouxland also received PPP money.

* State Steel is an underwriter of Siouxland Public Media.  A co-owner says the money helped employees at operations in multiple cities.

Nebraskans who lost their jobs will once again have to actively look for new employment to maintain their benefits. State officials say they plan to resume Gov. Pete Ricketts’ reemployment program starting July 12. Ricketts suspended the requirements on March 15 as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close and lay off workers, leading to a surge in unemployment. At its peak in early April, Nebraska had 26,539 new jobless claims in one week. Nebraska’s unemployment rate more than doubled to 8.4% in April, compared to the prior month. But the state’s unemployment rate has stayed well below the national average.

Sioux City Police responded to 79 complaints related to fireworks and the city ordinance over the holiday weekend. State law has allowed the sale and use of fireworks since 2017, and cities can set their own rules.

Sioux City allows people to discharge fireworks from private property for a limited time on 4 days each year - including the 3rd and 4th of July. Some police officers are assigned to actively look for fireworks violations. But Lieutenant Chris Groves says it can be a tough ordinance to enforce.

"Somebody calls and says that ‘Citizen X is lighting these fireworks off in the street’ and when we get there, they’re not on the street. Maybe they’re in their driveway or on their own property. Essentially they weren’t out on the street, and there may even be remnants of fireworks in the street. But I can’t prove necessarily it was them or anybody else."

A Sioux City councilman says the city may need to look at the ordinance in the future and analyze whether or not it’s enforceable and how they can improve it.