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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 11.5.20: IA and NE Governor Concerns, King Snubs Feenstra and More

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Associated Press
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SPM NEWS 11.5.20 - 5:30PM

Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced plans for a new public service campaign as cases continue to climb.  She says Iowans need to made an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 during the next three weeks. 

Reynolds also says the success of Republican candidates in the general election was proof that most Iowans support her decision to not require masks and quickly end most restrictions on businesses.

Reynolds says the media campaign would begin next week and would include newspaper, television and radio advertising.

Reynolds was joined by Des Moines leaders of Unity-Point Health and MercyOne who say they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to continue to care for patients but are concerned about their staff.  This week Governor Reynolds approved $25 million in CARES Act funding for medical facilities in the state.

New daily confirmed coronavirus cases in Iowa skyrocketed to more than 4,500 as the number of people being treated in hospitals also continued to climb.  There were 20 more deaths, including one more in Woodbury County for a total of 102 and 100 new cases.

The current 14-day test positivity rate in Woodbury County is 20.6%.  Anything above the 15% threshold is one criteria needed for a school district to move to on-line learning only.  A 10% absentee rate is also needed.  A spokesperson for the Sioux City Community School District says that level hasn’t been reached yet.  The topic will likely be brought up at the next school board meeting on Monday night.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 26% on Oct. 21 to over 39% on Nov., according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Iowa’s rate is second in the nation behind South Dakota. State data shows 839 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, a new high that is expected to increase in the coming days.

The newest White House Coronavirus Task Force report has found Iowa continues to see increases in new COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates.

99 percent of counties have moderate to high levels of community spread.

The report recommends the state change its strategy to increase asymptomatic testing. It says the state’s testing results currently indicate there is minimal asymptomatic testing.

It also says Iowans should not gather with people outside their immediate household until cases and positivity rates significantly drop. And that Iowans should always wear a mask in public spaces.

More than one million Iowans have been tested for the coronavirus. Governor Reynolds says she is confident there will be enough tests as we heard into the winter months.

More Iowans applied for initial unemployment benefits last week. However, the total number receiving benefits continues to drop.  Iowa Workforce Development today reported almost new 5,000 claims were filed between October 25th through Halloween. 

The first week of November has produced bleak results for cases in South Dakota. State health officials say the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the last day reached a record high of 22.

That increased the state’s death toll in the first five days of November to 57.

The state has recorded 482 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Johns Hopkins University researchers say that South Dakota ranks second in the country behind North Dakota for new cases per capita over the past two weeks.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is imploring residents to follow Nebraska’s voluntary coronavirus safety guidelines as the number of new cases and hospitalizations surge to record levels. He also suggests that the state could reimpose social distancing mandates that were lifted in September. His comments Thursday came as the state’s top public health official warned that Nebraska needs to reduce the number of cases to avoid overwhelming hospitals. Nebraska reported a record 1,828 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The number of daily hospitalizations soared to a high of 698 the same day, following a week of exponential growth.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to set records in Nebraska with almost 700 patients.  There were more than 1,800 positive cases reported in one day and 9 additional deaths.  Nebraska's largest hospitals have all begun limiting elective surgeries to help ensure they have enough beds free to treat critically ill patients.

U.S. voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a surprising twist. In places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support. An Associated Press analysis reveals that in 376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas. Health officials across the nation are facing record numbers of new coronavirus cases. They are taking note of the chasm in public sentiment and thinking about how to reframe their messages.

President Trump received more than 70% of the votes cast on Election Day in Iowa, easily overcoming Joe Biden’s substantial lead among those who voted early. Unofficial results show Trump captured Iowa’s six electoral votes by winning more than 53% of the vote, defeating Joe Biden by about 138,700 votes. A record number of people voted early in person and through the mail. Those voters heavily favored Biden. Trump entered Election Day facing a deficit of 161,000 votes but ended up picking up about 300,000. Only 704,000 votes were cast at polling places Tuesday, a 230,000 decrease from 2016 as voters embraced other voting options.

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Credit Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP
People wait in line to cast their ballot in the general election on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Tiffin, Iowa.

County auditors in Iowa are continuing to process late-arriving absentee ballots, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. Under state law, those votes can be counted up until Monday November 9th at noon.

The outstanding mail-in ballots could be decisive in some of the state’s closest contests, like the race for the 2nd Congressional District between Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Democrat Rita Hart. Preliminary results show a margin of just 282 votes.

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Credit Twitter/Steve King

One Republican lawmaker didn’t support incoming member of Congress Randy Feenstra.  That’s Representative Steve King who lost in a primary race to him back in June.  On Twitter Election, Day King wrote: "I enthusiastically voted for Trump first thing this morning but I couldn’t get my hand to fill in the oval for the Republican nominee for Congress."

The amount of water being released into the Missouri River from a key dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will be reduced later this month. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that the amount of water flowing out of Gavins Point Dam will be reduced starting on Nov. 22 by about 3,000 cubic feet per second each day until reaching a winter release rate of about 17,000 cubic feet per second. That’s down significantly from the reduction seen a year earlier, after heavy rain and snow melt in the spring of 2019 sent the river to record levels and flooded parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the murder conviction of a man serving life in prison for the 2017 death of his infant son, who was found dead in a maggot-infested baby swing. Station WHO-TV reports that the appeals court on Wednesday rejected 31-year-old Zachary Koehn's appeal of his first-degree murder and child endangerment convictions. Koehn had argued the convictions should be vacated because, among other things, there was insufficient evidence to convict his and that the jury was given incorrect instructions. Officials have said Koehn’s son, Sterling, was found dead in his parents’ Alta Vista apartment and that he had been in the same diaper for up to two weeks.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety says two people have died in a collision between a minivan and a side-by-side utility vehicle in Bon Homme County. Officials say the drivers of both vehicles were killed in the crash on Highway 46 north of Tyndall Wednesday afternoon. The Highway Patrol says the utility vehicle was turning into a driveway when it was struck by the minivan. Both vehicles rolled into the ditch. Both the 57-year-old man driving the side-by-side and the 69-year-old man driving the minivan were pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities say neither man was wearing a seat belt.  

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