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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 11.9.20: New NE Retrictions, Harrison County Mandate, Casino Concerns and More

Nebraska Department of Human Services

SPM NEWS 11.9.20 - 5:32PM

Today, Nebraska’s governor announced additional measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but he still rejects the idea of a statewide mask mandate.

Governor Pete Ricketts says masks must be worn at businesses when people are in close contact for at least 15 minutes.  There must be 6 feet of distance at gyms, bars, restaurants and churches, unless you are part of a household.  Indoor gathers will be reduced from 50 to 25%. And, only family and people in the same household can attend youth extracurricular events.  The new rules start at midnight on Wednesday and will run through the end of the month.

And, for people attending weddings, up to eight can sit at a table.  However, dancing is allowed only if people remain at their table.

At bars, masks will be required when people aren’t drinking or eating. The state set another record Sunday when 794 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, a more than doubling of virus-related hospitalizations in three weeks.

Nebraska, also saw 29 deaths almost 6,000 new positive tests from Thursday to Sunday night.

The number of people hospitalized in Iowa due to COVID-19 continues to set new records.  There are 81 being treated at Sioux City’s two facilities with 58 battling the disease only.

Since Friday, there have been 30 deaths and more than 13,500 new cases in Iowa. Today, there are three additional deaths for a death toll during the pandemic of 1,845 recorded Monday morning. 

Credit Siouxland District Health Department

The Siouxland District Health Department that oversees Woodbury County says 100 cases were added in the past 24-hours.  A post on social media says, It is extremely important that everyone do their part to help prevent the spread by: staying home when sick or if you have had close contact with a COVID-19 case; physical distancing; wearing masks in public; and washing hands frequently.”

Eight-two of Iowa’s 99 counties now have a two-week test positivity rate of more than 15%.  Jones County in the east central part of the state tops the list with almost 43%. Plymouth County has the highest level in Siouxland with almost 30%.  Woodbury County’s rolling rate was 21.4% at noon.

Starting today, people in Harrison County are expected to comply with the county’s face mask mandate. 

The western Iowa county’s regulation says people need to wear a mask in public and indoors, like in a grocery store, a pharmacy or a school.

The mandate technically went into effect last Wednesday when it was published in local newspapers, but Harrison County’s public health administrator said the county wanted to give people time to adjust.

Harrison County’s 2-week infection rate is above 22 percent. The county’s regulation will expire when it sees a positivity rate under 10 percent for 14 consecutive days.

After 30 days, the county’s board of health and board of supervisors could decide whether or not renew it.

The Des Moines school district has requested a waiver to move completely to online learning as state figures show coronavirus infections and hospitalizations remain high. The Des Moines school board approved the waiver late Sunday. It's up to the state Department of Education to grant a waiver. Superintendent Tom Ahart notes Polk County’s average virus positivity rate has topped a state-mandated 15% threshold for districts seeking to shift to online instruction. The state on Monday reported 4,212 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. Three more people have died, bringing the state's virus death toll to 1,845. A record 1,034 virus patients are being treated in hospitals.

State officials say more than 250 inmates at the North Central Correctional Facility tested positive for COVID-19.

254 of the 400 inmates at the prison in Rockwell City test positive for a positivity rate of more than 63%.  Four staff members also tested positive.

More cases of coronavirus are being reported among Nebraska prison system staffers. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said in a news release Sunday night that five staff members had tested positive — one each at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, the Community Corrections Center in Omaha, and the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center and the department's central office, all in Lincoln. The latest cases bring the number of Nebraska prison staffers infected since the outbreak began to 230. Of those, 175 have since recovered.

In three days, South Dakota logged 27 more deaths and more than 3,200 new cases.  

More than 100 South Dakota residents have died of complications due to the coronavirus in the first eight days of November. The Department of Health confirmed 13 deaths in the last day, for a total of 111 this month and 536 since the start of the pandemic. The COVID Tracking Project says the overall death count is the 24th highest per capita in the country in the last two weeks. The state on Sunday reported 1,426 positive tests for COVID-19. South Dakota ranks second in the country behind North Dakota in the number of new cases per capita in the last two weeks. The top five counties with the most cases per capita in that time are Bon Homme, Dewey, Buffalo, Potter and Sanborn.

The Trump administration has tried to erect a protective shield around nursing homes, but coronavirus cases are surging within facilities in states hard hit by the latest wave of COVID-19. An analysis of federal data from 20 states for The Associated Press finds that new weekly cases among residents rose nearly four-fold from the end of May to late October, from about 1,100 to nearly 4,300. Resident deaths more than doubled, from 318 a week to 699. That's according to University of Chicago health researchers. The administration says nursing home outbreaks involve complex dynamics and the government has provided billions of dollars to help nursing homes as well as thousands of fast-test machines.

Republicans in the Iowa House have re-elected their top leaders as the party prepares to take an expanded majority into the next legislative session.

Representative Pat Grassley of New Hartford was re-elected as House Speaker. Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley will return as Majority Leader.

In a statement, Grassley said House Republicans will take a conservative approach to the state budget while also working on issues such as workforce, child care and broadband.

After gaining seats in the election, Republicans will hold a 59-41 majority in the Iowa House.

Iowa casino officials worry they will lose business when several Nebraska casinos open now that voters in that state have approved gambling. Iowa officials said they worry that when casinos are built in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, they could hurt Iowa gaming revenues, especially in Council Bluffs, where four casinos currently operate. Other Iowa border towns with casinos include Sioux City, Onawa and Sloan. The president of the Iowa Gaming Association said the development of casinos in Nebraska could be another blow to Iowa casinos already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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