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NEWS 11.30.20: Record Hospitalizations, NE Restrictions Extended, School Boundaries and 185th Honor


The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Sioux City’s two major medical facilities reached an all-time high on Monday. 

MercyOne and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s are caring for a combined 102 patients, with 72 battling COVID-19 only.  The previous high was in late May when patient levels reached the mid 90s. 

Credit Siouxland District Health Department

Hospitalizations continued to fall in other parts of Iowa.  However, some health care officials are expressing concern that they may rise again if Thanksgiving gatherings caused additional virus spread as expected.

Iowa coronavirus deaths continued to increase in the past two weeks as the state ends November with 687 deaths.

That’s a 34% increase from October.

Iowa reported 28 additional deaths on Monday, pushing the state total to more than 2,400, with 130 in Woodbury County. 

Siouxland District Health reported four more deaths in a 24-hour period, including a middle-aged man. 

There were 44 new cases, for more than 10,000 since the start of the pandemic.

There were 1,200 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

There are more than 150 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the state, with 20 in northwest Iowa. Three nursing homes in Woodbury County are impacted; Countryside Health Care Center, Holy Spirit Retirement Home and Accura Healthcare of Sioux City. 

Countryside put a post on Facebook that they closed their COVID-unit and resident are back in their rooms. A total of 24 residents tested positive for the virus, 18 recovered, but six died.  

Credit Facebook/Countryside

When it comes to positivity rates that shows the level of community spread,  87 of Iowa’s 99 counties are above a 14-day test positivity rate of 15%.  Woodbury County is down to 19% from 22% a week ago, according to information from the state of Iowa coronavirus website.

The test positivity rate in Dakota County is almost 22%.  The local health department also recorded 81 new cases from Thanksgiving to today for more than 3,200 cases in all and 50 deaths.

Credit Dakota County Health Department

Gov. Pete Ricketts is extending Nebraska’s current coronavirus restrictions through December as the number of residents hospitalized with the virus dipped below 900 for the first time in more than two weeks.

The current restrictions require masks in certain businesses, such as salons and tattoo parlors, where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance between people.

They had been set to expire Monday. Despite the decline in hospitalizations, hospitals remained strained across the state.

Ricketts has faced growing pressure to impose a statewide mask mandate but has refused to do so, arguing that mandates breed resentment and may face resistance.

More employees of the Nebraska prison system have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said in a statement Saturday night that four staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. Two of those work at the Omaha Correctional Center, one works at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution and one works at the department’s central office. The latest cases bring the number of Nebraska prison staffers infected since the pandemic began to 325. Of those, 228 have recovered. The department also said Friday that 677 inmates have tested positive for the virus and four have died. Officials said 312 of them have recovered.

South Dakota reported three more COVID-19 deaths as the state marked the end of its deadliest month of the pandemic to date.

Health officials reported 521 deaths in November, more than all other months of the pandemic combined. The total death toll from the virus is currently at 946.

During November, South Dakota had the nation’s highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita, with Johns Hopkins researchers tracking 59 per 100,000 people.

The state has the nation’s ninth-highest rate of death over the course of the entire pandemic.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator and third in the line of presidential 

In this Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, listens during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator, says he is quarantining after being exposed to the coronavirus. Grassley is 87. He did not say how he was exposed
Credit Associated Press

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succession, is back in the Senate on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus two weeks ago. Grassley, 87, isolated after finding out he had been exposed to the virus and tested positive shortly after that. He said in a statement that he never had any symptoms and had been cleared to return to the office by his doctors.


Iowa officials have certified a Republican candidate as a 

Credit Associated Press

six-vote winner for an open seat in the U.S. House, in what is shaping up to be the closest congressional election in decades. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks finished ahead of Democrat Rita Hart in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District after a recount saw her 47-vote lead steadily dwindle to single digits. The state Board of Canvass voted Monday afternoon to certify Miller-Meeks as the winner over Hart by a final count of 196,964 to 196,958. The board also certified President Donald Trump as the winner of the state’s six electoral votes.

Tonight, parents can get a more detailed look at potential boundary changes for the Sioux City Community School District.

A live virtual meeting for staff and families will be held at 6 p.m. You can find a link here
The school district is looking for feedback for the three proposed boundary changes for the middle and high schools.

Any potential changes would go into effect no sooner than July 1st of next year and would first need approval by the Sioux City School Board.

Credit 185th/Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing leaves a trail of jet wash as it takes off from the Sioux City, Iowa, based Air Guard unit on Sept. 17, 2020.

Sioux City’s 185th Air Refueling Wing is flying high with a national award. The unit was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for work done in 2019 including humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico and support after the derecho windstorm.  Members of the 185th helped clean up debris in the Cedar Rapids area and manned TestIowa COVID-19 test sites.

News release from the 185th Air Refueling Wing:

The Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing has been awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its efforts during 2019.
The award is earned for exceptionally meritorious service to the United States Air Force.
Col. Mark Mucky, commander of the unit, said every member of the 185th earned the honor.
"This award is a direct reflection of the professionalism of our unit membership and an affirmation of the high quality of work they do every day," Mucky said.
The citation mentions the unit's high operations tempo during 2019, which included thousands of flying hours. The award cited the unit's 100% manning that allows the organization to operate at full strength. Also mentioned was the wing's community involvement initiatives like the boss lift program that allowed hundreds of civilian employers to fly with the unit and witness an inflight refueling.
Other items of note included the 185th Medical Group's involvement in humanitarian efforts in 2019 as part of innovative readiness training in Puerto Rico. While training in the island territory for two weeks, medical personal from the wing cared for more than 9,000 patients.
Units that are part of the Sioux City, Iowa, based Air Refueling Wing support the United States Air Force's global mission regularly. That work has not let up in 2020: unit members are currently deployed to Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, providing air refueling support as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region.
The 185th also provides humanitarian support in the event of a state emergency. During 2020, members of the 185th helped clean up debris in Cedar Rapids following a derecho windstorm. Unit members also supported the TestIowa COVID-19 test initiative throughout the spring and summer.
The Air National Guard unit has over 900 full- and part-time members. Their main mission is flying and maintaining the KC-135R Sratotanker midair refueling aircraft, as well as the test and evaluation mission in Fort Dodge.
The Air Force Outstanding Unit award citation mentions subordinate units from the 185th Support Group, Medical Group, Operations and Maintenance Groups in Sioux City and the 133rd Test Squadron in Fort Dodge.

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