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NEWS 12.16.20: IA Easing C-19 Restrictions, Vaccine and Hospital Update, Tyson Firings and More

Iowa PBS

SPM NEWS 12.16.20 - 4:32PM

Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced she is easing some restrictions in response to the decreasing number of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Though these rates are still far higher than the first peak in the spring.

Reynolds said beginning tomorrow restaurants can go back to their normal hours and limitations on gatherings will be lifted.

Additionally, the number of spectators allowed at high school youth and adult sporting events has been increased to include all members of the participant’s household.

Reynolds said she will add new restrictions if numbers start increasing again.
The new proclamation still includes the partial indoor mask mandate. It will continue through January 8.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 14 more Iowans have died of COVID-19 complications in the past 24 hours, there were almost 2,000 new cases reported, including 51 in Woodbury County.

The positivity rate is a bit lower once again for Dakota County at more than 4%.  There were 10 more positive cases today and 52 deaths.

Sioux City’s two hospitals are treating 60 patients with COVID-19.  Seventy-percent are battling the illness alone.  The rate was in the triple digits just two weeks ago.

Tyson Foods says it has fired seven top managers at its largest pork plant after an independent investigation into allegations that they bet on how many workers would test positive for the coronavirus. The company said the investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed troubling behavior that resulted in the firings at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Tyson Foods President and CEO Dean Banks says the "behavior exhibited by these individuals does not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action.”

A panel of experts that will help decide which groups get the coronavirus vaccine first in Iowa has been holding closed meetings, circumventing the state open meetings law. The Iowa Department of Public Health convened the Infectious Disease Advisory Council to develop recommendations on how to use the vaccine when supplies are limited in the coming weeks. The panel will recommend which groups of health care workers, essential workers and people at risk for severe COVID-19 illness should be considered higher priorities than others. Department interim director Kelly Garcia says she does not believe the council is bound by the open meetings law. She says she wants the group to have a “free flow of conversation” outside public scrutiny.

More than 100 Nebraska hospitals and health facilities are expected to receive a new coronavirus vaccine next week.

However, the state won’t be getting as many overall doses as initially projected this month because of shipping delays. Officials say the state will get 32,400 doses of the vaccine from Moderna, assuming that the company’s drug wins federal approval on Thursday.

Those doses will go to 112 Nebraska hospitals, health centers and health departments, including many in rural areas. The first 15,600 doses from drug manufacturer Pfizer arrived in Nebraska this week. A second Pfizer shipment set for next week has been postponed.

At a news conference on Monday in Sioux City, local health officials expect to receive around 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for front-line health care workers in the next few days.  The Vice President of Medical Operations at Unity-Point Health St. Luke’s expected to receive his vaccine next week. He says even though hospitalizations are down in Sioux City, medical staff in the ER are still seeing high volumes of COVID-19 patients.

The Sioux Falls City Council has extended the city’s mask mandate to the middle of March, following an hour of testimony from citizens who were mostly opposed to the move. The ordinance is identical to the one passed on Nov. 17, with no penalty for violating it. It was due to expire on Jan. 1. State health officials on Wednesday reported 39 new deaths due to complications from COVID-19, increasing the total fatalities to 1,300. The state reported 904 new cases, lifting the total to 92,603. Officials said that 405 doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been administered as of Tuesday.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says he’s confident he didn't commit a crime when he struck and killed a man as he drove along a dark highway in September. It’s the first time Ravnsborg has talked publicly about the crash that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever along Highway 14 near Highmore, although he previously issued a statement. An investigation into the fatality is ongoing. Investigators are working with the Hyde County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges are warranted. Ravnsborg spoke to reporters this week.

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