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NEWS 12.17.20: Vaccine Delay, 97 More IA C-19 Deaths, Flooding Ruling and More

Associated Press

SPM NEWS 12.17.20 - 5:04PM

It’s unclear why Iowa will receive fewer doses of coronavirus vaccine than initially promised by the federal government.

But the state is moving ahead with plans to relax restrictions beginning Thursday even while reporting nearly 100 additional deaths.

The Iowa Department of Public Health released a statement Wednesday evening saying the state’s allocation would be reduced by up to 30%.

The statement noted distributions were also being lowered to other states. The agency didn’t explain why the allocation would be smaller.

State officials didn’t respond to a question Thursday about the matter.

Iowa reported an additional 97 deaths on Thursday as the state’s death toll increased to 3,451.  More than 262,000 have tested positive for the disease, including 70 more in Woodbury County.  There have been 151 deaths in Woodbury County.  Hospitalizations locally have fallen to 59 after a high in the triple digits two weeks ago.

Forty of Iowa’s 99 counties currently have an average positive rate for the last two weeks over 15%.

Ida County has the highest positivity rate in northwest Iowa at almost 23%.  Woodbury County is down just slightly at 16.4%.  Many other counties are above the 15% threshold except for Sac, O’Brien, Emmet, Palo Alto and Calhoun.  Monona County is the lowest at just under 11%.  However, experts say anything above 5% shows high community spread.

Officials in Nebraskans are encouraging people to consider getting tested for the coronavirus before the holidays if they plan to see extended family.

The state’s chief medical officer says this would add an extra layer of protection for those who plan to gather together.

Nebraska reported more than 1,200 new virus cases and 10 new deaths Wednesday to give the state more than 152,000 cases and 1,448 deaths since the pandemic began.

Over the past two weeks, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased from nearly 1,800 to about 1,200 new cases per day on Wednesday.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem plans to wait her turn to get a coronavirus vaccine, which will likely be sometime early next year.

Her spokesman says the governor “will get the vaccine when it’s readily available, after those who need it the most have been given an opportunity to take it.”

South Dakota received 7,800 Pfizer doses with additional vaccines coming from drug manufacturer Moderna next week.

Front-line healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents are receiving the state’s first doses, while the general public may be vaccinated the spring. 

Hospitals in Iowa are protected to lose $433 million due to the impact of COVID-19.  That’s according to a report with the Iowa Hospital Association by KCRG-TV.   The report shows half of the state’s hospitals were operating at a financial loss at the end of October. 

The estimated total cost of COVID-19 starting in March is $1.25 billion. Relief funding did lower that amount to an estimated $433 million.

The projection doesn’t include other federal or state assistance.

A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is improving in rural parts of the Plains and Western states, including all three  Siouxland States.

But, Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the region still has about 95,000 fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic began, and it will take many months of growth to erase all the job losses.

The overall index for the region improved to 51.6 in December from November’s 46.8. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy while a score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A judge has ruled that the federal government must pay landowners on the lower Missouri River for flooding damage caused by the Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to protect endangered species. Judge Nancy Firestone, with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, ruled this week that the Corps caused increased flooding by changing habitat on the river to comply with the Endangered Species Act. She says that violated constitutional protections against taking property without compensation. The ruling affects property owners from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis, although not all landowners will qualify for payments. The ruling doesn't cover all flood-related damages.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has created a new gaming division to manage the three casinos it hopes to open starting next year. Ho-Chunk, Inc., says it has launched WarHorse Gaming, LLC, to develop the casinos at three state-licensed horse-racing tracks in Omaha, Lincoln and South Sioux City. The corporation has partnered with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a horse racing industry group. The plans are taking shape after voters passed a constitutional amendment last month to repeal Nebraska’s longtime ban on casino gambling. WarHorse managers say they hope to offer expanded gaming in some form in the latter half of 2021, with full casino operations up and running in 2022.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A coalition of Nebraska mayors is calling on state officials to finish a series of highway upgrades that were unveiled in 1988 but never completed because of a lack of funding. The mayor sent a letter to state lawmakers, urging them to make roads a top priority in the 2021 legislative session. They also questioned why Nebraska is one of two states that don't use bonding to finance highway projects. The mayors are pushing for the completion of the Nebraska Expressway System, which was designed to connect the state’s larger cities to one another and the interstate system with four-lane highways. They note that, of the 600 miles of four-lane highways that were promised, nearly one-third are still unfinished.

DENISON, Iowa (AP) — The former manager of a northwest Iowa credit union has pleaded not guilty in a nearly $1.5 million embezzlement scheme. Janine Keim is charged with embezzlement and making false statements. She entered her plea Wednesday in federal court in Sioux City. Prosecutors say Keim and at least one other employee at Consumers Credit Union in Denison embezzled $1.48 million between May 2012 and March 2018. She also allegedly filed false reports to conceal the missing money. The business is now called Cobalt Credit Union. The credit union’s former head teller, Brenda Jensen, of Denison, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in October to embezzlement. 

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