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NEWS 2.2.21: Vilsack Confirmation Hearing, C-19 Update/Vaccine Concerns, & More

U.S. Senate


Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack facing questions today by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Vilsack who served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama Administration is also the President Biden’s choice for the position.

This morning, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst asked Vilsack his position on biofuels in light of President Biden’s excelleration toward electric vehicles.

Vilsack says there is room for both.

Credit U.S. Senate

Ernst says Vilsack will bring a unique perspective since he is from Iowa and she hopes continues to look out for the interest of farmers and ranchers in Iowa.

Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the ag. committee. He anticipates Vilsack’s confirmation would be a “high priority” on the Senate floor.

"One, it's a non-controversial nominee. And secondly, that he's been approved by the Senate before. That would open the door for it to be done quickly."

Grassley says still there’s a possibility that former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial could stall Vilsack’s full confirmation in the Senate.

However, the Washington Post reports he does face criticism from civil rights groups and Black farmers who say he didn’t go far enough to eradicate long-standing racial discrimination in farming and at the USDA.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Meatpacking companies and public health officials are trying to overcome any reluctance workers may have about coronavirus vaccines before they become eligible to get them. Major companies such as Tyson Foods and JBS are encouraging workers to get the vaccine with campaigns to educate them about the benefits and safety of the shots. Also, JBS and Pilgrim’s Corp. are offering $100 bonuses to workers who get the vaccine. But union officials and worker advocates say some workers, who are largely immigrants, distrust the government and some question the safety of the shots because they were developed in less than a year.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 13 more Iowans have died from COVID-19 in 24 hours with more than 800 additional cases.

There are 390 hospitalized patients with the virus in the state. That’s up by 22 from the previous day, that includes four more at Sioux City’s two hospitals for a total of 25. The 14-test positivity rate for Woodbury County is almost half of the 15% threshold at 7.7%. Siouxland District Health recorded 17 more cases for almost 13,300 in all. There were no new deaths added. Currently, state records show almost 200 deaths in Woodbury County. Recent days showed an increase of 16 deaths. Local health officials say it’s important to remember the deaths did not all occur in the past few says since the CDC reads death certificates to determine whether COVID-19 contributed to each death, and that review process can take several weeks.

Credit Siouxland District Health


Appointments for the first vaccination clinics in Woodbury County filled quickly yesterday. The Sioux City Journal reports health officials first posted information online and contacted medical providers, schools and law enforcement before notifying the media almost 90 minutes later.

Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott expressed concern that older high-risk populations missed out, especially if they don’t have a computer. About 3,000 doses are expected to be distributed at clinics on February 10th and 12th at the Tyson Events Center for people in Phase1B, including people over the age of 65.

A fifth person working at the Iowa Capitol has tested positive for coronavirus. A notification sent out on Tuesday said the individual was last in the building on Thursday and wore a face covering at all times.

Two cases were reported Saturday and Rep. Amy Nielsen of North Liberty confirmed she was one of them. That marks the first known case of an Iowa lawmaker contracting the virus during the session. Nielsen says she believes she was infected at the Capitol where Republican leaders do not require masks.SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The second of three suspects accused of firing shots into a Sioux City home during a New Year's party has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges. Eighteen-year-old Carlos Morales, of Sioux City, entered his plea Monday. Police allege he and two others fired at least 27 shots into a house where 20 to 25 people were partying. Eighteen-year-old Mita Kritis was killed and three others were injured. Morales' brother, 19-year-old Christopher Morales, pleaded not guilty earlier to the same charges. A third suspect, 18-year-old Anthony Bauer, has not entered a plea.

The Nebraska men’s basketball team is emerging from a shutdown because of a 

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COVID-19 outbreak that left coach Fred Hoiberg with a severe case. Hoiberg has had two open heart surgeries and has a pacemaker. He says that caused him to be a little scared. Hoiberg's symptoms included chest pains, body aches, sore throat and fever. Nebraska paused team activities Jan. 11. Hoiberg said he and two assistants, a graduate assistant, nine players and a student manager tested positive. The Huskers are scheduled to play Saturday at Michigan State.

STANTON , Neb. (AP) — A former northeastern Nebraska village clerk who was praised for her work in

Credit Associated Press

helping rebuild her community following a 2014 tornado strike has been sentenced to prison for stealing from the village. The Norfolk Daily News reports that 58-year-old Kimberly Neiman was sentenced Monday to three years in prison. The former Pilger clerk was arrested last year on multiple felony counts. In a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty in November to one count of attempted theft in exchange for all other counts being dropped. Neiman was fired by the village board in February 2019, following a state audit that found more than $562,000 in questionable transactions and more than $156,000 in suspicious charges on the village’s credit card.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A bill making its way through the South Dakota Legislature would limit the time that children in need of supervision and who break court orders can be detained. Children in need of supervision are those who commit an offense that wouldn’t be criminal if they were an adult, such as underage drinking. A bill that was sent to the full House Monday says a child who is detained for violating supervision cannot be kept for more than seven days even if a renovation hearing is scheduled. The current law says a child may not be kept in detention for 72 hours if a revocation hearing has not been set. The bill has already made it through the Senate.

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