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NEWS 4.7.21: IA Gov. on C19 Vaccinations, Passports, Schools and Prison Safety, Plus Biofuel Concern

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SOUND: IA Governor addresses schools and COVID-19 variants

Iowa Government Kim Reynolds provided an update on vaccinations in the state today. During a news conference that aired earlier today on Siouxland Public Media, Reynolds says so far 44% of Iowans 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The rate is almost double for those 65 years and older. Iowa ranks 9th in the country for vaccinations according to national numbers.

Reynolds says the state plans to concentrate on getting minority groups and college students vaccinated.

“And, while many of them will experience only minor symptoms, they face the risk of spreading it to others who could get really sick.”

Reynolds says while hospitalizations remain stable, more patients are middle aged, but that demographic is behind in getting vaccinated.

Reynolds says she is a big supporter of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, she is strongly against passports that prove people have been vaccinated against the virus.

“There's all kinds of questions that are really raised with moving in that direction, privacy implications, HIPAA, first and fourth amendment rights, Americans with Disability. I think when you're what you're doing when you move forward with something like that, as you're creating a two-tiered society.”

Other Republican governors have also opposed the use of vaccine passports. And Gov. Reynolds says she is prepared to take action against them through either the legislature or executive order.

Siouxland District Health still has opening for a mass vaccination clinic planned for tomorrow at the Siouxland Expo Center. The clinic is available for anyone 16 and older.

Local health officials say about 4,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine was available for two clinics this week.

One official with the health department tells the Sioux City Journal the need for mass clinics appears to be dwindling. While there is still demand, more people need appointments that fit into their schedules.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 13 more deaths due to complications of COVID-19 and more than 750 new cases with 23 more being counted in Woodbury County. The statewide test positivity rate increased slightly in 24 hours. State officials say the number of deaths could include backdated results. Since the start of the pandemic 5,835 have died of complications of COVID-19 with about 40% coming from long-term care facilities.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the Iowa Department of Corrections is creating a new position to address prison security in response to an attack by inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary on March 23 that killed two staff members.

Reynolds says the state will also conduct internal and external investigations to find out what improvements can be made in the state’s prisons.

“So together we'll address any issues the investigations may reveal, and we'll do what's necessary to protect our people. Nothing, nothing is more important than that.”

Iowa House Republicans are proposing a budget increase of more than $20 million to the D-O-C. 

Union leaders representing the state’s corrections officers say that isn’t enough to provide safe working conditions.

The Woodbury Board of Supervisors will choose a new county treasurer next week to fulfill the remaining term vacated early by Mike Clayton. The board interviewed candidates Tina Bertrand, Mike Headid, and Kolby DeWitt at its meeting last night. Supervisor Matthew Ung led the meeting to prevent any conflict of interest with Chair Rocky De Witt and Kolby DeWitt, who is the supervisor’s nephew. 

When the board discussed how to make a final selection,  Supervisor Keith Radig suggested the process the city council used to appoint Alex Watters in 2017. The supervisors would submit their preference to a city employee.  However, county auditor Pat Gill said it would be more transparent for the board to call for a motion and a second on a candidate until there is a successful vote. The board agreed and the vote will take place on April 13 during next week's meeting.

Supervisor Ung said last night the board is trying to be as transparent as possible.

“We’re trying to follow best practice.  The best practice the city followed was the original proposal. We are,  as far as I’m concerned, decided to go with an even more open process. So I just want that clearly communicated to the general public.”

Voters can request a special election through a petition process. But a recent change to Iowa law gives voters just 14 days to gather the required signatures.

Iowa’s senior U.S. senator says President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion dollar proposal for jobs and infrastructure falls short on issues important to rural America.

Biden’s proposal invests in rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges and bringing broadband infrastructure to underserved areas. But Republican Chuck Grassley says biofuels don’t appear to be a priority.

We should be investing in biofuel infrastructure, which is proven to reduce emissions. It's disappointing then to see the president's opening proposal doesn't include biofuels.

Congress is in recess. Grassley says when he returns to Washington, he’d like to see bipartisanship because “presumably” the infrastructure package will have a bill.

Iowa’s other U.S. senator Joni Ernst visited Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville today. Besides touring the campus she checked out the college’s wind energy program.   

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Senator Ernst talks with students as she tours one of the classrooms at Iowa Lakes Community College.

Ernst has worked on efforts to pass legislation promoting wind energy including the Wind Workforce Modernization and Training Act. Ernst says it is critical to support students pursuing careers in wind energy.

News release from FedEx:

The Sioux City Community School District along with nine other school districts across the country, will receive $10,000 in in-kind printing services by FedEx Office through an alliance with Future Ready Schools, an equity-focused initiative to transform teaching and learning.  

With the added stress from the pandemic, the need is even greater to ensure students and staff have access to supplies so that student learning can continue and learning disparities can be reduced.  

The Sioux City Community School District will be able to select the FedEx Office products and services that their students and teachers need most, such as printing more COVID signage, informational packets for parents about the return to the classroom, workbooks for students as well as motivational signage. 

The full list of selected schools is: 

·        Prince George’s County Upper Marlboro, MD 

·        MLK, Jr. Arts Academy Dallas, TX 

·        Rowland Unified School District Rowland, CA 

·        Middletown Middletown, OH 

·        Community Sioux City, IA 

·        Highline Public Schools Burien, WA 

·        Middletown Middletown, CT 

·        Talladega County Talladega, AL 

·        Comm. Consolidated ISD Elk Grove, IL  

·        Lindsay Unified ISD Lindsay, CA 

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