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News and resources regarding COVID-19

NEWS 5.20.21: Mask Mandates, School Threat, Brownfields Grant, Food Distribution, and More


As of this morning, students, teachers, and staff in the Sioux City Community School District and across the state are no longer required to wear masks. That action was taken to comply with a law passed last night by the Iowa legislature in the final hours of this year’s session.  Early this morning, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill that prohibits mask mandates in Iowa schools. 

The Woodbury County Sheriffs officer investigated threats by a 6th grade student at the Bronson Elementary School. Deputies say the student did threaten to shoot students at school. The student was suspended and as a precaution extra security measure have put in place. Investigator say this case is a reminder it is the responsibility of everyone to keep our schools and communities safe. If you see or hear something, say something. (A news release can be found below.)

The Iowa Department of Public Health added five more deaths due to complications of COVID-19 and 233 new cases, including five in Woodbury County in a 24-hour period that ended at 10 this morning. The state’s seven-day test positivity rate is 3%. The 14-day rate for Woodbury County is 3.5%.

South Dakota’s pandemic death toll has surpassed 2,000 as health officials reported seven new deaths from COVID-19. The state’s 2,001 total deaths are the 8th-lowest among U.S. states, but the eighth highest in terms of deaths per capita. However, the rate of deaths has slowed significantly since peaking late last year. Health officials say they expect both hospitalizations and deaths to continue to drop as the number of cases decreases with widespread vaccination against the virus. Health officials also report 55 people who had tested positive for the virus.

The city of Sioux City was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive a Brownfields Assessment Grant. The grants help revitalize once vacant and abandoned sites. The specifics of the grant will be announced during a joint news conference between the EPA and Sioux City Mayor Scott at city hall tomorrow afternoon.

More than 1,000 boxes of food were distributed through the USDA’s “Farmers to Families Food Box Program” this morning. The effort was organized by the Community Action Agency and the Hope Center. Another drive-through give-way is scheduled for 10 a.m. next Thursday in the parking lot of Sunnybrook Church in the Morningside neighborhood of Sioux City.

The boxes included fresh produce, dairy, and meat. The USDA announce the Farmers to Family Food Box Program will stop at the end of May.

The Iowa Legislature has ended the 2021 session nearly three weeks later than expected after Republican lawmakers completed negotiations over a complex tax plan.

By approving the tax changes, legislators added to a host of other conservative priorities they passed, ranging from restricting voting rights to expanding gun access.

Throughout the session, which ended late Wednesday night, Republicans used their large majorities in the House and Senate to push through many bills with little or no Democratic support. For months, Democrats also complained that Republicans refused to require masks or report coronavirus infections.

Mask mandates are expiring in several of Nebraska’s largest cities as more people continue to get vaccinated for the coronavirus. Lincoln’s mask mandate will expire at the end of Thursday, Omaha’s will disappear at the end of next Tuesday and in the Omaha suburbs, Ralston ended its mandate earlier this week. The state has seen infection rates come down as vaccinations have become more widely available.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, going from 198.71 new cases per day on May 3 to 100.14 new cases per day on Monday.

An investigator says video of a vehicle driving near where a missing 20-year-old Iowa woman had been out running helped police quickly identify the driver as the suspect in her 2018 disappearance. Poweshiek County Deputy Steve Kivi testified Thursday that homeowner’s surveillance video collected during a canvass showed a black Chevy Malibu with chrome door handles “just kind of lingering” near where Mollie Tibbetts disappeared while running on July 18, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa. Kivi said he reviewed the video on Aug. 15, 2008, spotted the vehicle the next day and later interviewed the driver, Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Kivi testified on the second day of Bahena Rivera’s trial for first-degree murder in the death of Tibbetts.

South Dakota’s most influential business groups are calling for Congress to take up immigration reform to protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The group, which included the state’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Retailers Association and Dairy Producers, cast an economic argument on immigration. They argue the thousands of job openings in the state show the need for legal ways to immigrate. The group’s call comes as President Joe Biden presses Congress to pass legislation codifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s lawsuit against the federal government over a July Fourth fireworks display she wants to put on at Mount Rushmore has reignited legal tensions between her and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The tribe last week sought to join the lawsuit in opposition to Noem. The Republican governor is asking a federal judge to order the National Park Service to allow fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. She sued the Department of Interior last month after the Park Service denied the state’s application for the event, citing safety concerns and objections from local Native American tribes. Noem has opposed the tribe’s request to join the lawsuit.

The index of a newly released monthly survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, including all three Siouxland states, has hit a new record high, just two months after hitting its previous record high. The overall index of the Rural Mainstreet Survey for May reached 78.8 — nearly 7 points higher than the previous record. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss credits gains in grain prices, record-low interest rates and growing exports, but said labor shortages are hold the rural economy back. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

Like superintendents across the country, the leader of Iowa’s largest school system has faced plenty of criticism as he attempted to educate children in the past year while also keeping them safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

But as pressure eases in many districts thanks to falling infection rates, Des Moines schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart is facing more uncertainty. Last week, Ahart had a contract extension rejected and this week he will argue that his license shouldn’t be revoked. For Ahart, the problems have been building for more than a year as his cautious approach that leaned on virtual learning contrasted with Iowa’s Republican governor’s push to reopen classrooms quickly.

Western Iowa Tech Community College announced plans to return to in-person Lifelong Learning Classes in the fall. A Zoom option will still be available. The Dunker Student Center will reopen for exercise classes. There is one change, trips through the program geared for people in the whole community will be on hold and officials will re-evaluate in the spring.

Northwestern will play Nebraska in Ireland to open the 2022 football season. The game is set for Aug. 27 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. That’s where the Cornhuskers were supposed to open the 2021 season against Illinois. The game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Northwestern will be the home team. The Wildcats and Huskers originally were scheduled to play Oct. 8, 2022, in Evanston, Illinois.

News release from the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office:

On May 19, 2021 in the evening hours the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office received information about a 6th grade student at Bronson Elementary School who made threats to shoot other students at school.  Deputies began a preliminary investigation and were able to verify the student did make the threats.  School Officials were notified of the situation and the student was advised not to return to school pending further investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office is continuing to work with the Lawton-Bronson School District, the County Attorney’s Office and the Department of Human Services. At no time was any student in immediate danger, but as a precaution the Sheriff’s Office has added additional security measures.

The student suspect has been suspended for the remainder of the school year.

This is a reminder it is the responsibility of everyone to keep our schools/communities safe.  If you see or hear something, say something.

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