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NEWS 7.14.21: Tornado Watch, COVID-19 Updates, Tibbetts Murder Sentencing Delay, and More

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls

Parts of Siouxland under a tornado watch until 9 tonight, including Woodbury, Monona, Ida, Cherokee, Buena Vista, Clay, Emmet, and Pocahontas.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for several counties across central Iowa, including Calhoun and Carroll just outside of Siouxland.

A judge has agreed to delay the sentencing of the man convicted of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts after his lawyers said they need time to investigate new information implicating other people.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera was scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Thursday at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, about 50 miles west of Iowa City.

Judge Joel Yates issued an order Wednesday saying the sentencing would be delayed until after he holds hearings on whether to grant the defense’s requests to compel prosecutors to release information about other suspects and for a new trial. Bahena Rivera was convicted of first-degree murder in May in Tibbetts' 2018 killing.

Nebraska is developing a new website to provide weekly updates on the coronavirus, just two weeks after it quite publicly reporting COVID-19 statistics. It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday what numbers will be included on the new site or how quickly it will be ready.

The state’s decision to stop reporting coronavirus details was criticized by health experts who use the data to track the spread of the virus.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. James Lawler with the University of Nebraska Medical Center said the decision to stop reporting data was poorly timed. Virus cases have nearly doubled in Nebraska over the past few weeks as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.

New COVID-19 cases per day in the U.S. have doubled over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gatherings. Infections jumped to an average of about 23,600 a day on Monday, up from 11,300 on June 23. And all but two states — Maine and South Dakota — reported that case numbers have risen over the past two weeks. Some parts of the country are running up against deep vaccine resistance.

CNN reports during the past week, states that have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents have reported an average COVID-19 case load about a third less than other states without that rate.

The South Dakota Department of Health reports that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state's number of deaths to hit historic levels last year.

The report also found deaths from diabetes, liver diseases and unintentional injuries reached their highest number in a decade. As the pandemic disrupted health care, doctors worried that people could see complications from other chronic diseases.

A total of 9,857 South Dakotas died during 2020, which was the highest figure in at least a decade. Heart disease and cancer were the leading causes of death, followed by COVID-19, which killed 1,496 people.

Officials in northeast Nebraska are recounting ballots in a local school bond election after a single vote separated those for and against the proposal.

Cedar County election workers tallying the Tuesday vote Laurel-Concord-Coleridge Public Schools bond issue election counted 596 votes in favor of the bond and 595 votes against it. A recount was being conducted Wednesday.

The $18.5 bond issue and $6.5 million lease purchase proposal would go toward a $25 million project to replace the district's high school and upgrade the attached elementary school. The project was previously rejected by 50 votes in November 2020 when it was proposed in the form of a $23 million bond issue.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has suspended her cabinet secretary overseeing state prisons and the warden of the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls after an anonymous complaint.

The complaint alleges supervising corrections officers regularly sexually harassed their fellow employees, employee morale is low and promotions are plagued by nepotism.

The governor put Secretary of Corrections Mike Leidholt and State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young on administrative leave.

The two pages of the complaint released by Noem’s office allege that supervising corrections offices were allowed to sexually harass prison employees and that attempts to report the harassment were ignored.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Officials have voted to declare two Iowa counties as Second Amendment sanctuaries where any laws hindering gun rights cannot be enforced. The counties joining similar efforts across the country and coming even as Iowa has significantly loosened firearms regulations. Republican supervisors in Jasper County unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday and Republican supervisors in Hardin County did the same Wednesday. They're the first Iowa counties to implement such measures. Elsewhere in the U.S., at least 1,200 local governments have declared themselves sanctuaries insulated from state and federal gun laws since 2018. An ordinance passed in Columbia County, Oregon, last year is the first to face a legal challenge over whether it can be enforced. 

The disinterred remains of nine Native American children who died more than a century ago while attending a government-run school in Pennsylvania are headed home to Rosebud Sioux tribal lands in South Dakota. A ceremony on Wednesday at the U.S. Army Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, returned them to relatives. It's part of the fourth such set of transfers to take place at the Army cemetery since 2017. The remains of an Alaskan Aleut child were returned to her tribe earlier this summer. The remains inside small wooden coffins were carried past a phalanx of tribal members and well-wishers before being loaded into a vehicle and driven to South Dakota.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Workers have used a crane to remove a boat from an Iowa amusement park as investigators look into what caused an accident that killed one boy and critically injured his brother. The boat weighing over 1,700 pounds was removed from the channel on the Raging River ride so that inspectors and engineers could have a closer examination. Adventureland attorney Guy Cook says the boat was placed on a trailer and taken to a secure location. The boat was carrying six members of an Iowa family at the park in Altoona when it unexpectedly overturned on July 3, trapping two of them underneath in the water for minutes. 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo died of his injuries, while 16-year-old David Jaramillo remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Nebraska has hired former star linebacker Trev Alberts as its new athletic director. Alberts has been the athletic director at the University of Nebraska-Omaha since 2009. He will fill the job that opened with the retirement of Bill Moos. Alberts earned All-American honors when he played at Nebraska from 1990 to 1993. He later played for the Indianapolis Colts after he was the fifth overall pick in the 1994 draft.

Ohio football coach Frank Solich is retiring after leading the program through 16 seasons of unprecedented success to focus on his health. The school announced that Solich was stepping down less than two months before the start of the season and his 77th birthday. Offensive coordinator Tim Albin was promoted to head coach. He received a four-year contract. Solich is the winningest head coach in the history of the Mid-American Conference with 115 victories. Including a stint as head coach at Nebraska, his alma mater, Solich is 173-101 as a major college football head coach.