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NEWS 7.27.21: Heatwave, IA Gov. Critical of New CDC Mask Guidance, Tibbetts Hearing, and More

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National Weather Service/Sioux Falls
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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called new revised guidance from the CDC surrounding wearing masks “not grounded in reality or common sense.”

Reynolds issued a statement shortly after the CDC recommended fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of the country where the virus is circulating widely.

She still encouraged people to get vaccinated, but went on to say she’s concerned the guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools, something she does not support.  

According to federal data, 47 Iowa counties are experiencing higher community spread, including Woodbury County with a test positivity rate of 5%.

The state’s vaccination numbers plateaued in recent weeks. 58 percent of Iowans 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

A law passed in Iowa back in May prohibits cities, counties, and schools from mandating masks. However, businesses can still require customers to wear them.

Siouxland District Health is seeing fluctuating case counts of COVID-19 in Woodbury County with 41 new cases in a week. The Director of Siouxland District Health, Kevin Grieme, says the local case counts are anywhere from three to 13 a day.

Meanwhile, MercyOne in Sioux City reopened its COVID floor. However, hospital officials would not elaborate on the number of patients current being treated for the illness. A spokesperson says the floor reopened on July 20th due to an increase of COVID-19 patients. It had previously closed on May 3rd.

The Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority has begun sampling sewage as part of a national program to track the spread of the coronavirus and its variants. The Des Moines Register reports that the agency announced its participation Monday. Agency workers began collecting samples last week and shipping them to a national lab in Maine. The effort is being funded by the federal government and is expected to continue for eight or nine weeks. Larry Hare, manager of the southeast Des Moines sewage treatment plant, says sewage sampling can inform officials if a dangerous virus or germ is circulating in a community.

Reynolds Statement on New COVID-19 Guidance from the Biden Administration 

DES MOINES - Today, Governor Reynolds released the following statement following the Biden Administration issuing new COVID-19 guidance:

“The Biden Administration’s new COVID-19 guidance telling fully vaccinated Iowans to now wear masks is not only counterproductive to our vaccination efforts, but also not grounded in reality or common sense. I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support. 

“The vaccine remains our strongest tool to combat COVID-19, which is why we are going to continue to encourage everyone to get the vaccine.

“I am proud that we recently put new laws in place that will protect Iowans against unnecessary government mandates in our schools and local governments. As I have throughout this pandemic, I trust Iowans to do the right thing.”

All of Siouxland was under a Heat Advisory on Tuesday. The National Weather Service says heat and humidity will combine to create dangerous conditions through tomorrow. Officials say take precautions if outdoors, stay hydrated, and watch for signs of heat-related illnesses. Also, don’t forget about pets.

Temperatures could climb even more for Wednesday, with heat index values as high as 107 degrees. An Excessive Heat Watch was already issued for Wednesday.

The heatwave can be especially challenging for people living with dementia. 

A spokesperson for the Iowa Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association tells Radio Iowa extreme heat can be just as dangerous as a wintertime blizzard for people with memory issues.

If someone is living on their own, they might not understand ways to keep themselves cool or if they are experiencing heat exhaustion or dehydration. 

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 66,000 Iowans.

Cyclists taking part in this year’s RAGBRAI or Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa also facing extreme heat today. An estimated group of 15,000 cyclists took off from Fort Dodge today to make their way to Iowa Falls for an overnight stop.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The lead investigator in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts says he's confident the right man was convicted of murder and rejects claims that her abduction could be tied to two other men. Division of Criminal Investigation agent Trent Vileta said Tuesday that had they known, detectives searching for Tibbetts in 2018 would have looked into another woman’s claim that she’d been lured by a man from Tibbetts’ hometown and held in a nearby home for sex trafficking. But the woman’s complaint didn't lead to charges and Vileta says it should be disregarded given the evidence tying Tibbetts' death to local farmhand Cristhian Bahena Rivera. He testified at a hearing on whether to grant a new trial to Bahena Rivera.

Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is gearing up for a committee hearing tomorrow (Wed) on issues with competition in the cattle market.

Four large meatpackers control most of the beef slaughter. The cattle industry says this causes less competition -- and lower prices for their cattle.

Grassley – a Republican – is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During a call with reporters, he said farmers only get a small fraction of every dollar Americans spend on food.

Meanwhile, the retail price of beef for consumers has increased and remains very high. Now I'm not upset about the Grassleys paying more for beef. But I'm upset when the farmers aren’t getting a profit.”

Grassley says he hopes evidence on the lack of competition will come out of the committee hearing. The Senate Ag. Committee held a hearing on cattle markets last month.

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