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NEWS 7.28.21: More Heat, C19 Increases, Shooting Investigation, Border Patrol Concerns, and More

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory today for the entire state of Iowa, most of South Dakota and a large portion of Nebraska.

The heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. for Siouxland with a heat index near 110.

Governors from all three Siouxland States slam the CDC’s announcement on Tuesday urging both vaccinated and nonvaccinated people to wear masks due to a surge of cases of COVID-19.

The CDC also advises children in schools wear masks this fall.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted “If you are worried about the virus, you’re free to get vaccinated, wear a mask, or stay home. However, we won’t be mandating anything. And the CDC’s inconsistency doesn’t help the American People.”

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts also says his state will not be adopting the CDC mask guidance because it “only furthers the distrust many have with the CDC and does not help to encourage more people to get the vaccines.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds rejected the new recommendations saying they are “not grounded in reality or common sense.” However, she encouraged people to get vaccinated.

Reynolds signed a law in May prohibiting local officials from requiring masks in schools or public spaces.

Public health officials have expressed growing concern about an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Nebraska, primarily among residents who haven’t been vaccinated.

Officials say they were worried about the slow-but-steady increase in infected people who end up hospitalized, putting pressure on COVID-19 treatment units.

Nebraska reported 978 new cases in the week ending Thursday. That's a 42% increase over the previous week and exactly double the 489 new cases logged two weeks earlier. Most other states have seen larger increases, especially Southern states with lower vaccination rates. Nebraska’s growth rate ranks 41st nationally.

Staff and inmates at South Dakota prisons are no longer required to wear masks following an order from Gov. Kristi Noem lifting the requirement. The Republican governor’s move comes as virus cases have seen a recent uptick. It defies a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that masks still be worn in facilities like prisons. Among neighboring states, South Dakota is the only one to lift a mask requirement in prisons. The Argus Leader reports Noem’s move was spurred by a meeting she had with employees at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls. 

Sioux City Police investigating a shooting after a man was taken to MercyOne around 6:45 this morning with several gunshot wounds. A short time later, authorities tracked down the vehicle of the people who dropped the victim off at the ER at the Budget Inn in South Sioux City. It is believed the shooting happened near 14th and Pierce shortly before the victim ended up at the hospital. The man was taken into surgery before he coule make a full statement to police.

Iowa public safety officials say the 27 state troopers and one agent deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border this month worked as a “force multiplier” for Texas law enforcement.

Department of Public Safety officials say the 28 Iowans worked in Texas for 12 days to try to prevent high-speed car chases and theft, provide humanitarian assistance, and investigate human smuggling.

The additional cost for the mission to Iowa taxpayers is estimated to be about 200-thousand dollars.

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds says there’s a crisis at the southern border that’s affecting Iowans. 

“It is an investment that I believe was well spent in helping really secure the southern border, the humanitarian efforts that were put in place—I felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Reynolds said the biggest impact to Iowa is seen in increased drug overdose deaths. But she and the public safety commissioner later said they believe the rise in overdose deaths is largely due to the pandemic.

The leaders of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Latinx Caucus say Reynolds is using fear to divide people and that her rhetoric is hurtful and dangerous for the state’s Latinx community.

The running mate for Nebraska governor hopeful Charles Herbster has announced that she's bowing out of the race, citing the time commitment required to campaign. Theresa Thibodeau, a former state lawmaker and Douglas County Republican Party leader, says she would withdraw from the ticket. Thibodeau says she didn't think she'd be able to devote the time necessary to continue with the campaign. Herbster had selected Thibodeau even though the state Republican Party hasn’t yet held its primary election to name its gubernatorial nominee.

A northeastern Nebraska school is closing its doors because of a lack of students. The Sioux City Journal reports that the Hartington-Newcastle School Board voted in June to close the Newcastle building, which most recently had taught only 18 children in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classes. School officials cited the dwindling population of students from Newcastle, a village of around 325 that lies about 107 miles northwest of Omaha. Starting this fall, all students will attend classes in Hartington, about a half hour drive from Newcastle. That will consist of only three first-graders and a handful of pre-kindergarten students.

The football field inside Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa will be named after hall of fame lineman Duke Slater. Plans were approved by the Iowa Board of Regents today.

Slater went to high school in Clinton and was a tackle for the Hawkeyes in the early 1920s. He was the team’s first Black player to be named an All-American. He was also the first African American lineman to play in the NFL and was named to the pro-football hall of fame last year.

He earned a law degree from the university and was the first Black judge on the Cook County Superior Court in Chicago.

Slater also has a residence hall named after him on the U of I campus and a statue outside the north endzone of Kinnick Stadium.

News release from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:

 Iowa Law Enforcement Officers return from border security mission      

DES MOINES – Today Governor Kim Reynolds announced that Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers have successfully concluded their deployment to the U.S. Southern Border to aid law enforcement and border security efforts. The mission – Operation Lone Star – provided the Department’s support to the Texas Department of Public Safety in the Del Rio area from July 10-20.  Photos and video from the press conference can be found here

This support was in response to the June 10, 2021, request from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey seeking law enforcement support from all 50 states. This request was made through Iowa’s existing EMAC, a national interstate mutual aid agreement administered by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management that enables states to share resources during a disaster. More information about EMAC can be found here.   

At the time members of the Iowa State Patrol were sent, border encounters had just reached a 20-year high. They rose again in June, topping 1 million for the fiscal year.  

“The situation at the U.S. southern border was and remains a humanitarian crisis, with consequences that reach far beyond Texas and Arizona,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds. “As the federal government effectively ignores its constitutional duty to secure our border, states like Iowa must act. By participating in Operation Lone Star, Iowa law enforcement played an important role in promoting humanitarian aid as well as safety and security of all Americans.”   

Law enforcement officials are recovering elevated levels of weapons and illegal narcotics smuggled into America. There was a 300% increase in fentanyl seizures in May of 2021 as there were in the same month the year prior. Seizures increased again in June with this year’s total now 78% higher than all of 2020.   

Iowa specifically saw 523 grams of fentanyl seized between January and May 2020. Over that same time period in 2021, roughly 6,641 grams of fentanyl was seized – an increase of 1,148%. According to Customs and Border Protection, 93% of heroin found in our country were originally smuggled across the Southern border.  

A total of 28 Iowa Department of Public Safety law enforcement officers volunteered to assist the Texas Department of Public Safety with four key mission tasks including traffic duties, humanitarian efforts, tactical operations and human smuggling operations. Those officers included 12 road Iowa State Patrol Troopers, 12 tactical operators, three command staff supervisors and one bilingual investigative agent.  

Iowa State Patrol Troopers paired with Texas Highway Patrol Troopers to provide law enforcement duties designed to ensure public safety in the Del Rio area. These officers also worked the heavily trafficked Rio Grande River crossing , helping with rescue efforts and addressing humanitarian concerns. 

The mission of tactical operators focused on disrupting criminal activities with teams identifying and searching locations where human smuggling was occurring, identifying drug/narcotics offenses and performing surveillance activities designed to identify criminal activities.  

The DPS deployment consisted of 12-hour shifts and concluded with 5,000 hours of duty time. The participating officers represented 5% of the Department’s sworn workforce.   

Over the coming weeks, Iowa will continue to evaluate the needs on the border and whether the state’s law enforcement might be useful again to officials on the border. As with Operation Lone Star, any future decision will be subject to Iowa’s own law enforcement needs.