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NEWS 10.12.21: IA Vaccination Rates, Infections Fall, Natural Gas Price Jump, Sand Running?


The statewide COVID-19 infection rate continues to decline since its recent peak in mid-September, but the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports certain counties in rural Iowa — where vaccination rates lag behind the state average — have new daily cases comparable to their pandemic peak last year.

Adams County has the largest number of infections per capita in the state, even though its rate of infection has dropped 21% in the past two weeks, according to New York Times data. Its two-week total of about 60 cases is on par with its peak in November, according to state data.

About 48% of Adams County residents are fully vaccinated, compared with about 54% statewide.

Next is Monroe County, also in southern Iowa, where 29% of tests have revealed COVID-19 infections in the past week, state data show. That so-called test positivity rate is the highest in the state and indicates that the number of recorded new infections is likely under-counted. The county’s two-week total of about 100 cases is comparable to its peak in November, when the virus was ravaging the state. The county peaked even higher at the turn of the year.

About 41% of Monroe County residents are fully vaccinated. In fact, the top 14 Iowa counties with the most cases per capita are all vaccinated at a lesser rate than the state average. Davis County, which has the lowest vaccination rate of about 33%, ranks 19th.

Still, many of those counties are comparatively small — Adams County has about 3,700 residents, according to U.S. Census data — and have little sway over the statewide average.

The current vaccination rate for Woodbury County is 61.5% for ages 18 and older. The two counties with the lowest rate in Siouxland, Lyon (49%) and Sioux (49.4%). Buena Vista County has the highest level at almost 75%.

Over the past week, daily cases across the state have fallen by 7%, according to the Washington Post. The average number of daily cases has fallen 19% over the last two weeks, according to the Times.

The average daily case number was 1,317 on Saturday, according to the Times. Iowa saw daily case numbers under 100 for the entire month of June and in early July before a surge in the early fall. It peaked in September at 1,867.

Hospitalizations are down significantly since last week. The state reported 624 current hospitalizations Oct. 6 and 566 hospitalizations Monday. But the number of Iowans in the ICU increased from 141 to 152.

State data shows that unvaccinated individuals still make up the majority of hospitalized Iowans. Of patients in the ICU, 80.9% are unvaccinated. Among all COVID-19 hospital patients, about 75% are unvaccinated.

The state’s vaccination rate continues its sluggish upward creep. As of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 54.3% of all Iowans have been vaccinated. At the county level, those percentages range from a high of 64.1% in Johnson County to a low of 32.6% in Davis County.

A recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that a quarter of adults do not plan to get the vaccine.

The number of long-term care outbreaks is two fewer today compared with Thursday, for a total of 30. The Iowa Department of Public Health does not publicly report which long-term care facilities are affected by an outbreak.

For an interactive state map of vaccination rates click here.

The number of new virus cases and hospitalizations improved slightly in Nebraska again last week but they remain at an elevated level that is straining the state’s hospitals.

Nebraska reported 4,534 cases in the week that ended on Friday, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a drop of about 5%.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus in the state averaged around 400 a day last week, which was down from 415 a day in the previous week.

Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley has tested positive for the coronavirus. A spokesman says Foley has mild symptoms and is self-isolating as he recovers. He didn’t answer questions about when the lieutenant governor was tested or whether he has been vaccinated. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has been vaccinated and has urged the public to get vaccinated too, but he opposes vaccine requirements. The governor’s office updated Foley’s public schedule to remove all planned events for the week. Foley, a Republican, is a former state auditor and lawmaker from Lincoln. He has served as lieutenant governor since 2015.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has announced a 5-year ban on Phi Gamma Delta fraternity for student conduct code violations following a report of a sexual assault at the fraternity's house in August. The report led to a massive protest outside the fraternity house and sparked similar protests on college campuses around the country. UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said Tuesday in a news release that Phi Gamma Delta — better known as Fiji — is no longer recognized by the university and is suspended from the Lincoln campus through 2026. Fiji was already on probation for previous violations of university policy when the assault was reported. 

MidAmerican Energy says higher natural gas prices will impact monthly heating bills this winter.

A report by KCCI Television in Des Moines says  natural gas market prices have more than doubled from this time last year.

MidAmerican said based on the market prices for natural gas over the last month, customers in MidAmerican’s service area can expect their total bills to increase by 46% to 96%.

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand tells Siouxland Public Media he is still figuring out his political options for 2022.

“It’s a big decision, I like my job right now. I have a lot of things to weigh and we’ll see how things go.”

Sand, who is a Democrat won a four-year term for state auditor in 2018 in his first race for elected office. There has been talk he might try to run for governor or even U.S. Senate.

Sand made his comments during an interview surrounding a reaudit of the Sioux City Community School District. His agency’s report found no major wrong-doing.

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