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News and resources regarding COVID-19

NEWS 10.20.21: IA C19 Update, Unemployment Requirements, Feenstra Runs Again, King Book, and More


The state of Iowa updated COVID-19 statistics on Wednesday. 

COVID-19 Update from SPM Intern Carolyn Lien

The Iowa Department of Public Health added 100 additional deaths due to COVID-19 bringing the total to 6,848 since the start of the pandemic.

The deaths happened in almost two months starting in the middle of August.

In the past seven days there were almost 6,500 positive test results. The state positivity rate fell to 8.3%. Last week it was 9%. The positivity rate across Siouxland has fallen with Woodbury County at 13%. However, anything over 2 to 4% indicates high community spread.

Hospitalizations continue to fall slightly. Statewide there are 557 patients with the virus. Almost 80% of people in the ICU were not vaccinated.

The current vaccination rate for Iowans 12 years and older is 69.5%. The rate in Woodbury County is just under 60%. The Siouxland county with the highest level is Buena Vista with 72.4%. The counties with less than 50% of those 12 and older who are vaccinated are Lyon, Sioux, and Osceola.

Credit Siouxland District Health
Credit Siouxland District Health

The state releases new COVID-19 data every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on this website.

Unemployed Iowans would be required to meet weekly with state case managers, conduct twice as many weekly work searches and undergo audits to prove they’re actively looking for work under a new proposal announced by Gov. Kim Reynolds. An Iowa Workforce Development spokesman says unemployment payments could be frozen if jobless workers fail to meet the new criteria. More than 86,500 job openings are posted on a state workforce development website while nearly 68,000 Iowans remain unemployed. Reynolds noted Wednesday that the state would spend $30 million in federal funds to provide grants to help manufacturers retain existing workers and recruit new employees.

A federal grand jury has indicted U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, accusing him of lying to the FBI and concealing information from federal agents who were investigating campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire.

The U.S. attorney’s office announced that the federal grand jury in Los Angeles had indicted the nine-term Republican on one charge of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.

The congresssman is proclaiming his innocence and promising to fight the charges and says he was “shocked” and “stunned” by the allegations.

Iowa Republican Congressman Randy Feenstra is running for reelection to the state’s fourth district.

Feenstra first won election in 2020 after beating Democrat J.D. Scholten. In the primary he picked up 10% more votes than longtime Representative Steve King. King was removed from committee assignment over controversial comments made about immigrants.

Feenstra was a business and economics professor at Dordt University and served three terms in the state Senate.

He’s been endorsed by Iowa’s leading Republicans, including Governor Kim Reynolds, and Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.

No Democrats have announced plans to run against Feenstra in the reliably Republican district.

Meanwhile former Congressman Steve King has published a book that names and blames some fellow Republicans and interest groups aligned with the GOP for what King calls a “massive conspiracy” to end his political career.

King, told Radio Iowa things “started to melt down” for him politically just before the 2018 election when the Wall Street Journal and others criticized him for meeting with members of a Hungarian political party associated with the neo-Nazi movement.

After King’s narrow, 3% margin of victory over Democrat J.D. Scholten, Governor Kim Reynolds told reporters King needed “to decide whether he wants to represent the people and the values of the fourth district or do something else.”

King endorsed Ted Cruz before the 2016 Iowa Caucuses and King admitted in the Radio Iowa interview that there was a “political cost” once Trump won, as Trump did not acknowledge King publicly in 2018 or when King faced a GOP Primary opponent in 2020.

A spokesman for Governor Reynolds declined to comment.

The title of the book is called “Walking Through the Fire” and can be purchased online at SteveKing.com. King said his publisher will release it nationally in a few weeks. The book was published by a company co-founded by Oliver North, the former National Rifle Association president and TV host who was involved in the Reagan Administration’s Iran-Contra Affair.

A state audit finds that Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system has illegally denied services or care to program recipients, and both private insurance companies managing the system have violated terms of their contracts with the state. Auditor Rob Sand on Wednesday released the report from his investigation that examined a six-year period from 2013 through 2019. He says his investigators found a massive increase in illegal denials of care under privatized Medicaid. Iowa Medicaid Director Elizabeth Matney rejected the report's conclusions, arguing Sand was making an “apples to oranges comparison” that mischaracterized the current program.

South Dakota lawmakers have advanced a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults while repealing much of the state’s new medical marijuana law. The Adult-Use Marijuana Study Subcommittee, which has been studying the issue since June, voted to recommend a bill that would allow people over 21 to purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis for recreational use. It would repeal most aspects of the medical marijuana law that voters passed last year, but still contain provisions for people under 21 to use medical pot. To become law, the bill would still need to be cleared by a pair of legislative committees, the full Legislature next year and the governor’s desk.

Ross Wilburn reported the threatening phone and email messages to police. The messages came after The Des Moines Register published Wilburn’s op-ed on Oct. 8, the day before thousands of Trump supporters gathered for the rally. Several carried Confederate flags. A group that monitors threats says Wilburn's experience is part of an uptick in racist and intimidating communications aimed at Black leaders.

Union Pacific and its labor unions are suing each other to determine whether the railroad has the authority to require its employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The unions argue that the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad should have negotiated with them before announcing it would require all employees to get the shots. The railroad contends in its own lawsuit that it believes it has the authority to require the vaccine under its existing contracts because it can set standards for when employees are fit for duty. Union Pacific announced its mandate requiring all employees to be vaccinated by December 8 earlier this month.

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