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News 11.15.21

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Iowa’s 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate continues to climb.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported more than 8,400 positive COVID-19 tests in the last seven days, up almost 400 since the last report on Friday.

The state’s 14-day positivity rate increased from 9.2% to 9.6%. The 7-day rate in Woodbury County is 10%.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise. There are currently 526 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Iowa.

Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, more than 73% are unvaccinated and more than 80% in the ICU are not vaccinated.

Federal safety regulators reach an agreement with Smithfield Foods to settle a contested citation of the company’s coronavirus safety measures during a massive outbreak last year at the South Dakota pork processing plant. The company will develop a plan to prevent infectious diseases at meatpacking plants nationwide and pay a $13,500 fine. The pork processing plant was one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 hotspots during the early days of the pandemic. By June 16, 2020, four workers were dead and nearly 1,300 had tested positive for the virus. The Virginia-based company has defended its actions and admitted no wrongdoing.

South Dakota lawmakers have moved to subpoena a document and a former state employee at the center of questions about whether Gov. Kristi Noem used her influence to aid her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee is pressing for details about a meeting the governor called last year that included her daughter, Kassidy Peters, and key decision-makers in a government agency. The agency had moved days earlier to deny Peters’ application for an upgrade to her appraiser certification. The Republican governor has adamantly denied any wrongdoing. But the subpoenas that cleared a GOP-dominated committee Monday show lawmakers want more answers. The subpoenas could be finalized Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska will likely be facing two opponents in the 2022 election: a progressive Democrat with a lot of support in the state’s second-largest city, and a federal prosecutor in California who has accused him of lying to the FBI.

Democratic state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks announced her candidacy for Congress on Monday. Pansing Brooks acknowledges it will be “a tough race,” but she says that she has “an ability to make friends on all sides of the aisle.”

Her announcement comes as Fortenberry, the nine-term Republican incumbent, faces federal charges that could send him to prison and cost him his retirement benefits. He has pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight the charges in court.

More than half of Iowans say they would likely vote for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden should the rematch appear on the presidential ballot in 2024.

That's according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

The poll shows 51% would vote for Trump, compared to 40% for Biden, while 4% say they would not vote for either and 5% are unsure.

Democrats and Republicans both stuck to the party line, but when it comes to independents in Iowa, they favor Trump by 8%.

An October poll showed Trump was more popular in Iowa than while he was president.

Nebraska officials including Gov. Pete Ricketts are putting out a call for people to adopt foster children, as the numbers have declined during the pandemic. State officials say there have been 304 adoptions so far this year and 360 in 2020. But in each of the preceding five years, Nebraska logged more than 500 adoptions.

Ricketts says Nebraska currently has 646 children who are waiting to be adopted. On Monday, he signed a proclamation of November as “Adoption Awareness Month.”

Stephanie Beasley, director of the state’s child and family services division, says adoption helps connect kids to loving families that provide them with a foundation of support and a sense of belonging.

Researchers say they have uncovered the names of 102 Native American students who died at a federally operated boarding school in Nebraska. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the discovery comes as ground-penetrating radar has been used in recent weeks to search for a cemetery once used by the school that operated in Genoa from 1884 to 1934. So far, no graves have been found. The Genoa school was one of the largest in a system of 25 federally run boarding schools for Native Americans. The dark history of abuses at the schools is now the subject of a nationwide investigation.

Authorities say a second-grade teacher from southeastern Nebraska was killed this weekend in a hunting accident. The Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office says that 23-year-old Kade Reiman, who taught at Bennet Elementary in the Palmyra-Bennet School District, was accidentally shot while hunting with another person Saturday morning southwest of Lewiston. Sheriff Braden Lang says Reiman, of Weeping Water, was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting. Officials did not give other details about how the shooting occurred but said the investigation into Reiman's death is ongoing. Lewiston is about 18 miles east of Beatrice.

To operate a casino at a Nebraska horse racetrack companies will have to pay $1 million for a 20-year license. The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission released the new casino rules on Friday. Voters authorized casino gambling at horse tracks in Nebraska in 2020. Racing and Gaming Executive Director Tom Sage said an industry consultant helped the state draft its rules by looking at what has worked well in other states. All six licensed horse tracks, in Lincoln, Omaha, South Sioux City, Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings, have announced plans to add casinos. Six additional racetracks have been proposed in Bellevue, Gering, Kimball, Norfolk, North Platte and York.

Tonight, the documentary Storm Lake premiers on PBS. The film tells the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning Editor of the Storm Lake Times, Art Cullen, and how he and his family work to keep the newspaper in business as they cover important stories, including water quality, the Iowa Caucuses, and the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Cullen helped launch the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation to help support independent family-owned newspapers facing tough times.

The documentary Storm Lake can be seen on Iowa PBS tonight at 9 a.m. as part of the network’s Independent Lens series.

A new report has found the outcome for Iowans with lung cancer differs along racial lines.

The annual State of Lung Cancer report by the American Lung Association found minorities generally had worse outcomes for lung cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival than white Americans.

Alyssa DePhillips is with the American Lung Association. She says for example, Black Iowans are significantly less likely to receive surgical treatment than white Iowans.

They may decide to opt-out of treatment because their diseases progressed far. But we don't want people to be foregoing treatment because of lack of access to care. Their provider not knowing about cutting edge treatments, or stigma associated with lung cancer and the cost.

The report found Iowa ranked below the national average for lung cancer survival rates, early diagnosis and surgical treatment overall.

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