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NEWS 11.22.21

Iowa Coronavirus website

Public health experts urge Iowans to take extra precautions this year as they gather with friends and family this Thanksgiving.

That’s because COVID-19 community transmission levels remain high in Iowa. The 7-day positivity rate in Woodbury County is 12%, with 241 cases in one week. The Siouxland county with the highest level is Ida, with 20% and 23 cases.

Officials say Iowans should consider gathering in a well-ventilated space, get vaccinated, and even getting a rapid COVID test beforehand to reduce the spread of the virus.

Iowa officials say they will continue to strive for fewer than 300 annual traffic deaths, but it won’t happen in 2021.

A safety campaign will continue that urges drivers to slow down, buckle up, drive sober, and remain distraction-free heading into the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

The number of people who are predicted to be traveling this week is up 13% from last year, and it’s almost back to pre-pandemic levels, according to a AAA survey.

A spokesperson for the auto club in Iowa says almost one in five people across the region will be taking a journey over the Thanksgiving holiday. Most of them will be traveling by car.

Compared to last Thanksgiving, gasoline prices in Iowa are up a $1.20 a gallon.

But the higher prices are -not- expected to deter most drivers from hitting the road.

Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, is predicted to be one of the year's busiest travel days, followed closely by Sunday.

Tonight, the Sioux City Community School Board is expected to vote on hiring an outside company to try and help solve a shortage of substitute teachers. The company, ESS, would recruit substitutes to fill the more than 200 open positions in the district.

School Board President Perla Alarcorn-Flory says the decision comes after raising compensation for temporary instructors.

 “But, at the end of the day, we have not yet been able to solve this issue with the substitute crisis. And yes, it is a crisis right now. So having this alternative is that: a great alternative.”

Director of Human Resources Jen Gomez says the shortage is hurting the morale of teachers.

“They’re working extra. So there are teachers working during their plan time to cover classes. And they’re getting tired, and we need to, we really need to help them out.”

ESS has worked with school districts nationwide, but this would be the company’s first time operating in Iowa.

Also, during tonight’s meeting, newly-elected board members will take the oath of office; they are Perla Alarcon-Flory won re-election earlier this month. Also, joining the board for the first time former teachers Jan George, and Bob Michaelson,

The board will also vote on the positions of president and vice president tonight. The school board meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the school administration building in downtown Sioux City; the meeting can also be viewed through a live stream on the school district’s website.

A petition drive is underway to change the Nebraska constitution and eliminate the state Board of Education. The proposal would shift oversight of the Education Department into the governor’s office and eliminate the elected board. Still, backers would have to gather roughly 125,000 signatures by next July to put the question on next November’s ballot.

The measure comes after Gov. Pete Ricketts clashed with the Education Department at times in the past year. But critics of the petition drive said it would concentrate too much power in the governor’s office. Current state board president Maureen Nickels said the current system is already working well.

After this weekend’s deadly Christmas parade in Wisconsin, the Sioux City Police say they continually evaluate precautions and work with organizers to ensure the safest event possible.

Spokesperson Jeremy McClure says the tragedy in Waukesha is one of the worst-case scenarios that is tough to protect against since it appears to not be an accident.

McClure says one of the issues they deal with is people driving around barricades. Another risk? Children running in front of floats to try and get candy. That is why people are not supposed to throw candy from floats and walk alongside the float instead.

The holiday season kicks off tonight in downtown Sioux City. Siouxland Public Media’s Carolyn Lien has more.

Historic 4th Street will be filled with Christmas spirit tonight as the Holiday Lighted Parade starts at 6:15 p.m.

After the event, Santa will then light the city tree in front of the Public Museum.

People can then check out the 28th annual Festival of Trees at the Ho-Chunk Center.

Organizers say they have raised more than $410,000 for local charities. The trees will be auctioned off on December 2nd, with proceeds going to the Sioux City Railroad Museum this year.

Santa’s House also opens for the season to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s. Santa’s House is located in the former Thorpe and Company jewelry store. For Siouxland Public Media, I’m Carolyn Lien.

Families can also enjoy free admission this afternoon to the LaunchPad Children’s Museum before the parade with a donation of socks, hand warmers, or travel-size toiletries for the Warming Shelter. The museum will be open from 3 to 5 p.m.