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NEWS 12.3.21

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Health officials have confirmed six cases of the omicron variant in southeastern Nebraska, adding to the growing number of confirmations of the new, mutant version of the coronavirus around the country. State and local health officials said Friday in a news release that the state's first case likely stemmed from one of the six who recently traveled to Nigeria and returned on Nov. 23. Officials say that person became symptomatic the following day. Health officials say the five others were likely exposed through household contact with the first case. Officials say only one of the six is vaccinated. None of the six had required hospitalization as of Friday.

State officials in Iowa reported today (Friday) that 747 Iowans are hospitalized with COVID-19. This marks a record high for this year as hospitalizations continue to trend upwards.

Iowa also saw a surge in COVID hospitalizations this time last year.

But Austin Baeth says this year looks much different. He’s an internal medicine physician at UnityPoint Health.

He says patients this year are much younger than last year – and mostly unvaccinated.

There's nothing more heartbreaking than telling a 35-year-old father of two that we need to put them on a ventilator now and you need to call your family because it might be the last time you talk with them.

Baeth says those who are fully vaccinated and hospitalized are most often above 60 and have underlying conditions.

He recommends everyone qualified to get vaccinated and get a booster shot. But he says even fully vaccinated people need to continue to take precautions.

In South Dakota, active infections increased by 200, with six new deaths added on Thursday for 2,355 in all.

The Argus Leader reports, a total of 615 new cases were also reported. Active cases still remain below the late-summer surge of new cases.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients held steady at 248.

Sioux City Police released the identity of a body found in the Big Sioux River back in August.

The State Crime Lab used DNA to discover the person was 24-year-old Franky Muritok of Sioux City.

A judge has decided not to lower the bail for two Fairfield teenagers accused of murdering a Spanish teacher. Judge Joel Yates has ruled that bail for Jeremy Goodale and Willard Miller will remain at one million dollars, cash only.

Attorneys for the teens had asked that they be released under conditions like GPS monitoring and family supervision. Prosecutors meanwhile asked that the bond be maintained or even raised to two million.

The 16-year-olds are slated to go on trial in April for the killing of 66-year-old Nohema Graber.

The Iowa Department of Revenue has caught fraudulent claims for $200 million in state income tax refunds.

A source in the agency told Radio Iowa two claims for a total of $200 million came from what appears to be the same source in late November. The suspect claims for those state income tax refunds were detected and no money was paid out.

A written statement from the Iowa Department of Revenue’s spokesman said the agency has “strong and effective fraud detection procedures in place” and the department is “encouraging Iowa taxpayers and tax professionals” to be vigilant about protecting their personal information by creating strong passwords and spotting phishing attempts in email and text messages.

The agency’s spokesman also said Iowans shouldn’t share things like Social Security and bank account numbers over the phone.

The department has not released details about where the false claims originated.

Iowa is getting $110.7 million and Nebraska $63.4 million from the federal government to upgrade water systems and improve water quality. The Environmental Protection Agency announced the new funding Thursday as part of $7.4 billion in new funding sent throughout the country. The allocation for next year is the first of five years of payments totaling nearly $44 billion. The EPA funding comes through a $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved by Congress and signed into law last month by President Joe Biden.

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska is in hot water with President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Trump reiterated in a statement his call for Bacon and a dozen other lawmakers to face primary challenges.

Trump has targeted Bacon for his vote last month in support of President Joe Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Bacon was one of 13 House Republicans who voted for the bill.

Bacon’s campaign issued a statement saying Trump is "entitled to his views" but that the congressman “has a strong record of delivering results for the people of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District."

The South Dakota Department of Health is beginning to issue medical marijuana cards, but officials say it could be months before dispensaries will have anything to sell. Municipalities across the state are also receiving applications for permits from those who want to open a dispensary. Businesses must sell marijuana that is grown in the state. And, with no cultivation facilities licensed in South Dakota, the dispensaries, for now, will have nothing to sell. Importing cannabis products across state lines remains a federal offense. State health officials say they’ve received 11 cultivation applications.

Davenport-based newspaper chain Lee Enterprises says it will not accept candidates for its board of directors nominated by the hedge fund that is trying to purchase the company.

It’s the latest move by Lee to resist the offer from Alden Global Capital that has been valued at around 140 million dollars.

Alden tried to submit candidates for Lee’s corporate board, but Lee claims Alden failed to follow company bylaws. In a statement, Lee says the nominees will not be part of the board election at next year’s annual meeting of shareholders.

Last week Lee announced a plan to prevent Alden from purchasing a controlling share of stock in the company.

Lee operates more than 70 papers across the U.S. and 10 in Iowa including the Sioux City Journal, Quad City Times and Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Plus, the Omaha World Herald.

Authorities say an Iowa high school basketball player has been arrested following an apparent assault on an opposing player at the end of a game as the two teams lined up to shake hands. The attack reportedly followed a boys' high school basketball game between Nevada High School and Carlisle High School in Carlisle's gym Tuesday night. A video that has been viewed millions of times on Twitter shows a Carlisle player repeatedly punch a Nevada player who had his hand extended for a handshake. The Nevada player suffered a concussion and required stitches for a cut to his mouth. The 17-year-old Carlisle player faces a felony charge of willful injury.

News release from The City of Sioux City:

CHESTERMAN FOUNDATION ANNOUNCED AS MAJOR DONOR OF THE CONE PARK MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS

The Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department is pleased to announce the Chesterman Foundation as a major donor of the Cone Park Mountain Bike Trail system

with a donation in the amount of $1 Million.

City staff has been working with Jay Chesterman (Chesterman Foundation) and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) since the beginning of the year on the conceptual vision for the proposed mountain bike trail system that would be

constructed at Cone Park and Sertoma Park.

The project would develop a trail system for mountain bike users and pedestrians that would incorporate various ability levels ranging from easiest to most difficult. With the diversity of difficulty, the trail system would provide a desired experience for mountain bikers of all ability levels. The project would create a recreational amenity for the community and visitors that is not currently available

in Siouxland.

“Next year is our 150th anniversary as a company. We think supporting these trails are an excellent way to celebrate that milestone, and give back to our community that has supported us so well through all the many years,”remarked Jay Chesterman, Chesterman Company.

“We are fortunate to have established such a great partnership with the Chesterman Foundation to support our vision of adding new amenities to Cone Park”, stated Matt Salvatore, Parks and Recreation Director. “Developing Cone Park into a year-round destination has been the goal since the start of the park development. The addition of the mountain bike trails would be a significant draw to the park which has successfully offered winter tubing and ice skating for the past four years”.

“We are fortunate to have established such a great partnership with the Chesterman Foundation to support our vision of adding new amenities to Cone Park”, stated Matt Salvatore, Parks and Recreation Director. “Developing Cone Park into a year-round destination has been the goal since the start of the park development. The addition of the mountain bike trails would be a significant draw to the park which has successfully offered winter tubing and ice skating for the past four years”.

Construction of the trail development project costs an estimated $2 Million. The City of Sioux City is anticipated to contribute $700,000 in the upcoming FY’23 capital

improvements budget. There is still $300,000 needed to fully fund the project. We welcome the community’s funding support with 100% of the donated funds going directly towards supporting construction of the project. All donations are being accepted through the Sioux City Parks & Recreation Foundation and are tax deductible. Donations of $1,000 or more will be recognized on the donor kiosk for the project. To donate, please visit Coming Soon - Cone Park Sioux City, a donation button is located on the website.