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NEWS 1.4.22

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National Weather Service/Sioux Falls
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Wind and Wind Chill Advisories kick in tonight for all of Siouxland through tomorrow morning.

Plus, a Winter Weather Advisory will be in effect for a portion of northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota including the counties of Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Clay, and Lincoln and Turner.

Snow totals aren’t expected to be very high with up to an inch of snow. But, with high winds, there will be blowing snow and bitterly cold wind chills.

The number of new virus cases is surging in Nebraska as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads more widely in the state.

Nebraska health officials reported 8,575 new cases to the CDC last week. That’s 47% more than the 5,826 cases reported the previous week and the highest weekly total since early December 2020.

That raises additional concerns about hospital capacity. Nebraska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone says the omicron variant now accounts for 30% to 50% of positive test samples that are being genetically sequenced in the state.

It’s still unclear if the omicron variant is driving the increase of infections being seen in Iowa.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Health tells the Iowa Capital Dispatch says tomorrow the agency will reveal how many omicron infections have been identified by the State Hygienic Laboratory. The first case was found in early December with confirmation in a dozen counties. Buena Vista was the only county with an official case in Siouxland.

The coronavirus infection rate in Iowa spiked in the past week to a level unseen since November 2020, which was the worst month of the pandemic for the state, according to data released by the state yesterday.

As reported on Monday, there were almost 18,000 new cases in Iowa within a week, an increase of 73%.

Another update comes out tomorrow including local hospital rates.

The nation’s daily infection rate tripled in the past two weeks, according to the New York Times. In the past week, the United States has averaged more than 400,000 cases each day, which is 62% higher than its previous peak about a year ago.

Four more South Dakotans with COVID-19 have died, the Department of Health reported Tuesday, and an additional 3,047 people tested positive for the disease.

The newest infections represent testing that took place from Thursday afternoon into Monday. The department also noted that there had been a delay in test results from last week. But it also noted the new cases were being driven by the omicron variant.

The Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department in northeast Nebraska announced its first case of the omicron variant. The department covers Burt, Cuming, Madison, and Stanton Counties.

The director of a South Dakota agency has resigned amid scrutiny over Gov. Kristi Noem’s hands-on role in the agency prior to his arrival and as it evaluating her daughter’s real estate appraiser license in 2020. Scott Amundson took over as head of the state’s Appraiser Certification Program last summer. He says he resigned but declined to publicly comment on his reasons for doing so. Amundson replaced the longtime director of the Appraiser Certification Program, Sherry Bren, after she was pressured to retire by Noem’s cabinet secretary. The episode has drawn criticism from government ethics experts. Amundson had no role at the agency during the time that a legislative committee has focused on.

Another Iowa county is a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

KCCI Television in Des Moines reports the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution on Monday.

This means law enforcement there can't enforce future laws the county believes violate the Second Amendment.

Cherokee County is now the 31st Iowa county to pass a Second Amendment resolution that is copied nearly word for word from a template on the Iowa Firearms Coalition website.

The Woodbury County Supervisors picked a new chairperson. Keith Radig was chosen through a unanimous vote at a meeting on Monday. He takes over for Rocky De Witt.

A current employee of the Woodbury County Attorney’s office is seeking the top post.

Jacklyn Fox has worked as an assistant county attorney for the past 10 years. She is seeking the Republican nomination. Current County Attorney, P.J. Jennings, a Democrat, first won election in 2006. He hasn’t faced an opponent in the past three election cycles.

Submitted news release

Sioux City, Iowa (January 4, 2022) – Today, lifelong Iowan Jacklyn Fox announced her candidacy for Woodbury County Attorney. Fox is seeking the Republican nomination for the position.

For the past decade, as an Assistant County Attorney, Fox has prosecuted some of Woodbury County’s most serious crimes, seeking justice for victims and positive outcomes for the community. Fox understands the effects the criminal justice system has on victims, the accused, and the community at large.

“I believe that protecting our families, our senior citizens, and our property are fundamental,” said Fox, adding “I pledge to focus more resources on prosecuting violent crimes such as murder, violent or sexual offenses against children, rape, robbery, and gang related crimes.”

Fox’s comprehensive vision for the future of the Woodbury County Attorney’s office also includes emboldening victim’s rights, adopting greater transparency, and collaborating with community and partner agencies.

Fox states that she is ready to bring fresh leadership to Woodbury County and will lead with her integrity for the judicial process in the pursuit of justice. Fox resides in Sioux City with her husband and three children.

South Dakota political candidates are revving into full campaign mode this week, with one big exception — Republican Sen. John Thune. He has delayed a reelection announcement as he considers retirement. Thune has held his Senate seat for three terms and is a likely pick to be the next Senate GOP leader. He had planned to announce a reelection decision over the holidays. But the senator has made no indication he is any closer to a decision. If he retires, it could upend national Republican politics and create a scramble within the South Dakota GOP to fill the void.

Debate on marijuana will be on the table again as state lawmakers gather for the 2022 legislative session in South Dakota this month. So far, more than two dozen of 38 posted proposed bills for the session deal with medical and recreational marijuana. It’s the second session for legislators since South Dakota voters approved both medical and recreational marijuana in the 2020 election. The passage of recreational marijuana was legally challenged by Gov. Kristi Noem and was ultimately struck down by the state Supreme Court. Legislators are expected to consider revisions to the medical cannabis law and take up Senate Bill 3 which would legalize recreational possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by a person 21 or older.

A proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility in South Dakota will appear on the November ballot. The secretary of state’s office announced Monday that Constitutional Amendment D was validated after an estimated 38,244 people signed petitions to put it on the ballot. That was well above the level needed. Medicaid is a federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. South Dakota is one of 12 states that has not accepted federal incentives to expand Medicaid eligibility, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. If voters approve, the program would be made available to 42,500 additional South Dakotans in its first year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Research Council.

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