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NEWS 1.19.22

Siouxland District Health

Health officials in Iowa are reporting COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase, once again nearing 1,000.

Officials confirmed an additional 116 deaths in the past week, bringing the state’s total death count to more than 8,300.

The 14-day test positivity rate also continues to rise nearly a quarter of all COVID tests coming back positive in the past two weeks. Woodbury County’s level jumped to 36% with more than 1,900 new cases in a week. That’s an increase of 20%.

As cases climb locally, the Sioux City Community School Board is expected to bring up the issue of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The board is expected to explore a revision to the district’s public emergency procedures at its next meeting on Monday. An update being proposed would allow Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman the ability to implement a mask mandate either district-wide or per building.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human services completed an in-depth analysis of vaccination rates in relation to hospitalization. The data shows fully vaccinated Nebraskans were 11 times less likely to hospitalized for COVID-19. People with the booster were 46 times less likely to end up in the hospital.

Meanwhile, Nebraska reported the first flu deaths during the season.

The illness killed four, including one person who also tested positive for COVID-19.

Governor Kim Reynolds says she tested negative for COVID-19 Wednesday morning but isn’t fully recovered from an illness.

Last Thursday, her office announced her public events would be canceled through last week because Reynolds wasn’t feeling well. At the time, her office said she tested negative for COVID.

Reynolds says she still has, quote, “a little bit of a cold.”

 “It’s not COVID. I tested again this morning. So we’ll continue to monitor that, because a lot of the symptoms are the same. So we want to make sure that we’re safe. And it’s not that. And so I have a lot of grandkids and I had a mom that had the flu at the nursing home that I was helping. So I think that’s probably the source of where I got it.”

Reynolds resumed her public event schedule on Wednesday.

At least five people in the Iowa Legislature have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, according to a spokesperson for the House Democrats. Masks aren’t required at the Statehouse, and reporting a positive test isn’t mandatory.

The Nebraska Legislature will weigh a bill this session that would limit how public schools and higher education institutions and other government entities can train staff and students on ideas related to sex and race, an effort that critics argue would amount to censorship. The bill would allow the state to withhold funding from schools that knowingly violate the new limitations and would put government agencies that do so at risk for lawsuits, at the attorney general's discretion.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is slamming how fellow Republicans are handling an impeachment probe of the state’s attorney general for his role in a fatal car crash. Noem told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a South Dakota House investigative committee is "attacking the integrity of our law enforcement officers,” adding that it was an “inappropriate” and “tragic” use of the committee’s attention. Noem's comments expose a political divide among the Republicans who control state government. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a man walking along a highway in 2020. The House investigative committee is sifting through the crash investigation as it weighs whether he should face impeachment charges.

Story from Radio Iowa: https://www.radioiowa.com/2022/01/19/governor-says-she-hopes-senate-president-misspoke-corrects-remark-about-teachers/

Governor Kim Reynolds says there are a few “bad actors” in any industry, but she disagrees with a general assessment that the media and Iowa teachers are pursuing a sinister agenda.

Senate President Jake Chapman, a fellow Republican, used the phrase “sinister agenda” during his opening speech in the senate last week.

“It has become increasingly evident that we live in a world in which many, including our media, wish to confuse, misguide and deceive us, calling good evil and evil good,” Chapman said. “…The attack on our children is no longer hidden…We have some teachers who are disguising sexually obscene material as desired subject matter and profess it as artistic and literary in value.”

Reynolds has proposed that when parents raise concerns about books they consider to be “X-rated,” administrators and school boards must respond within 30 days and, if they don’t, the state Board of Education will. The governor’s also distancing herself from Chapman’s remarks.

“I’m not going to take any ownership of that. I hope he just misspoke and he’ll correct that,” Reynolds said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “But I think everything that I say, that I’ve said and done — not just said, but done — should let teachers know how much I appreciate (them) and especially appreciate them being in the classroom when so many other teachers across this country did not.”

Reynolds said there are individuals who hurt the reputation of many industries. “There’s bad politicians. There’s bad cops — every sector,” she said. “There’s bad media people.”

But Reynolds said she isn’t accusing teachers of having a “sinister agenda” and pointed to her support of teacher leadership and compensation program and the $1000 retention bonus for teachers she just announced last week.

“I’m the governor of the state of Iowa,” Reynolds said. “…I don’t hear anything in any of that that says I’m not grateful to the teachers.”

Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls say Chapman’s “hateful words” should be disavowed by all Republicans. Wahls said the governor should pledge to veto Chapman’s proposal to charge teachers and teacher librarians with a felony if certain books are used in class or are in the school library.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith has filed for reelection in Nebraska’s vast 3rd Congressional District. Smith, a Republican, is seeking a ninth term in the district, which is heavily conservative and rural and covers most of Nebraska. Smith serves on the House’s tax-focused Ways and Means Committee and is the ranking member of a trade subcommittee. Smith lives in Gering with his wife and two children.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says he’d like like to see more serivces provided for human trafficking victims to help them resume a normal life. Peterson says he sees a need for more specially trained foster parents who are willing to accept youths who have been trafficked. He said the Nebraska should also increase its focus on “basic life counseling,” such as help finding a job. Peterson’s comments came at a press conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts, who proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

News release from the State of Nebraska:

Fully Vaccinated Nebraskans 11 Times Less Likely to be Hospitalized for COVID-19; People who Received Booster 46 Times Less Likely According to DHHS

Lincoln, Neb. – Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) State Epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue and his team completed an in-depth analysis of vaccination rates correlated to hospitalizations. The analysis concluded that individuals who received the vaccine, but not the booster were 11 times less likely to be hospitalized. More dramatically, individuals who got their booster shot were 46 times less likely to be hospitalized. Find that analysis here.

Another analysis estimated the number of hospitalizations and deaths prevented by vaccination. The rate of hospitalization and death among unvaccinated people was calculated and then applied to the population of Nebraska as a whole, to simulate the absence of vaccinations. “By applying the unvaccinated rate of hospitalizations and deaths to the whole population, we have a stronger understanding of the clear and overwhelming benefit of getting vaccinated,” said Donahue. Find that analysis here.

A third analysis showed that vaccines are incredibly safe. Nebraska death certificate data shows Nebraskans who were vaccinated are dying at lower rates than Nebraskans who were unvaccinated, regardless of the cause of death. Find that analysis here.

DHHS urges all Nebraskans who have not done so already to consider getting vaccinated and receive the booster and to consult a doctor if there are questions. Please register for the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov or call the hotline at 833-998-2275.

News release from the State of Nebraska:

First Influenza Deaths of Season Reported to DHHS

Lincoln, Neb. – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Two Rivers Public Health Department, Sarpy/Cass Health Department, and the Douglas County Health Department have reported the first influenza-associated deaths this season. The four flu deaths include individuals over the age of 50:

  • 1 with influenza B
  • 3 with influenza A, including 1 with coinfection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Residing in Two Rivers Public Health Department, Sarpy/Cass Health Department, and Douglas County Health Department

Flu activity is currently elevated in the State. Getting the annual flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. The vaccine can reduce flu-related illnesses, visits to the doctor, missed work or school and flu-related hospitalizations.

The flu vaccine is safe, effective, and rigorously tested. The most common reaction people may experience from the shot is soreness and redness at the injection site. After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity. Nebraskans can safely get a flu vaccine at many locations throughout the State. Vaccines.gov is also a resource for finding flu vaccines near you.

“The flu can be a life-threatening disease for some, and can get anyone sick,” said Dr. Matthew Donahue, State Epidemiologist. “Influenza is now spreading throughout the State in addition to COVID-19. If you get sick, stay home. The most effective prevention measure for the flu is the flu vaccine.”

In addition to getting vaccinated, prevention measures can also protect against the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze. Throw the used tissue in a wastebasket.
  • Practice non-pharmaceutical interventions If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
  • After coughing or sneezing, always clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Do not share eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels, or other personal items.
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.

News release from the Iowa DNR:

Wastewater discharge in city of Storm Lake

S. TORM LAKE—Early this morning, wastewater flowed into the city of Storm Lake’s storm sewers for less than an hour.

Originating at Tyson Foods, 1009 Richland Drive, wastewater began flowing into a storm sewer about 2:25 a.m. The discharge ended about half an hour later at 2:58 a.m. The likely cause was a pump failure in the plant at 1009 Richland Drive.

The storm sewer empties into a storm water detention basin about a block north of Storm Lake, where Tyson staff began pumping it up. Of the estimated 16,500 gallons released, some of it reached the lake. Tyson staff are working to estimate how much.

Tyson and the city of Storm Lake collected water samples for testing. DNR staff indicated they do not expect environmental issues given the small amount that reached the lake.

DNR will monitor the cleanup and consider appropriate enforcement action

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A significant increase in the number of tourists in the Black Hills since the start of the coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. Kristi Noem to push for spending nearly $10 million to add campsites to Custer State Park. But former park officials, some lawmakers and private campground owners have raised concerns over how the additional 175 campsites would impact wildlife and increase vehicle traffic. Noem and the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks want to develop a 75-acre site in the west central portion of the park. The Argus Leader reports private campground owners are rallying against the project, and former GFP and park officials are urging caution.

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