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NEWS 1.24.22

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The Sioux City school board votes tonight on a proposal to give the district superintendent the authority to implement a temporary mask requirement in classrooms.

Information shared with the board shows a higher level of impact, compared to the weekly trend report provided to parents and the media.

On Friday, the trend report showed 235 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19. All results are reported by parents or staff. A report to the board shows almost 1,300 students absences and 375 staff. More than 8,000 students were out due to non-COVID issues.

If the proposal being considered passes, the superintendent Paul Gausman would be able to mandate masks in individual school buildings. Once a school building meets a certain percentage of coronavirus infections among students and staff, masks would be required.

The mandates would have a set time limit. Gausman predicts they would likely last for a week at a time. He said he hopes the new emergency protocol would help schools remain open.

The board has previously refused to consider a district-wide mask mandate. But, Gausman said he believes the board will approve of masks as an emergency measure.

State health officials in Iowa have reported COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped. That’s as test positivity rates remain high.

935 Iowans are reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s down from 953 at this time last week.

171 of those currently hospitalized are in the ICU.

However, the 14-day test positivity rate is reported at 25.3 percent, up slightly from Friday. The level for 7-days in Woodbury County is 36% with more than 1,900 new cases.

There are now outbreaks at 76 nursing homes in Iowa, up seven from Friday.

Hospitals across Nebraska once again concerned about an increase in COVID patients. Leaders from across the state provided an update this afternoon. There are 735 patients, an crease of around 30% since the start of the month.

The South Dakota Department of Health added five additional deaths of people with COVID-19 on Monday and a slight decrease in hospitalizations with almost 400 patients.

There were almost 1,900 new positive infections officially reported across the state. Home tests are not included in official case counts.

Fifty-five of the sixty Republicans in the Iowa House have signed onto a plan that would eliminate the state tax on pensions and other retirement income this year.

The retirement income tax repeal would begin this year under the House Republican bill, unlike Governor Kim Reynolds’ bill that would get rid of those taxes starting in 2023.

The proposal doesn’t include the governor’s proposal for tax relief for retired farmers.

Democratic leaders have said property tax relief would be a better way to help retired Iowans.

Nebraska lawmakers are debating a measure that would speed up the implimentation of a new tax exemption for Social Security income, letting recipients claim a full tax break a few years sooner. The measure would phase out Nebraska’s tax on Social Security income by 2025. Lawmakers approved the exemption last year but adopted a slower phase-in that would eliminate the tax by 2030. The faster implementation was proposed after the state collected far more tax revenue than expected, leaving Nebraska with a general fund surplus of $412 million. Some lawmakers question whether it's prudent to rely on recent state tax revenues, which they argue were bolstered by federal pandemic stimulus payments into the economy.

Victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests are urging Nebraska lawmakers to pass a law that would let people who were abused decades ago file lawsuits against the church or other organizations that were negligent. The proposal comes on the heels of a Nebraska attorney general report that identified 258 victims who made credible abuse allegations against church officials, dating back decades. None of those cases are expected to result in prosecutions or legal judgments because the statutes of limitation have expired. Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee are now reviewing a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for lawsuits.

A South Dakota House committee has approved a proposal to prod school districts to use most of their boost in state funding for teachers' salaries. The proposal approved Monday comes as lawmakers this year consider passing a historic 6% boost in state funding for schools to keep up with inflation. The bill requires school districts to use at least 85% of their funding increase for teachers’ salaries and benefits. The teacher's union is pushing the bill. But one district superintendent says it takes flexibility away from school boards. The bill will next be debated on the House floor.

Story from Radio Iowa:

Senator Joni Ernst says now is the time for the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia, to try to prevent an invasion of Ukraine.

Ernst is a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and, during an appearance on CNN on Sunday, she discussed the situation in Ukraine. Ernst said without sanctions now, President Biden is appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin as 100-thousand Russian troops sit at Ukraine’s border.

A South Dakota House committee has approved a proposal to prod school districts to use most of their boost in state funding for teachers' salaries. The proposal approved Monday comes as lawmakers this year consider passing a historic 6% boost in state funding for schools to keep up with inflation. The bill requires school districts to use at least 85% of their funding increase for teachers’ salaries and benefits. The teacher's union is pushing the bill. But one district

Newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises is asking its shareholders to help it fight off a hostile takeover offer from “vulture hedge fund” Alden Global Capital. The publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Buffalo News and dozens of other newspapers, including nearly every daily newspaper in Nebraska, sent a letter to shareholders Monday asking them to support its board nominees in the dispute with Alden. Lee, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, already rejected Alden’s $24 per share offer because it said the $141 million bid grossly undervalues Lee, but the two sides are locked in a court battle over whether Alden will be able to nominate its own directors.

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