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NEWS 1.26.22

Siouxland District Health

Health officials in Woodbury County say we might have reached the peak in infections locally. A statement on social media by Siouxland District Health says it’s still too soon to say for certain, but signs indicate better numbers should be on the way. However, infections are still very high. The post goes on to say, “We have the tools we need to protect ourselves. Let's use them!”

The number of deaths in Iowa due to the COVID-19 pandemic has topped 8,500. The Iowa Department of Public Health added an additional 184 deaths in the past week.

Officials report hospitalizations have dropped off as the rate of new infections remains high. There are 929 patients with the virus, with 58 with COVID at Sioux City’s two medical facilities.

The statewide 14-day test positivity rate is more than 25%, with 35,000 new infections in the past week, including almost 1,800 (1,765) in Woodbury County, a drop of more than 600 cases.

Fifty percent of Woodbury County residents have been vaccinated, about 7% off the state’s pace. 20% of the Woodbury County population received a booster shot.

The state of Nebraska plans to provide 200,000 at-home COVID tests to residents. Local health departments will hand them out starting sometime next week.

A new program in Nebraska will also add nearly 100 new nursing home beds in three of the state’s largest cities to help relieve some of the pressure on hospitals that are struggling with the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said between 78 and 98 skilled nursing care beds will be added in Omaha, Lincoln, and Grand Island starting next month. Nebraska Hospital Association President Jeremy Nordquist said those additional beds will allow hospitals to discharge some of their patients. But the number of virus hospitalizations remains high at 745 across the state and hospitals are treating a large number of non-COVID patients.

A judge refused to block Omaha’s new mask mandate. Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman on Tuesday declined to issue an injunction the state requested while its lawsuit challenging the mask rule continues. The state has argued that Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse didn’t have the authority to issue a mask mandate unless the state approved it beforehand. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services had rejected her previous requests. Huse has said she believes Omaha city code gives her the power to order the mask rule and the mandate is needed because of the surge in virus cases this month.

A northwest Iowa man has been arrested and faces four federal charges in the Jan. 6 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol after a relative tipped off the FBI. Court records say an FBI agent arrested Kenneth Rader on Jan. 20 in Sioux City. He is charged with knowingly entering a restricted building, two counts of disorderly and disruptive conduct and demonstrating in a Capitol building. The FBI received a tip on Jan. 8 from someone who referred to Rader as “my radicalized family member” and indicated Rader had shared videos of himself at the Capitol. A public defender obtained to represent Rader did not immediately respond to a message.

A South Dakota House committee has approved a proposal from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem to ban transgender women and girls from competing in school sports leagues that match their gender identity. All 11 Republicans on the House State Affairs voted in favor of the bill. The governor has cast it as “protecting fairness in women’s sports.” But advocates for transgender people decried the proposal as bullying that would deprive them of an opportunity to compete and belong to a team. South Dakota could be the 10th Republican-controlled state to adopt such a ban on transgender women or girls.

South Dakota’s Senate has passed a spate of bills to put lawmakers’ mark on the state’s new voter-passed medical marijuana law. Several of the bills approved by the Senate would ease access to medical pot for some patients. But House Republican lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction. On Monday, they passed a proposal that would bar patients from growing cannabis plants at home, setting up a collision with a Senate bill that seeks to cap the number of homegrown plants. Legislators this year are honing in on a law passed by voters in 2020. They are bringing over 30 bills addressing the medical marijuana program.

Sioux City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gausman is a finalist for a new position. Gausman is one of four candidates for the post of superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools. The board plans to interview the finalists in early February, including Norfolk Public Schools Superintendent Jami Jo Thompson.

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