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NEWS 2.1.22

South Dakota Rep. Jamie Smith announces his candidacy for governor during a news conference in Pierre, South Dakota on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)
Stephen Groves/AP
South Dakota Rep. Jamie Smith announces his candidacy for governor during a news conference in Pierre, South Dakota on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

Nebraska hospital officials say it appears the latest surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant may have peaked in the state, but hospitalizations remain extremely high.

The number of cases the state reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fell last week to 22,302 for the week ending Thursday from the previous week's record of 29,141.

But the large number of COVID-19 patients across the state, which hit 739 Sunday, continues to strain hospital capacity. And hospitalizations might still continue to rise in the days ahead because they tend to lag a week or two behind the number of cases.

The following story is from the Iowa Capital Dispatch. For more click here: https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2022/02/01/judge-upholds-414000-fine-against-iowa-home-care-company/

A federal judge has upheld a fine of $414,000 against a Sioux City home health care company accused of poor patient care.

The fine against Mercy Home Care was originally imposed in 2016, but the lengthy appeal process and subsequent delays in publishing a decision resulted in the matter only recently becoming public.

In its appeal, Mercy Home Care had challenged the federal fine, calling it unreasonable. In a strongly worded ruling, Administrative Law Judge Leslie C. Rogall stated that, if anything, the financial penalty was “unreasonably low.”

The fine is tied to an August 2016 inspection of Mercy Home Care, which is a licensed home health agency funded in part with Medicare dollars. As a result of that inspection, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determined the company was not in substantial compliance with conditions of participation in the Medicare program due to issues involving patient care. CMS imposed a civil monetary penalty of $6,000 for each of the 69 days the company remained out of compliance. Those daily fines totaled $414,000.

Funeral services have been scheduled for Monday in Norfolk, Nebraska for three children killed in a house fire in Pierce, Nebraska over the weekend. Three others who lived in the home made it out safely. The children were 12, 15, and 17. The Nebraska State Fire Marshall says the fire was accidental and caused by a wood-burning stove.

A bill to restrict what topics some Iowa teachers may discuss in the classroom has failed in a House subcommittee and is tabled for the year.

The proposal would have limited how social studies, government, and history teachers could talk with students about current events or controversial topics.

Other sections of the bill sought to prohibit students from lobbying legislators and would have prevented schools from accepting private donations to support any class or activity connected to civics.

The federal child pornography trial involving a South Sioux City assistant coach has been pushed back. CBS 14/FOX 44 reports Nathan Rogers is now scheduled to go to trial on March 28th at the Federal Courthouse in Lincoln. He also faces state charges in Dakota County surrounding accusations of sexually abusing two teenage girls and witness tampering.

South Dakota state lawmaker Rep. Jamie Smith is running for governor. Smith leads the House Democratic caucus. His announcement comes after a months-long search by Democrats for a candidate to mount a challenge to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem. The governor also faces a Republican primary challenge from South Dakota Rep. Steve Haugaard (how-guard). Smith is a Sioux Falls real estate agent. He acknowledges that he faces an “uphill climb” against Noem. She has already raised $11.8 million and carved out a nationwide profile among Republicans. But he says he plans to make a broad appeal to “Democrats, independents and Republicans.”

Nebraska state Sen. Mike Flood says he has raised more than $400,000 in the two weeks since he announced his campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry in the Republican primary. Flood launched his campaign on Jan. 16 and has received endorsements from Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman. He launched his campaign as Fortenberry fights charges alleging that he lied to federal authorities who were investigating an illegal, 2016 campaign contribution from a foreign national. Flood says in a statement that Nebraskans “aren’t willing to gamble on the outcome of Fortenberry’s criminal trial.” Fortenberry raised $465,000 in the most recent fililng period that ended in September 2021. He had $897,000 in cash on hand.

The upcoming trial of U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry could be delayed. The nine-term Nebraska Republican is scheduled for trial on Feb. 15 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, but prosecutors filed motion last week to postpone it until March 15, citing the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Prosecutors have accused Fortenberry of misleading federal authorities who were investigating an illegal contribution to his campaign from a foreign national. He has pleaded not guilty.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jim Pillen has scored a big endorsement from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm group and an influential voice among farmers. Leaders of the farm-advocacy group say Pillen was the “overwhelming consensus” choice among their county members throughout Nebraska who made the decision. Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue says Pillen is a fiscal conservative and a good listener with a background in agriculture. Pillen is a veterinarian and the owner of Pillen Family Farms and DNA Genetics, and he was raised on a farm in Platte County. Pillen is locked in a competitive GOP primary with Charles Herbster, a Falls City agribusiness executive and a close ally of former President Donald Trump.

South Dakota House committee weighing impeachment charges against the state’s attorney general is moving to answer lawmakers’ remaining questions on his 2020 fatal car crash. They are issuing subpoenas for two key figures in the attorney general’s office as well as the two prosecutors who charged him. House Speaker Spencer Gosch, the Republican leading the committee, says the latest actions could be the last pieces to the House investigation. The committee has been tasked with recommending whether Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should face impeachment charges for his conduct surrounding the crash. He struck and killed a man walking near the shoulder of a highway.

A former lottery computer technician serving a 25-year prison sentence for ongoing criminal conduct by rigging computers to win lottery jackpots for himself, friends and family will be released from an Iowa prison on parole after serving nearly five years. Eddie Tipton was granted release by the Iowa Board of Parole on Jan. 20 and will be allowed to live in Texas, a board document said. Iowa offers time off of a prison sentence for good behavior. Tipton pleaded guilty in 2017 and was ordered to repay restitution to Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma. He could be ordered taken to prison in Wisconsin if he fails to complete payment of the more than $400,000 he owes by September 2026.

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