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NEWS 7.25.22: Campsite Murder Investigation, Tyson COVID-19 Litigation, Disaster Declaration, and More

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The question at the center of an investigation into the killings of three family members — including a 6-year-old girl — at an eastern Iowa state park campground is: Why? Investigators have said the shooter was a 23-year-old man from eastern Nebraska who had no criminal history and appeared to target the victims at random. The man’s parents, who had been camping with their son, expressed incomprehension that he would carry out such an attack. The shooting happened early Friday morning, when a couple from Cedar Falls, Iowa, and their 6-year-old daughter were found shot to death in their tent at the Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground. The couple's 9-year-old son survived the shooting without physical injury.

The story of a fallen Iowa State Patrol officer will be featured tomorrow during a Senate Judiciary Committee. According to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley a hearing will take place tomorrow on “Law Enforcement Officer Safety: Protecting Those Who Protect and Serve.” Sgt. Jim Smith, of Independence, Iowa, died in 2021 after being shot while responding to a call to assist another officer who’d been assaulted.

One month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Gov. Pete Ricketts has yet to give any indication that he will call for a special session to debate further abortion restrictions in Nebraska, leading some lawmakers to doubt it will happen at all.

After the leak of a draft opinion indicating that the high court was prepared to strike down the 1973 ruling that established nationwide abortion rights, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers said he would work with the governor to call a special session. Ricketts himself, however, said he would wait for the court’s official opinion before making a decision.

Faced with court rulings that say a Trump administration directive doesn’t protect Tyson Foods from liability caused by workers’ deaths due to COVID-19, the food giant is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which echoed a decision last year by the Eighth Circuit appeals court, found the Trump administration’s March 2020 efforts to keep meatpacking plants open during the pandemic don’t shield the company from lawsuits alleging negligence.

Those and other court decisions have paved the way for workers’ lawsuits against Tyson to be heard by state courts in Iowa, Texas and elsewhere, despite the company’s efforts to move the cases to federal court.

Court filings suggest that Tyson believes its argument that it was only doing business under the direction of the federal government will prove to be a more effective defense in federal court than in state court.

Tyson has since been hit with what it calls “a wave of litigation from former employees or representatives of former employees alleging that they contracted COVID-19 because Tyson kept its plants operating in unsafe conditions.”

Just last week, three Iowa lawsuits against Tyson were moved from state court to federal court. The plaintiffs are the families of three employees of the company’s Storm Lake plant.

COVID-19, but continued to expose workers to contamination by forcing them to work within six feet of one another without proper barriers between them or adequate personal protection equipment. They also claim Tyson imposed inadequate disinfecting and sanitizing procedures and failed to implement COVID-19 testing and screening.

The state of Iowa has about 600 doses of monkeypox vaccine. Due to the limited supply, officials say those who’ve been exposed to the virus are being prioritized for vaccination. The vaccine can prevent or limit the severity an infection.

An official with MercyOne in Des Moines says they have one patient with symptoms consistent with monkeypox and they’re awaiting test results.

People with monkeypox may have a fever, chills or a rash. According to the Centers for Disease Control, six cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Iowa. Experts say the virus is not easily transmissible like COVID-19, but people should still be aware of it. It is mainly spread through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluid.

Over the weekend, the World Health Organization declared the spread of monkeypox a global health emergency. More than 16,000 cases have been confirmed in 75 countries. As of Sunday, more than 3,000 cases had been confirmed in the U.S., including two cases in children.

Another Siouxland community is hosting thousands of RAGBRAI riders tonight. It’s the first time Pocahontas has been an overnight stop.

Today’s route covered more than 70 miles and started in Ida Grove before going through the towns of Galva, Schaller, Nemaha, Newell, and Fonda. Tomorrow the overnight stop is in Emmetsburg.

A legendary career came to a close in Des Moines Sunday night. Iowa native Simon Estes ended his opera career, 40 years after he first sang at the New York Metropolitan Opera.

By that time in 1981, Estes had already achieved worldwide success and as a Black man, broke barriers.

Simon Estes, 84, took his final curtain call for the Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess. Estes premiered the role of Porgy at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1985. Here is a recording from that time.

News release on the State of Iowa:

Gov. Reynolds issues disaster proclamation for five counties

DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued a disaster proclamation for Allamakee, Clayton, Harrison, Shelby, and Winneshiek counties in response to recent severe weather. The governor's proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to, and recover from, the effects of this severe weather. In addition, the proclamation activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program, for those five counties. The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website at https://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim. The Disaster Case Management Program addresses serious needs related to disaster-related hardship, injury, or adverse conditions. Disaster case managers work with clients to create a disaster recovery plan and provide guidance, advice, and referral to obtain a service or resource. There are no income eligibility requirements for this program; it closes 180 days from the date of the governor's proclamation. For information on the Disaster Case Management Program, contact your local community action association or visit www.iowacommunityaction.org.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg named Chair-Elect of National Lieutenant Governors Association

DES MOINES – Lt. Governor Adam Gregg of Iowa became Chair-Elect of the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) at the organization’s annual meeting today. Lt. Governor Gregg will serve one year in the position of Chair Elect and then assume the Chairmanship of the organization at an Annual Meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, in August of 2023.

“I'm honored to be chosen by my peers to assume this leadership role. The NLGA is a place where lieutenant governors share ideas and best practices to advance opportunities for our states and our constituents,” Lt. Governor Gregg said. “We work to find effective ways to address new problems, foster cooperation between states and generally improve effectiveness in our states.”

“Lt. Governor Gregg’s selection demonstrates the confidence his peers across the nation have in his ability to lead this important organization,” said NLGA Director Julia Brossart. “His position was confirmed by all members attending the Annual Meeting in Illinois.”

NLGA provides a medium for networking and the exchange of essential information among officials, including international exchange, while providing timely discussion of topics from agriculture, rural affairs, and transportation to housing and health. NLGA actively promotes STEM education in the states by providing specific STEM education support in states.

The NLGA was formed in 1962 as the professional and educational association for the elected officials who are first in line of succession to the governors of the 50 states and five territorial jurisdictions of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is a former chair of NLGA, serving from July 2015 to July 2016.

For more information on the NLGA, visit www.nlga.us

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