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NEWS 8.17.22: COVID-19 Down in Iowa, Abortion Lawsuit, Wind Energy Update, Hearing Aid, and More

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Federal officials are reporting a drop in the number of Iowans hospitalized who have tested positive for COVID-19.

As of today, 244 Iowans are hospitalized with the virus. That’s a drop from 323 last week.

That’s as state officials say, the number of reported positive COVID tests has also decreased. Woodbury County saw cases fall by a third with more than 215 positive tests. The CDC still rates local transmission as high as of last week.

More than 63 hundred positive tests were reported in the past seven days. A drop of about 800 tests from last week’s count.

State officials confirmed an additional 32 deaths associated with COVID this week, bringing the state’s total death count to nearly 99 hundred.

According to the CDC, 62.8% are fully vaccinated against the virus.

A Polk County judge has scheduled a hearing for October 28th on the governor’s push to reinstate Iowa’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law in 2018 that banned most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks of pregnancy. A court order blocked the law from taking effect.

Her lawyers are asking a judge to let the law take effect now that the U.S. Supreme Court and Iowa Supreme Court have opened the door to more abortion restrictions. Abortions are currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa have recently said they’re focusing on fighting the fetal heartbeat abortion ban in court.

Medical cannabis will be on the ballot in North Sioux City on Nov. 8.

The Sioux City Journal reports the North Sioux City Council on Monday approved a request from the city administrator to set a special election so that residents can decide whether or not there should be a cap on the number of medical marijuana facilities the city can license. Voters in South Dakota supported medical marijuana in the November 2020 election.

Dozens of people in Woodbury County continue to express their concerns about the building of wind farms.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors continues to look at changing the county’s rules on wind projects. Last week, the board approved doubling the space required between properties and the turbines.

A second reading of the change passed 3-to-2, it still needs one more vote before taking effect.

Statement from MidAmerican Energy surrounding the potential change:

For nearly a year, MidAmerican has been working with local landowners who support the Siouxland project, which would add clean wind energy in Woodbury County and provide lease payments to participating and neighboring landowners, as well as a projected $150 million in local property tax benefits. The county's newly proposed doubling of its setback distance effectively allows someone a half-mile away to decide what a landowner can do with their property and would not allow a wind project to move forward. We stand ready to work with county leaders as they balance the rights of all landowners involved – including those who have already signed on to participate in the wind farm.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office has announced it has reached an agreement with another opioid manufacturer.

The proposed settlement with Endo International PLC would provide up to $450 million to participating states and would ban the marketing promotion of its opioids.

Iowa is one of 34 states, along with Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands to participate in the lawsuit. It alleges the Ireland-based drug manufacturer used deceptive marketing techniques and downplayed the risks of addiction for opioids.

Last month, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced the state had reached agreements with two other opioid manufacturers - Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan. The settlements would provide more than $6 billion to participating states.

A former assistant coach for South Sioux City High School pleaded no contest to sexual abuse in the first degree after being accused of sexually abusing two female students. Here’s the story from Siouxland News CBS 14 Fox 44: https://siouxlandnews.com/news/local/former-high-school-coach-rogers-enters-no-contest-to-sexual-assault-charges

A Des Moines council member is countersuing two police officers who took the unusual step earlier this year of suing several people who participated in a 2020 protest following a Minneapolis officer’s killing of George Floyd. Councilwoman Indira Sheumaker says in her counter lawsuit that Officers Peter Wilson and Jeffrey George used excessive force and violated her civil rights when they arrested her during a protest on July 1, 2020, outside the Iowa State Capitol. Sheumaker's lawsuit, first reported by the Des Moines Register, also accuses the officers of filing a frivolous lawsuit against her and several other protesters. The officers' lawsuit accuses the protesters of assault and seeks monetary damages.

Representative Cindy Axne is touting the Inflation Reduction Act which was signed into law this week as an example of what Democrats can accomplish if they keep control of Congress.

The legislation includes new spending on renewable energy and climate change. It also boosts funding for the IRS to improve tax collection.

Republicans have criticized that part of the law saying it will cause more people to face tax audits.

The Treasury Department has pledged it would only impact people making more than 400,000 dollars a year.

Axne says the IRS funding is aimed at increasing enforcement against higher-earning taxpayers.

“Because right now 160 billion dollars in taxes goes unearned into our country’s coffers that would help all of you with our schools and with our roads and with our health care and with all of the important things that this country needs.”

Axne spoke at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox today at the Iowa State Fair.

She is running for a third term in the U.S. House against Republican Zach Nunn, a state senator from Bondurant. Axne is the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation.

The state director of AARP says the FDA’s approval of new rules allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids will have a big impact on Iowans.

Brad Anderson says this is something AARP has pushed for the last five years and will help around 40 million older adults experiencing hearing loss.

The rules announced Tuesday are for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Anderson says the devices can help prevent bigger issues brought on by hearing loss: isolation, depression, and even dementia.

Anderson expects the costs of hearing aids to fall as well. The law was written by Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Democrat Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

People with severe to profound hearing loss are still advised to get prescription devices.

https://www.radioiowa.com/2022/08/17/aarp-iowa-pleased-to-see-over-the-counter-hearing-aids-become-reality/

News release from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller:

Miller, AGs reach $450 million agreement with opioid maker Endo

Proposed settlement would ban promotion of opioids 

DES MOINES – Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has reached an agreement in principle with Endo International plc and its lenders that would provide up to $450 million to participating states and local governments, ban promotion of Endo’s opioids, and require Endo to turn over millions of documents related to its role in the opioid crisis for publication in a public online archive.

The agreement in principle with Endo, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday night in the Southern District of New York, resolves allegations that Endo boosted opioid sales using deceptive marketing that downplayed the risk of addiction and overstated the benefits.

Endo, an Ireland-based drugmaker with its U.S. headquarters in Malvern, Pa., makes generic and branded opioids including Percocet and Endocet, and also made Opana ER, which was withdrawn from the market in 2017. The states allege that Endo falsely promoted the benefits of Opana ER’s so-called abuse-deterrent formulation, which did nothing to deter oral abuse and led to deadly outbreaks of Hepatitis and HIV due to its widespread abuse via injection.

"We continue to hold opioid makers accountable for their deceptive marketing," Miller said. "This settlement, combined with the money from other settlements we've secured, will help to fund prevention and treatment efforts."

In late July, Miller announced agreements in principle with two other opioid makers, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan, that would provide $6.6 billion nationally. His office is leading negotiations with the two companies.

The Endo resolution, which is contingent on final documentation and Bankruptcy Court approval, involves the following:

  • Requires payment of $450 million in cash over 10 years to participating states and subdivisions. 
  • Requires Endo to turn over its opioid-related documents for publication online in a public document archive and pay $2.75 million for archival expenses.
  • Bans the marketing of Endo’s opioids forever. 

Several details, including each state's share of the settlement, have yet to be determined.
In addition to Iowa, the settlement is joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

More information on Iowa's settlements with opioid makers and distributors can be found on the Iowa Attorney General's website.

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