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NEWS 9.21.22: COVID-19 Rates Fall Locally, Emerald Ash Borer Update, Vangarde Arts Concert Series Voting, and More

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The number of positive COVID-19 tests in Woodbury County continues to fall.

The Sioux City Journal reports that the county decreased almost 40% in one week. The Iowa Department of Public Health recorded 115 positive tests.

The CDC rates the community transmission level as medium.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors approved the use of additional COVID-19 recovery funds for a project tied to the new county jail.

The Sioux City Journal reports the board agreed to spend $550,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to install utilities as part of the 28th Street improvement project.

The White House released state-by-state figures estimating how many people could potentially benefit from the student loan debt forgiveness program announced in August.

These new numbers show almost 409,000 in Iowa are eligible for student debt relief, with a majority consisting of Pell Grant recipients. Data shows Iowans owe an average of nearly $31,000, the second least in the country.

As many as 232,100 borrowers in Nebraska could qualify, and in South Dakota, the number is around 109,000.

The Biden administration said it was canceling up to $20,000 in student loan debt for those who received Pell grants and up to $10,000 for other borrowers if those individuals earn less than $125,000 per year.

The Drought Monitor has been showing northwestern southeastern Iowa in a severe drought for several weeks.

Rains this past weekend are just about a month late, according to a crop expert with ISU Extension.

They credit drought-resistant crops with helping to still get decent yields even without much rain.

With the state’s corn harvest underway, about 64% of the crop is rated good or excellent, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released this week.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports that’s better than what the state’s corn was rated last year at this time when it was 58% good or excellent. But the USDA predicts average yields to be slightly lower this year.

About 2% of the state’s corn has been harvested so far this year.

The conditions of the state’s soybeans remained steady from last week at 63% good or excellent. That’s slightly better than last year, but the USDA also predicts soybean production will be reduced this year in Iowa.

The statewide average temperature was more than 4 degrees warmer than normal last week and average rainfall was about 20% less than what is normally expected this time of year.

The emerald ash borer has now been discovered in all but six of Iowa’s 99 counties.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture has confirmed that Mitchell County is the 93rd county with an infestation, the ninth confirmed this year. The only counties now without an Emerald Ash Borer infestation are located in Siouxland. They are Plymouth, Woodbury, Monona, Osceola, Emmett, and Palo Alto.

The Ag Department says the invasive insect is a threat to native ash tree species, with the damage from the larva typically killing a tree within two to four years.

Time is running out for Sioux City to move to the next phase of a national grant to bring music to Cook Park.

Vangarde Arts is in competition for a Levitt Foundation grant. The foundation provides money for smaller to mid-sized communities to bring music to their communities.

Here’s Vangarde Arts Director Brent Stockton.

“We would be bringing in ten shows; that would all be free. That would include national touring acts, plus local acts, kind of; it's going to be a lot like downtown live, very similar to Downtown Live. However, the music would probably be a little higher level because we're going to have a bigger budget.”

In order to move ahead in the process to receive a multi-year grant totally $90,000, Sioux City must end up in the top 20. The public voting phase ends Wednesday night at 7 p.m. For more information, check out Vangarde Arts on social media or go to the website levitt.org.

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