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NEWS 12.6.22: Ricketts Running for U.S. Senate, South Dakota Gov. Announces Budget Proposals, Flu Impacts Siouxland, and More

State of Nebraska

Nebraska's outgoing governor has announced his intention to seek appointment to the state's U.S. Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Ben Sasse, who is leaving Congress to become president of the University of Florida. Pete Ricketts announced Tuesday through a political consultant that he is submitting an application to be appointed to the seat. The appointment will be made by Gov.-elect Jim Pillen, who received Ricketts endorsement and more than $100,000 in contributions from the governor toward his campaign to succeed him. Ricketts could not seek a third term as governor due to term limits.

Newly re-election South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem touted the state’s strong economy as she outlined her budget priorities in an address in Pierre Tuesday afternoon. The full speech can be found herecourtesy of South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

Noem says South Dakota has $234 million in reserves. She once again stressed the importance of repealing the state’s tax on groceries.

GOP leaders in the Iowa Statehouse say they plan to reform Iowa’s property tax system during the next legislative session that kicks off in January.

Sioux City’s Warming Shelter plans to stay open year-round. Find the story herefrom the Sioux City Journal.


All three Siouxland states are seeing high or very high levels of Influenza. Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the first deaths this season, two elderly people over the age of 81 from northern Iowa (more information found in a news release at the bottom of this page). The current flu season started in early October. Iowa and South Dakota are seeing high levels of the virus, and the CDC categorized Nebraska as experiencing “very high” levels. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says the current number of cases is much higher this early in the season than at any time in the past three years. Health officials urge people to get vaccinated to prevent serious infection. In Nebraska, pharmacies are reporting a shortage of medication to treat the early symptoms of the illness.

UnityPoint Health in Sioux City says urgent care clinics are experiencing extremely high demand as respiratory illnesses like flu and COVID-19 continue to rise. A spokesperson tells Siouxland Public Media says walk-in appointments are available, but people are strongly encouraged to make an online reservation.

The fall geese migration is expected to peak this month in Iowa with the potential to cause further infections of domestic flocks by a highly pathogenic and destructive avian influenza.

State agricultural officials have said waterfowl are the most likely drivers of bird flu infections among domestic flocks.

Agricultural officials announced new infections in turkey flocks in Sac and Cherokee counties. Last week, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
detected the virus at a Buena Vista County commercial turkey facility with about 40,000 birds.

Wild, migrating birds, are believed to be the primary source of the virus transmissions.

The fall duck migration appears to be waning based on weekly state surveys, but the presence of Canada geese doubled last month.

About 20 wild ducks were found to be infected by the virus in November in Iowa, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The ducks were shot by hunters in Monona, Clay, Jackson, and counties. Infected wild geese were last discovered in Johnson County in September.

This year’s bird flu death toll of nearly 53 million fowl recently surpassed the total number of U.S. bird deaths in domestic flocks during the last outbreak of 2014-2015.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports the virus infected 19 Iowa flocks from March to May this year and led to the deaths of about 13.4 million birds.

The virus, while deadly to birds, does not pose a significant health risk to humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a human infection in April. The person helped cull an infected flock and reported feeling tired for several days but recovered.

A class-action lawsuit says the federal government has illegally broken a promise to pay off the debts of a group of Black farmers. The group hopes to put pressure on officials to restore funding that was dropped after a group of white farmers filed legal challenges. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now is moving forward with another effort to help farmers in financial distress and to pay farmers who the agency discriminated against. However, one of the plaintiffs says that the new programs don’t match the USDA's earlier offer to pay off 120% of the debt of socially disadvantaged farmers.

A Morningside University professor is collecting the stories of Latinos in Sioux City.

Spanish professor Stacey Alex wanted to fill the gap in archival documentation of Latinos in the Midwest. So, two years ago, she began recording the experiences of Latino students, business owners and public figures in northwest Iowa.

Now, she says she hopes local schools can use the archive as a language-learning resource.

“So students understand that their goal is not just this abstract idea of using language, but that we're learning language to really work with our communities and learn from our communities. And that’s something I really want students to understand that we have a lot to learn from our Latinx communities.”

Latinos in Sioux City can document their experiences in an oral history project. Morningside University professor Stacey Alex began the project two years ago to highlight the growing community.

Perla Alarcon Flory donated her story to the archive. She says she hopes by sharing her experiences, others in her community will feel less alone.

Alex hopes she can collect enough stories to build a curriculum that centers around community experiences.

The U.S. Department of Education says an Iowa school district failed to protect a Black student from pervasive racial harassment and now must take steps to help the student. The department announced Monday that it had resolved a complaint filed against the Ottumwa school district after investigating allegations of harassment in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school year against a middle school student. The investigation found the harassment amounted to a “racially hostile environment” that violated the student’s federal civil rights. The statement says the student endured repeated racial slurs and other harassment. District officials were told of the harassment but didn’t take effective action.

The NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship will be decided tonight at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. Corban of Oregon and Jamestown of North Dakota. It’s the first time the Corban Warriors and Jamestown Jimmies have played for a national title. The first serve tonight starts at 7.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Iowa HHS Announces First Flu Deaths of Season

(Des Moines, IA) The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces today the first influenza-related deaths confirmed as occurring during the 2022-23 influenza season: both elderly people (81 years and over) from northern Iowa with underlying conditions. The current flu season began on October 3, 2022.

Influenza strains, along with other respiratory viruses are circulating the state. The most recent HHS flu report shows the virus at a moderately high level of activity in the state. Iowa hospitals are reporting high patient admission rates. Iowans can help reduce the burden on hospitals and health care providers by taking a few simple precautions.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and our family from severe illness, hospitalization and death. Iowans should also follow simple practices to keep themselves and their family members healthy during respiratory virus season.

Practical Tips to Stay Healthy:

  • Get vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Clean high touch surfaces in your home frequently with household disinfectants.
  • Practice hand hygiene frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or if a tissue is not available, cover them with upper shirt sleeve, not a hand.
  • Avoid social gatherings if you or your children are ill.
  • Keep children home from daycare or school who have fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, or sore throat, and until they are fever-free for 24 hours without medications that reduce fever.

If you or a loved one is sick and needs medical care contact your pediatrician or healthcare provider. Your provider can offer advice on whether your child needs to be evaluated in person, tested for COVID-19 or flu, and the best location for care. Iowans should not visit Emergency Department for cold and flu symptoms, sore throats, ear infections, minor burns or injuries, sprains and strains, rash or other skin irritations.
Additional Flu and COVID-19 Vaccination information:

  • Vaccinate your children ages 6 months and older against influenza as soon as possible.
  • Vaccinate your children ages 6 months and older against COVID-19; children 5 and older who had their primary series more than 2 months ago should receive an updated COVID-19 booster as soon as possible.

Iowans with questions about vaccines should speak to their health care provider. Find a vaccine provider here: or https://www.vaccines.gov/.