NEWS 12.28.20: Winter Storm, Tri-State C-19 Update, Tyson Manager Speaks Out and More

Dec 28, 2020

Credit National Weather Service

The National Weather Service says an “impactful” winter storm is moving into the region Tuesday and Tuesday night.

Moderate to heavy snow is expected with 3 to 7 inches for Siouxland.

Because of the incoming winter storm, there have been snow emergencies issued for several Siouxland communities, including Sioux City, South Sioux, Dakota City, North Sioux, Hinton and Norfolk, Nebraska.

Heavy, wet snow will blanket much of the state tomorrow so forecasters recommend putting off travel plans until the winter storm has passed.

Four to eight inches of snow could fall across most of Iowa. The higher amounts are most likely in the central and eastern parts of the state, including Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.

According to Roger Vachalek, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, the snow could fall at up to an inch per hour at times, making it hard to see on the road.

“Highly recommend people find a different time to travel. Postpone anything that they’re planning right now and maybe wait until Wednesday when things quiet down.”

Vachalek says there could be some damage to tree limbs and power lines in parts of the state where the wet snow is deepest.

Toward the end of the storm he says rain and freezing rain will mix with the snow, especially in southern parts of the state.

The Sioux City Journal reports, Sunday saw its lowest one-day total of new COVID-19 infections in more than 2 ½ months with 17 new cases.  Today, there are 19 more, for a total of more than 12,000 since the start of the pandemic 163 deaths.

Hospitalizations have held steady at 55 patients at Sioux City’s two medical facilities. That’s almost half of the record high set on December 1st.

Credit Siouxland District Health

The 14-day test positivity rate for Woodbury County is falling very slightly to 13.5%.  One week ago, the rate was 15%.  Currently, there are a half-dozen counties in northwest Iowa above the 15% threshold.  Buena Vista County is top in northwest Iowa and 6th in the state with 20.5%.  

Local health officials say to slow the spread of COVID-19: mask up, keep your distance, wash your hands, stay home when sick, and avoid nonessential gatherings.  

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations and admissions ticked higher in Iowa Monday after several days of decline as the state will end the year with over 3,700 dead from the virus. The state reported no additional deaths in the previous 24 hours as of Monday morning. That leaves Iowa's death toll at 3,745 but a lag in death reports is likely to drive the official year-end total higher. State Public Health data indicates the number of deaths in October was 21% higher than the average monthly deaths for October over the past four years. State data shows 540 new coronavirus cases were reported in the previous 24 hours.

South Dakota has reported the lowest number of daily new coronavirus cases in two months, tallying 267 people who had tested positive. But testing also slowed after the Christmas holiday. The Department of Health reported the results of 1,162 tests, a large drop from the average of 4,309 daily tests over the previous seven days. South Dakota has seen a significant drop in coronavirus cases after infections peaked in November. The Department of Health’s count of people with active infections has dipped below 7,000 for the first time since October.

Nebraska reported 637 new virus cases and no deaths Sunday, and the state had the 33rd highest rate of infection in the nation. The state’s numbers have been improving since early this month when Nebraska ranked had the fifth-highest rate of new cases in the nation. As of Sunday, the state has been averaging 679.69 new cases per 100,000 people in Nebraska over the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Nebraska said 527 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday. That was up from 503 the day before but still well below the peak of 987 set on Nov. 20.

In this May 2020, file photo, Tyson's Fresh Meat workers file in for a tour of safety measures put into place after the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, had to shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The family of a Tyson Foods employee are alleging in a lawsuit that he died from COVID-19 after the meat processing giant failed to implement safety protocols to guard against the coronavirus at the Iowa plant where he worked

One of the Tyson Foods managers fired for betting on how many workers would contract COVID-19 at their Iowa pork plant says the office pool was spontaneous and intended to boost morale. The former night manager at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, said he was speaking out in an attempt to show that the seven fired supervisors are “not the evil people” that Tyson has portrayed. Tyson announced the terminations of the Waterloo managers on Dec. 16, weeks after the betting allegation surfaced in wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of four workers who died of COVID-19.

The coronavirus crisis is continuing to strain Iowa non-profit organizations and their donors, with significant declines in fundraising and volunteering.

While foundations have found new ways to get resources to those in need, some service providers like shelters and food banks can’t keep up with the demand. 

Kari McCann Boutell  is the president of the Iowa Council of Foundations. She says the coronavirus has forced many to turn to the organizations they once helped support.

“The increasing number of Americans who themselves are relying on some of these services and supports from nonprofits for the first time, you know? Our traditional givers who are now in need."

Boutell encourages those who can’t afford to make a monetary donation to a community foundation or charity this year to consider volunteering instead.

Officials in central Nebraska are worried that next spring’s sandhill crane viewing season will be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic just like this year’s was and hurt the area’s economy. The annual migration of sandhill cranes across central Nebraska normally draws thousands of visitors to the area who want to see the birds gather along the Platte River in the midst of their annual migration. Kearney Visitor Bureau Executive Director Roger Jasnoch told the Kearney Hub that there is little demand for the hotel rooms in the area that visitors normally fill.