NEWS 2.15.21: Record Cold, C-19 Vaccination Concerns, Carlin Running for U.S. Senate, and More

Feb 15, 2021

Credit National Weather Service

Siouxland is under a Wind Chill Warning until Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. The National Weather Service says expect dangerously cold wind chills of up to 40-below overnight.

Last night’s weather set records across the region. Sioux City did as well, with a low temperature of -28.

Nebraska also saw a number of low-temperature records broken and expected more to fall Tuesday — as a polar vortex pushed Arctic air into the Plains. Temperatures are expected to be below normal for almost a week.

Frigid weather that has sent temperatures plunging across Middle America also has power and gas utilities urging customers to dial down the thermostat through Wednesday. Utility companies serving Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri issued the plea yesterday and today for customers to conserve power as temperatures dropped to nearly 30 below in parts of western and northern Nebraska early Monday, sending the wind chill to as low as nearly 50 below in some places.

Iowa health officials have reversed a decision to withhold COVID-19 vaccines from some counties that were reported as not having used up to 80% of their allocation last week. The Iowa Department of Public Health informed five counties on Friday that it would withhold this week’s allotment of vaccine. The decision drew criticism from several county health administrators, who said either that the state was mistaken or that bad weather had temporarily slowed their progress. The Des Moines Register reports that as of Monday, three of the counties — Buchanan, Washington and Chickasaw — reported that state officials had informed them they would be getting their allotment of vaccines this week.

Public health experts say Iowa’s lagging ability to broadly deliver coronavirus vaccines to people is due to inadequate preparation, confusing communication and a lack of staff and resources at local agencies. Iowa has hovered for weeks near the bottom among all U.S. states in its ability to deliver coronavirus vaccine to people. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says some counties have had to cancel vaccination clinics due to bad weather and others with unused vaccine will get additional help with contract nurses. She's been criticized for not having a statewide registration and call center established. Reynolds announced this week she's contracted with Microsoft for the statewide registration and appointment system. The state on Friday delayed plans to award a private call center contract.

Iowa’s coronavirus website shows almost 11,500 Woodbury County residents received their COVID-19 vaccines. That is an increase of more than 60 percent after two recent public clinics. However, the rate is behind other highly populated counties in the state.

The latest numbers from the Iowa Department of Public Health show one more Iowan died from COVID-19 with more than 200 new cases.

Siouxland District Health added only 10 new cases today for almost 13,500 in all. The 14-day test positivity rate has fallen to 6%.  Anything above 2-4% shows wide community spread. However, the number of hospitalizations is now 5 at Sioux City’s two medical facilities. Two weeks ago there were 25.

Credit Siouxland District Health

Hundreds of meatpacking workers have been vaccinated against the coronavirus but the union that represents many of them says several hundred thousand more have not, despite the risks they continue to face.

The union is lobbying for workers to be moved up vaccination priority lists, and major meat companies have launched campaigns to educate employees and dispel rumors about the vaccines.

But in most states, meatpacking workers are still waiting for their turn to be vaccinated and are ranked behind health care workers, residents of long-term care centers and people aged 65 and older.

News release from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:

FEMA asked APhA to help them identify pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists to help with their COVID-19 vaccination efforts. They are looking for volunteers who would be willing to travel to states that have requested FEMA assistance with administering vaccines. FEMA will cover the costs of transportation, lodging, per diem, and other specified expenses. Volunteers can be both active practitioners or retirees with immunization training. They are looking for individuals who can commit to time spans of 14-60 consecutive days. Volunteers should be able to deploy with at least 48 hours’ notice.

At this point, FEMA is interested in determining whether there are pharmacists, technicians, or students who are interested in volunteering. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete the short survey below by Tuesday, February 16, 2021.


https://fs3.formsite.com/apha/FEMACovidVaccination/index.html

Filling out this survey does not commit you to participating and it does not guarantee that you will be working with FEMA.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota health officials are confirming six new deaths due to complications from the coronavirus, raising the total fatalities to 13 for the weekend, 66 in February and 1,844 since the start of the pandemic. Johns Hopkins University researchers say data collected Saturday shows that that the state's death count is the 40th highest in the country overall and the seventh highest per capita at about 208 deaths per 100,000 people. State officials listed 111 new positive COVID-19 tests in the last day, increasing the total number of cases to 110,315. The Department of Health update showed that 152,992 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to 103,895 residents, with 49,097 people receiving both shots.

A state senator from Sioux City says he’s running for the U-S Senate seat held by fellow Republican Chuck Grassley next year. Jim Carlin is a 58-year-old attorney. He has served in the state senate since 2017 after 

Iowa State Senator Jim Carlin
Credit Iowa Legislature

winning a special election. U-S Senator Chuck Grassley, who is 87-years-old, has not announced whether he’s running for an eighth term in 2022. Carlin made state news last week when he proposed a bill in the Iowa legislature that would require the state board of regents to survey university employees to find out their political affiliations.

ARMSTRONG, Iowa (AP) — The police chief of a small Iowa town, who was charged with several crimes along with three other local officials last week, has been arrested in Minnesota. The Martin County, Minnesota, Sheriff’s office said Armstrong, Iowa, Police Chief Craig Merrill was arrested Saturday just over the border from the town where he was employed. Armstrong’s mayor and the current and former city clerks were all arrested Friday and charged with several felonies and misdemeanors after a long investigation uncovered embezzlement and other offenses. Merrill is awaiting extradition to Iowa to face the charges. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.