NEWS 2.24.21: C19 Vaccination Updates, Help for Missing Indigenous People, and More

Feb 24, 2021

Credit Winnebago Public Health Department

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 15 more Iowans have died from COVID-19 complications. More than 700 tested positive in 24-hours, including 26 more in Woodbury County. The positivity rate for Woodbury County increased about a 1/3 or a percentage point for a currently level of 5.4% over 14-days.

Health officials in South Dakota estimate 22% of the state’s population received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This rate doesn’t include vaccines in the federal pharmacy program or administered by Indian Health Services. During a news conference today, officials say they could handle even more vaccinations, but the supplies aren’t there.

The Winnebago Public Health Department released a COVID-19 update today showing the tribe administered more than 2,000 vaccinations so far. That equals to about 40% of the community receiving at least one dose. The goal is 80%. These numbers are much higher than any other jurisdiction in the Siouxland area. Earlier this month, Siouxland Public Media did a special report on the Winnebago Tribe’s success in distributing the vaccine to employees and tribal members over the age of 16 who live on and off the reservation.

Around 15-hundred people got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Sioux City today.  Woodbury County’s health department held a mass vaccination clinic at the Tyson Events Center.

People who are eligible to receive the vaccine – including people 65 and older and school staff -- booked appointments in advance.

Siouxland District Health Department’s Tyler Brock says vaccine demand is still high. He says a mass clinic like this can help meet that demand a little.

"We know it's not enough. We know there's more people out there still that want vaccine and haven't been able to get it. But we also are starting to see more and more people actually cancel their appointments because they're getting vaccine somewhere else." 

This was the fourth mass clinic at the Tyson. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics has also been holding large scale vaccination events.

The South Dakota House has passed a proposal to create an office under the attorney general to coordinate tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies in tackling the crisis of missing Indigenous people. Democrat Rep. Peri Pourier, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, proposed the office as part of an effort to solve how a higher number of Indigenous people go missing and are murdered in the state. She says that of 109 missing people statewide, 77 are Indigenous. Pourier’s bill creates a one-person office within the attorney general’s office to specialize in coordinating and training law enforcement across agencies.

Investigators questioning South Dakota’s attorney general after a fatal car crash pressed him on how he did not realize he had struck a man and whether he had been on his phone right before the crash in September.

Jason Ravnsborg insists he wasn’t looking at his phone at the moment on when his car struck and killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever, who was walking on the shoulder of a rural highway.

The Republican is facing three misdemeanors charges, as well as calls for his resignation from Gov. Kristi Noem and impeachment proceedings in the Legislature.

Iowa Republicans are moving swiftly to sharply limit early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state that saw record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP 

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, left, walks through the Iowa Senate chamber, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa Republicans were moving swiftly Wednesday to sharply limit early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP candidates.
Credit AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

candidates. Like states across the country with Republican legislatures, Iowa lawmakers said early voting must be reined in because of the potential for fraud, even after a successful election in a state with no history of problems. As the state House moved ahead Wednesday with a plan approved by the Senate on Tuesday, Democrats who are outnumbered in both chambers were left in no position to stop the changes.

Iowa’s Democratic attorney general has installed the Republican governor’s lawyer into a high-level job in which he is defending his former boss’ policy agenda and management decisions in court. Weeks after joining Attorney General Tom Miller’s staff, Sam Langholz has participated in cases defending Gov. Kim Reynolds’ coronavirus restrictions, her law requiring a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, her denial of overtime pay to some nurses, and her administration’s ouster of a longtime public health spokeswoman. Miller and Reynolds announced Langholz’s appointment as an assistant attorney general for civil and appellate litigation in November.

The South Dakota House has passed a bill that directs $900,000 to Gov. Kristi Noem’s plan to increase classroom instruction of the state’s history, government and economics. The legislation passed Tuesday evening would create instructional materials and classroom resources for elementary, middle and high school students. The Republican governor has talked in the past about what she says is the nation’s  “failure to educate generations of our children about what makes America unique." Specific schools or districts may choose to take part in a pilot program to introduce the curriculum which wouldn’t be mandated. 

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican lawmakers pushing to spend public money to pay for private or home schooling say they are responding to parental frustration over lack of in-person schooling. Opponents of such vouchers say they will sap resources as schools try to help kids harmed by online school and other disruptions. There are fresh voucher proposals in states with already abundant subsidies for private and home schools and in states where there are none. Schools have been more likely to stay all-virtual in states controlled by Democrats. Yet the proposals appear more likely to pass in states controlled by Republicans.

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Police in Ames say an autopsy shows the death last month of a 21-year-old woman outside an Iowa State University sorority house was caused by acute alcohol intoxication and hypothermia. Emergency responders found the body of Olivia Chutich on the ground in the parking lot of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority the morning of Jan. 22. Chutich was the daughter of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich and Allina Health CEO Penny Wheeler. Investigators have said Chutich was last seen late the night before she was found and believe she had been lying in the parking lot for several hours before she was found. No foul play is suspected

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An appeals court has rejected the Trump administration's decision to drop a proposal requiring freight trains to have at least two crew members that was drafted after several fiery crude oil train derailments. Tuesday's ruling from the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals will likely make it harder for the railroad industry to reduce the number of crew members, and it opens the door for states to require two man crews on freight trains that carry crude oil, ethanol and other hazardous commodities. The decision was praised by rail labor groups that argue one-person crews are more dangerous.