NEWS 3.2.21: C19 Updates, Meatpacking Vaccines, School Choice Bill Latest, and More

Mar 2, 2021

Credit coronavirus.iowa.gov

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 27 more Iowan has died from COVID-19 with more than 450 new positive test results with 18 more cases in Woodbury County. The death toll in Iowa is just under 5,500.

Statewide there are almost 210 hospitalized, including 15 at Sioux City’s two medical facilities. That number has stayed steady in the middle teens for several days.

Credit Siouxland District Health

Meatpacking workers across the country have started receiving coronavirus vaccines and thousands more will have a chance to get their shots this week. Officials with the United Food and Commercial Workers union say interest in the vaccine is high among workers after the industry took a heavy toll from the virus.  Major meatpacking companies including Tyson Foods and Smithfield say workers in Iowa and Nebraska will start to get their vaccinations this week.

Bills that would expand charter schools in Iowa and create scholarships that could be spent on private school tuition are advancing as separate proposals in the Iowa House.

The school choice bills cover two legislative priorities for Governor Kim Reynolds that already passed in the Senate as part of one package.

Opponents say charters and voucher-style scholarships would divert money away from public schools making it harder for them to teach disadvantaged students.

The bills now go to the House Education Committee. Each of them needs to pass there by the end of the week in order to remain eligible for debate as stand-alone proposals.

The U.S. Senate will soon consider a proposed sixth coronavirus relief package. Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator says he’s pushing to bring back an amendment for farmers offered by a colleague in the U.S. House.

Iowa 4th District Republican Congressman Randy Feenstra proposed federal assistance for farmers devastated by disasters during the pandemic. That includes the August derecho in Iowa. 

House Democrats struck down Feenstra’s proposal. But Republican Senator Chuck Grassley thinks there will be opportunities to offer amendments in the Senate.

"But we know that Democrats probably aren't going to let us get very many of them adopted."

Grassley says farmers need that assistance. The USDA estimates 850-thousand acres of crops in Iowa could not be harvested because of the derecho.

The Biden administration’s plan to funnel more coronavirus aid into states with greater unemployment has irked governors with lower jobless rates, even though many have economies that weren’t hit as hard by the pandemic. The $1.9 trillion relief bill working its way through Congress allocates extra money to larger, mostly Democratic-run states with higher unemployment rates. Rural Midwestern and Southern states that tend to have Republican governors and better jobless numbers would benefit less. The White House is defending its distribution plan. It says the plan targets money to areas where it will have the biggest impact.

Former South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says he will run again for his old job in 2022.

Jackley's announcement came as current Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces calls for his resignation and impeachment for his involvement in a fatal car crash. 

In this June, 5, 2018 file photo, Then, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, Republican candidate for governor, greets supporters in Rapid City, S.D. Former Attorney General Jackley says he will run for the state's top law enforcement officer in 2022. Jackley's announcement Monday, March 1, 2021, came as current Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces calls for his resignation and impeachment for his involvement in a fatal car crash.
Credit Associated Press

Both men are Republicans. Jackley was attorney general from 2009 to 2019, winning reelection twice. He lost a Republican primary battle to Gov. Kristi Noem in 2018.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s effort to limit the powers of conservation officers has suffered a partial setback in the Legislature. The Republican governor has pitched two bills as a way to protect property rights by placing limitations on officers from the Department of Game, Fish and Parks. As senators mulled over them Tuesday, the bills got mixed reviews. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously dismissed Noem’s bill to keep them from entering private property without permission. But the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved her proposal to stop officers from seizing hunting or fishing equipment.

The PGA tour is expanding its coronavirus testing partnership with Sanford Health. The Sioux Falls-based health care system will continue to test players, caddies, and essential personnel at tournaments through the end of June. Since the collaboration began last June, Sanford has done more than 18,000 tests on the PGA and Champions Tours. Sanford Health lab technicians travel to tournaments in one of three mobile testing units deployed across the country. It arrives the Saturday prior to the tournament to begin processing tests.

An Iowa company is leading a $2 billion effort to capture carbon dioxide from Midwestern ethanol plants and pipe it to North Dakota where it would be buried deep underground. The greenhouse gas is generated during the fermentation process and contributes to climate change when it’s released into the atmosphere. Summit Carbon Solutions says the plan is to gather carbon dioxide from at least 17 ethanol plants and pipe it to North Dakota where it would be injected into wells and stored underground. The carbon dioxide would be compressed into liquid form at the ethanol plants where feeder pipelines would send it to a larger pipeline that would extend across the Upper Midwest to North Dakota.