NEWS 4.5.21: COVID-19 Increases in NE/IA, Vaccination Update, SD Tourism, & More

Apr 5, 2021

Credit Nebraska Health and Human Services

Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets offered a word of caution during a news conference on Monday. Nebraska is seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients after 18 weeks of falling hospitalizations. Ricketts says there is more of the virus out in the community and reminded Nebraskans to avoid the “three C’s”: closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact.

Even though the Iowa Department of Public Health recorded no new deaths due to complications of COVID-19, the average positivity rate is on the way up statewide. In Woodbury County, the 14-day test positivity rate is currently 7.1%. That is up almost ½ percent in one week.

There are more than 200 hospitalized patients with the virus in Iowa, with 18 being treated at Sioux City’s two hospitals. 

Siouxland District Health added 10 new cases today in Woodbury County. They advise people to mask up, keep their distance, wash their hands, stay home when sick, avoid crowds and get vaccinated. Statewide almost 663,000 Iowans have been fully vaccinated.

All three Siouxland states opened up COVID-19 vaccinations to most eligible adults this week. But, some Iowans say they do not want to get vaccinated.

According to a poll by the Des Moines Register last month, 27% of Iowans said they do not plan on getting the vaccine. That rate is similar to national numbers.

Today, Siouxland District Health says there are still appointments available for clinics this week. That’s according to a post on social media. An on-line portal shows openings for this Thursday, April 8th at the Siouxland Expo Center in Sioux City. 

As COVID-19 vaccine appointments open to all eligible Iowans, demand still far outstrips supply. 

That’s led some people to schedule an appointment for a first dose at a pharmacy far from their home.

Then shop around for a second dose somewhere closer.

Kate Gainer is the CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association. She says this causes supply issues for

pharmacies.  Pharmacies receive their allocations of the vaccine for second doses based on how many first doses they give every dose is reported. And those shipments are based on how many given doses are reported.

Gainer says Iowans should try to go to the same location for both their vaccine doses. And they should cancel any appointments they will not use to ensure doses are not wasted.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem marked the occasion of the state opening vaccines to adults 16 and older by receiving her first dose of the vaccine. The governor, who has taken a mostly hands-off approach to restrictions during the pandemic, has encouraged people to get the vaccine. She says she is “trusting people to do the right thing.” Health officials reported that 46% of the state’s population has received one dose of a vaccine. South Dakota also has one of the nation’s highest rates of people fully vaccinated _ about 25% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Dakota tourism officials there are indications the summer tourist season is shaping up to be a strong one following a year of limited travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The tourism secretary says traffic on the state’s tourism website is tracking 55% ahead of last year. In addition, state officials say the Department of Tourism’s vacation guide has been downloaded at record numbers and electronic newsletter subscriptions are up 29%. Tourism is one of South Dakota’s top industries and generated about $3 billion in spending last year, down from a record $4 billion in 2019. 

The North Dakota Forest Service says firefighters are working to further contain a wildfire in Theodore Roosevelt National Park that tripled in size on Easter. High winds and dangerously dry conditions fueled the fire Sunday. Officials say the rough, inaccessible terrain makes the fire a tough one to fight. Two air tankers were brought in from South Dakota over the weekend to help. 

Authorities in eastern Iowa say a woman has been killed by a grass fire she was attending that grew out of control. The Linn County Sheriff's Office says in a news release that the incident happened Sunday afternoon near a soccer complex north of Marion. Investigators say the woman had been trying to tend the fire. Emergency responders found the woman on the ground, engulfed in smoke and flames. She died at the scene; her name was not immediately released. The Iowa State Fire Marshal's Office is helping with the investigation into her death.

The former superintendent of Sioux City's wastewater treatment plant has been sentenced to three months in prison for his part in a scheme to manipulate water sample test results. Jay Niday was sentenced Thursday after he pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy and falsifying or providing inaccurate information. He was also fined $6,000 and must serve two years of supervised probation after he serves his sentence. Prosecutors said Niday and Patrick Schwarte manipulated chlorine levels to make it appear the city was meeting federal E. coli standards. Schwarte, a plant shift supervisor, was sentenced in November to two years probation and a $5,000 fine. 

Iowa State has extended athletic director Jamie Pollard’s contract through 2026. Pollard accepted the extension with no scheduled salary increase. He was earning $757,000 when he announced 10% pay cuts for

In this Aug. 1, 2018, file photo, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard speaks during an NCAA college football news conference, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State has extended the contract of Athletics Director Jamie Pollard to 2026.
Credit Associated Press

coaches and some administrators a year ago to help offset a $25 million budget shortfall because of COVID-19. Iowa State had its best football season in program history in 2020. The Cyclones played in the Big 12 championship game and beat Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Pollard also has overseen major facilities upgrades.