News 5.22.20: Siouxland District Health Reports "C-19 Cases Down", Test Iowa Update and More

May 22, 2020

TEST IOWA LOCATION AT WITCC

The number of people in the Sioux City metro area who have died due to complications of COVID-19 is 43.  One more death was reported in Woodbury County; a man between the ages of 61 and 80.  There have been 26 deaths in Woodbury County and 17 in Dakota County.

Dakota County Health officials reported six new cases for a total of 1,585.  There were no new deaths reported for the past two days. 

Siouxland District Health Department also confirmed 43 additional cases in Woodbury County for more than 2,400 cases. 

At a news conference this afternoon, Health Director Kevin Grieme says the number of people testing positive for the disease has been trending downward in Woodbury County during the past two weeks. However, the numbers don’t reflect the easing of restrictions on some businesses.

“It’s still a lot of cases. We are not out of the woods, but we are moving in the right direction.”

Grieme says he is satisfied with the level of testing in Woodbury County as a site in Sioux City moves to Sioux Center.

This morning at her daily coronavirus news conference, Governor Kim Reynolds noted that in Iowa as whole, more than 16,000 (16,451) people have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 419 people have died.  She noted that some Test Iowa sites will shut down and others will open up. One of those is the Western Iowa Tech site in Sioux City that will be moved to Sioux Center after today. 

“The Sioux City site, which opened on May 4th, will close today at 6:00, but testing will continue to be available at the local FQHC which has provided a large share of the tests provided there that have been conducted already. And the new test site in Sioux Center will also be an option.”

However, Democratic State Representative Chris Hall says he cannot fathom why the Governor is closing the local test Iowa site.  He released a statement on Facebook today stating Governor Kim Reynolds ignored the seriousness of the outbreak in the community. He adds there should be transparency in the number of test performed and the cost. 

In South Dakota, two more people have died of the coronavirus in South Dakota, and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state increased by 106 on Friday. The two women who died were elderly and lived in the Sioux Falls area.

South Dakota has a total of 50 COVID-19 deaths and 4,356 COVID-19 cases as of Friday, according to the state health department. 

Five more people have died from the coronavirus in Nebraska and public health officials confirmed another 303 cases on Thursday, state officials said.

Nebraska now has 143 confirmed deaths statewide and 11,425 known cases, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly 78,700 people have gotten tested since the pandemic began.

An infectious diseases expert from the University of Nebraska Medical Center said she's concerned about the number of hospitalizations in the Omaha area, even though hospitals still have plenty of capacity statewide.

Meanwhile, MercyOne and UnitedPoint Health-St. Luke’s report they are providing care for 90 COVID-19 patients.  That is 9 more than the day before.

One of Iowa’s most reliable sources of personal protective equipment to fight the coronavirus has been a statewide prison labor program that can pay inmates as little as 58 cents per hour.

Prisoners have helped make 98,000 masks, 40,000 gowns, 17,000 face shields and 24,000 gallons of hand sanitizer in recent weeks.

The Iowa Department of Corrections says inmates and staff at several prisons have been working weekends and nights, including 12 hours on Easter Sunday, to produce the supplies.

The gear is used to protect inmates, guards, state employees and health care workers. Inmates make between 58 cents and $1.92 per hour.

Sioux City Police investigating robbery that happened early this  afternoon along Gordon Drive about a mile south east of Western Iowa Tech.

The victim ran to a nearby restaurant and flagged down a motorist for help.  An hour later, officer detained the suspect who the victim says robbed him at gunpoint.

Iowa’s unemployment rate soared to 10.2% in April, reflecting the economic costs of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Iowa Workforce Development reported Friday that Iowa's unemployment rate rose to 3.3% in March and then roughly tripled in April. Iowa’s April 2019 rate was 2.7%. The national unemployment rate for April was 14.7%. Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, says she was hopeful that as Gov. Kim Reynolds ends restrictions on businesses and gatherings that were intended to prevent outbreaks, the economy will quickly improve. Reynolds has taken those actions even as the number of deaths blamed on the coronavirus now tops 400 in Iowa.

Nebraska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April jumped to 8.3%, more than double March’s 4% as the state saw businesses shuttered in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The April rate was released Friday by the Nebraska Department of Labor. Unemployment claims have risen to unprecedented levels in recent weeks, with more than 120,000 people in Nebraska filing for unemployment from March 8 and May 16. Thousands of people were laid off as nonessential businesses closed or scaled down amid the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 14.7%, a spike from the March rate of 4.4%.

Lobbyists in Nebraska raked in more cash than ever last year and more people joined their ranks to try to influence public officials. A new report by Common Cause Nebraska says lobbyists collected $19.4 million in gross earnings in 2019. The government watchdog group says the total is a record, up from $17.8 million in 2018. The number of paid, registered lobbyists also increased to 405 last year, up from 378 in 2018. The report also notes the ongoing lobbying by taxpayer-funded government organizations, including local school boards and the University of Nebraska.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says that her stance against Native American tribes operating coronavirus checkpoints on federal and state highways isn’t just about the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Its also about setting “precedent” on tribes’ ability to shut down traffic in other situations. As construction related to the Keystone XL pipeline begins in South Dakota, the checkpoints add tension to an already-rocky relationship between the Republican governor and tribes that have been outspoken opponents of the pipeline. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which has set up coronavirus checkpoints, does not allow vehicles from oil companies to pass through their land.

Nearly five years after Sioux City tore down a historic mansion, a judge has ruled the owners of the building must reimburse the city more than $100,000 in demolition costs. District Judge Jeffrey Neary ruled that James Gengler and Salvador Carrasco must pay the city for the July 2015 demolition of the 125-year-old three story home in the city’s Rose Hill neighborhood. Those costs amounted to $106,959 plus interest. The city demolished the house after an extended dispute with its owners about structural deficiencies. Gengler, who holds the deed to the property, told the Sioux City Journal he may move to another community, adding that “my dream home is gone.”