News 5.4.20: Test Iowa Site Opens, Tyson Plant Update, U.S. Senate Race, IA Tuition and More

May 4, 2020

TEST IOWA SITE IN SIOUX CITY, IA

The Tyson beef plant in Dakota City will not open like expected on Tuesday.

A spokesperson sent Siouxland Public Media News a statement this afternoon it says,

"The health and safety of our team members is our top priority, and we take this responsibility extremely seriously. We continue to work through processing the large amount of testing data for our 4,300 team members, and therefore have decided to temporarily delay the reopening of our Dakota City facility.

We are notifying team members with report for work instructions based on individual's test results and care and will provide additional updates on our revised re-opening timeline shortly."

A Test Iowa site opened in Sioux City Monday for residents living in northwest Iowa.  The Iowa National Guard set up the location on the Campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College.  Only people who qualify for testing and scheduled an appointment through testiowa.com can take part.

This is the second drive-thru testing location in Sioux City.  Another was organized with local health leaders including the Siouxland Community Health Center.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says there has been a delay in getting test results competed in the state.

Test results should normally come back within 72 hours.

“This is a short-term issue as we increase testing and validate the Test Iowa testing process.”

More than a week into testing for coronavirus through the new Test Iowa initiative, the state still hasn’t relied on the lab equipment provided under that contract to report out test results.

Some Iowans have been tested for coronavirus at the four Test Iowa drive-thru sites.

But when the swabs get to the state hygienic lab for processing, state officials say staff are sending them through existing lab equipment AND new Test Iowa equipment to ensure the results are accurate.

Governor Kim Reynolds says it’s part of the typical test validation process.

 “I have complete confidence in Dr. Pentella and the state hygienic lab to complete the process. They’re not going to validate it until they’re comfortable that it meets the criteria that it needs to meet.”

Reynolds has said increasing testing through this initiative allows her to look at more granular data and supports her decision to open up parts of the state. But the department of public health has declined to say how many tests have been completed through Test Iowa. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 534 additional COVID-19 cases on Monday for more than 9,700 confirmed cases.

There were four more deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths to 188.

Lag time in the state’s reporting system means these are the known numbers as of 10 a.m. Sunday.

The Governor says 85% of all new cases are located in the 22 counties still under more strict restrictions including Woodbury County.

Siouxland District Health reports 94 additional cases in Woodbury County for a total of more than 1,250 and two deaths.

Confirmed cases in Dakota County topped 1,000 with 25 new cases.  Two people have died for a total of four in the Sioux City metro area. 

Sioux City’s two hospitals put out a joint statement Monday afternoon.  MercyOne Siouxland and UnityPoint-St. Luke’s say they are providing care for 83 COVID-19 patients.  They add they are committed to protecting the privacy of patients and cannot provide specific details concerning individual patients.

Iowa officials are reporting nine Iowa Department of Human Services employees working at five state-run facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials say six residents at a facility housing residents with intellectual disabilities also have the virus. Iowa DHS Director Kelly Garcia said Monday that the agency has asked doctors from the University of Iowa for assistance in dealing with the outbreak at the Woodward Resource Center, near Des Moines. 

Nebraska saw the number of confirmed cases soar to nearly 6,000 by Monday morning from 4,800 on Friday. 

There were two more deaths for a total of 78.

The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher than the number of confirmed cases, though, because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.

For the third day in a row, South Dakota has reported no new deaths from COVID-19. Twenty 21 people have died from the pandemic.  There were 21 new confirmed cases for a total of more than 2,600.

A South Dakota pork processing plant took its first steps toward reopening after a virus outbreak among workers that was one of the worst in the nation.

Smithfield Foods shuttered its Sioux Falls plant for over two weeks because of a coronavirus outbreak that infected over 800 employees. Two departments opened Monday at the plant.

Meat processing plants across the country are cautiously reopening after President Donald Trump’s executive order last week classified them as critical infrastructure.

Workers, farmers and meat-eaters alike are watching to see if new safety measures will be enough to prevent the types of outbreaks that have torn through the workforce of many plants. 

Officials in Nebraska are forging ahead with plans for the state’s May 12 primary despite calls from Democrats to only offer voting by mail and concerns from public health officials that in-person voting will help the coronavirus spread.

Top Republican officials in the GOP-dominated state have repeatedly urged voters to cast early, absentee ballots, but they argue that voters must have the option of voting in-person.

If the election proceeds as planned, Nebraska will be the first to hold a statewide election with physical polling sites since Wisconsin’s much-criticized primary, which was plagued by a poll worker shortage and long lines.

One of the Democrats running for their party’s nomination for U-S Senate in Iowa’s June 2 primary election has dropped out of the race.

Contractor Cal Woods says he’s getting out of the race to challenge Republican Senator Joni Ernst and endorsing retired three-star U-S Navy admiral Mike Franken.

“I think he has the right temperament, the right disposition, the right background. I’m just very impressed with Mike as a candidate.”

Business-owner Theresa Greenfield has a big fundraising advantage over her opponents in the race.

Businessman Eddie Mauro and attorney Kimberly Graham are also running.

A Public Policy Poll out today looking at November, shows this senate race and the presidential race in Iowa have tightened since winter. 

The Iowa Board of Regents is advancing a proposal to not raise tuition at the state’s three public universities next fall. In a summary of the plan the board says keeping tuition flat will make college costs more predictable for students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Base tuition for Iowa residents will stay at about 9,600 dollars at the University of Iowa, 9,300 at Iowa State and 8,900 dollars at Northern Iowa. The board is expected to finalize tuition rates at their June meeting.

The regents are also considering changes to make up for the impact of the virus on university budgets. Together with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics the universities face an estimated 263 million dollars in lost revenue and new expenses from March through August of this year.